Travel lifestyle

What is the Ugly Orange?

You may find yourself cringing at the first sound of “Ugli Fruit”. Not to mention you may even be confused as to what exactly it is! Is it really a fruit? Does it grow on a tree? Is that a real word or a silly typo? Shortly put, you may refer to the fruit as an orange’s uglier—or, more nicely put—unkempt cousin. And you wouldn’t exactly be wrong to be thinking so! 

Unless you’ve been to Jamaica, this fruit may be an entirely new acquaintance to you. But upon reading this article, you’ll know much more of this ugly orange and, dare I say it, will be excited to put trying it on your bucket list!



What is Ugli Fruit?

General Information

Ugli Fruit is a cross between a grapefruit and an orange, with origins to Jamaica. Besides being known as “Ugli fruit”, it also runs under the names of Jamaican tangelo and uniq fruit. The “Ugli” part in its name is actually a brand name, given to the fruit due to its somewhat unappetizing appearance, though it is now largely known by this name. Jamaicans pronounce it OO-glee.

History

This citrus fruit grows in the wild in Jamaica, where it was discovered nearly a hundred years ago and has since been developed commercially by the family that found the tree where the fruit grows. It is a hybrid of an orange, a grapefruit and a tangerine, but tastes sweeter than a grapefruit. The nickname Ugli fruit was given to it 1934 when an importer of the fruit called it an ugly fruit. 

A close up photo of Ugli Fruit


Purchasing & Eating Information

Nutritional Value

This fruit is known to be highly nutritious. Specifically with Vitamin C, you’ll have gotten your entire day’s worth of it just by eating one ugli fruit! You can get other vitamins and minerals from the fruit as well, combined with a low calorie and carb count, making it incredibly healthy for you to eat. 

A bunch of Ugli Fruit on a wooden stump

Where & When Can you Find it?

Typically, November to May are the months in the year when the fruit is naturally seasonal to Jamaica, meaning that’s also the period of time when you’re most likely to find one for yourself to try and eat. It is possible to find and purchase the fruit in the US, Canada and Europe, especially in the biggest supermarket chains, as well as from wholesale and fruit market spots occasionally. Here is the list of importers of the fruit which can get you started on finding yourself some ugli fruit to try out.

What Does it Taste Like?

Ugli orange is described as tasting juicy, with slight bitterness but overall possessing a sweet and tangy flavor. The fruit is easy to peel, its outer texture similar to an orange, and in general you can eat it in much the same fashion as you would eat an orange. You can also eat it by simply cutting the whole fruit in half, without peeling, and eating it with a spoon – similar to how you would eat a grapefruit. 

Image of an open Ugli fruit


Ugli Fruit Recipes

As a rule of thumb, any recipe that calls for oranges or tangerines as ingredients, you can replace them with this ugli orange, for example fruity desserts, smoothies and juices, or fruit salads. However, there are also several recipes that have been created specifically with the tangelo fruit in mind. Here are some I found to be especially intriguing to try:

  • Ugli Fruit Smoothie – sounds like such a refreshing drink to start your day with or to cool down with on a hot summer afternoon {RECIPE}
  • Ugli Fruit Cookies – this definitely sounds intriguing and delicious enough that you’ll get people going crazy from joy if you make these for dessert {RECIPE}
  • Ugli Fruit Marmalade – basically just like orange marmalade, marmalade made of ugli fruit will work perfectly on toast or in a croissant any day of the week {RECIPE}
  • Lamb Chops with Rosemary, Ugli Fruit and Rice – based on this amazing recipe, ugli fruit works perfectly as a dinnertime ingredient as well {RECIPE}
  • Ugli Fruit Ice Cream – a great and semi-healthy summertime dessert {RECIPE}
  • Ugli Fruit Yogurt Parfait – last but not least, this is an excellent dish to try for a weekend brunch in the springtime. {RECIPE}

An open Ugli Fruit set on a table

Now that you’ve been introduced to the ugli fruit, what do you think of this Jamaican fruit? If you’re a fan of oranges and grapefruits, are you likely to give this fruit a go? And if you don’t like the other similar citrus fruits, do you think you might perhaps prefer the taste of this ugly orange? 

The ugli fruit sure has an interesting background story, as well as a unique appearance. It’ll make for a great and intriguing replacement in the dishes you’ve been accustomed to making using oranges. Best of luck getting your hands on an Ugli fruit to start cooking!

My Experience with Ugli Fruit in Seattle

After exiting Pike Place Market in Seattle, we walked across the street heading towards the Original Starbucks for a cappuccino, when I was stopped in my tracks. By Ugli Fruit. First, the colorful fruit stands caught my eye, then the temptation of Ugli Fruit.

I am a sucker for trying weird food, though mostly of the non-vegetarian sort; duck gizzards, lambs tongue, pigs tails, etc. Never have I been so intrigued by a fruit or vegetable.

I picked up the most repulsive looking one there, “I’ll take this Ugli Fruit.”

The clerk grabbed my choice and put it back in the stack. He then handed me to two other options. “Which one is heavier?” I thought this was a joke or at least some sort of magic trick.

“I don’t know” I said, trying not to be the butt of this one.

He took them back and selected the heavier of the two. “The heavier the ugli fruit, the better.” Ok.

He sliced it in half to reveal a juicy, orange interior. My mouth started to water. The man went one step further and segmented the interior for easy access, claiming that he does “not do this for everyone”. Lucky me. The fruit was sweet and tangy. Definitely better than lamb brains.

Peter, who finds my giddiness about having new experiences slightly humorous, decided to video tape the Ugli Fruit transaction.

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