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A season to celebrate the pomelo

  • A whole pomelo is enough to make two or three recipes
  • The pomelo’s pink and fragrant presence is found in many a salad

Pomelo salad on betel leaf.
Pomelo salad on betel leaf. (Photo: Nandita Iyer)

Half-peeled and cling-wrapped imported pomelos displayed in supermarkets have never caught my fancy. What did though, recently, were pomelos featured on the Instagram feed of a farm. Kerehaklu in Chikmagalur is a 275-acre coffee plantation that also grows pepper, avocados and pomelos. It has been with the Thipaiah family for five generations.

Pranoy Thipaiah, managing partner at Kerehaklu, drives down to Bengaluru every fortnight with basket-loads of local lemons, avocados, pomelos and bottles of pickled green peppers that you can order in advance and pick up. The combination of discovery on Instagram followed by pickup via Dunzo (the delivery and pickup app) saw this farm-fresh produce from Chikmagalur land in my kitchen in Bengaluru.

The story goes that Mahatma Gandhi once came to Nandi Hills, the hill resort near Devanahalli, where he was offered a taste of this local fruit by farmer S.R. Channappa. He liked the flavour so much that he advised Channappa to conserve the fruit variety. Pomelo saplings were then distributed to farms all the way up to Chikmagalur, where it continues to grow.

The pomelo I got from the farm was 1.1kg. After removing all the peel, pith and membranes, I had 700g of edible fruit, i.e. nearly six cups, which is quite a bit. If you buy a whole pomelo, you can easily use it in two-three recipes, unless you plan to make a juice or smoothie out of it.

Devanahalli pomelo comes with a Geographical Indication (GI) tag, though the Bengaluru International airport’s move to Devanahalli in the last decade saw farmers in the area selling their land for development. Pomelo trees were felled, production fell, and although a conservation biocentre has been established at Hulimavu, there are at present very few farmers in this area dedicated to the cultivation of pomelos.

As a child, I don’t remember eating much pomelo, but its rather funny-sounding name in Tamil, bamblimaas, was used quite often as a nickname for a chubby child in times when “innocent" body shaming was acceptable.

Whenever I got my hands on a good pomelo, it would be used in salads.

Pomelo, called robab tenga in Assamese, is used to make a simple salad with the shortest list of ingredients. The bite of the chillies, the pungency of mustard oil and the touch of salt is all a good pomelo needs to make this salad crackle on your taste buds. Due to its cultivation in South-East Asian countries, you will find pomelo’s delicate pink and fragrant presence in many a salad, both vegetarian and in combination with seafood.

While creating your own dishes with pomelo, consider some of the flavour combinations that work.

Herbs: mint, Thai basil, coriander, lemongrass, betel leaf, ginger.

Fruits and vegetables: citrus, pomegranate, fennel, mango, avocado.

Others: yogurt, goat cheese, silken tofu, paneer, walnuts, honey, olive oil, coconut.

Pomelo is a heavy fruit growing on trees nearly 30ft tall. These fruits sometimes fall to the ground, but suffer zero breakage or damage. One of the reasons is their cushion-like skin. The other, more important reason is the distribution of pores through the skin—more compact pores near the flesh and the outer surface, and more spaced-out pores in the middle. This distribution of pores seems to provide the best kind of shock absorption, and even inspired the design of a 3D model foam by Daniel McAdams and his team at the Texas A&M University. That will prove useful in a range of applications, from packaging to vehicle collision—a fascinating intersection of nature and science.


Serves 2-3


2 cups pomelo segments

2 green chillies (or red)

A pinch of salt

2 tsp cold-pressed mustard oil


Place the pomelo segments in a bowl. Slice the green chillies finely. Top the pomelo with the chillies, salt and mustard oil.

Mix the salad together very gently as the crushed segments and released juice tend to turn the salad bitter if not had immediately.

Serve along with a dal-rice meal or eat as a salad.

Assamese pomelo salad.
Assamese pomelo salad. (Photo: Nandita Iyer)


Serves 4 as an appetizer


8 medium-sized betel leaves

1 cup pomelo segments

1 small cucumber

1 small carrot

1 small green mango, shredded

2 fresh red chillies

A handful of Thai basil leaves

2 tbsp peanuts, roasted and skinned


2 tbsp soya sauce

1 tsp white vinegar

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp chilli sauce or 1 red chilli, minced


Wash and peel the cucumber and carrot into strips. Finely slice the red chillies. Shred the basil leaves finely.

Mix the dressing ingredients well in a bowl and toss together cucumber, carrot and green mango. Add the pomelo towards the end and give it a final gentle toss.

On a platter, lay out the betel leaves. Pile the salad over each leaf. Top with crushed roasted peanuts.

To eat, scrunch up the betel leaf into a parcel and eat the salad as a mouthful.

Alternatively, pile up the betel leaves and slice thinly. Toss along with the rest of the ingredients and the dressing. Serve in a bowl.

Double Tested is a fortnightly column on vegetarian cooking, highlighting a single ingredient. Nandita Iyer is the author of The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian.

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