If you are a fan of grapefruit, as we are of the salt (National Public Radio, USA) read the entire article:
Grapefruit’s bitterness can make it hard to love. Indeed, people often smother it in sugar just to get it down. And yet Americans were once urged to sweeten it with salt.
Ad campaigns from the first and second world wars tried to convince us that“Grapefruit Tastes Sweeter With Salt!” as one 1946 ad for Morton’s in Life magazine put it. The pairing, these ads swore, enhanced the flavor.
In our candy-crushed world, these curious culinary time capsules raise the question: Does salt really make grapefruit taste sweeter? And if this practice was once common, why do few people seem to eat grapefruit this way today?
Turns out, grapefruit and salt did have a history together. But, like a sham romance between co-stars dreamed up by Hollywood publicity departments to boost studio revenues, the pairing of the two in midcentury advertisements seems to have largely been manufactured buzz, hyped by companies with an interest in increasing sales of both products.
Still, this doesn’t mean the chemistry between salt and grapefruit isn’t real. It is, and there’s science to prove it.
The origins of our grapefruit habit
Grapefruits are relatively new to this earth, a hybrid formed from the spontaneous union of two foreign transplants — the Javanese pumelo and the East Asian sweet orange — in Barbados in the middle of the 18th century. First grown commercially in Florida at the end of the 19th century, grapefruit quickly went from being a novelty to being a daily necessity and made fortunes for farmers.
But how to eat it? When new kinds of foods like grapefruit become available, consumers have to figure out what to make of them.
Early 20th century cookbooks and recipes in magazines offered an abundance of ways to use grapefruits in sweet confections, as well as in savory-sweet salads. But the most common option was the one that’s still familiar to us today — at breakfast, chilled, sliced in half, sprinkled with sugar and (optionally) crowned with a bright-red candied cherry.
Even then, though, salted grapefruit had its cheerleaders. In 1911, an Iowa woman calling herself “Gude Wife” wrote in to the “The Housemother’s Exchange,” a national advice column, to recommend salting grapefruits. “Salt neutralizes the bitter taste as well as the acidity,” she advised. Others wrote in to back up this endorsement. “I think you will find that many Southerners always salt their grapefruit,” wrote “M.B.L.” from Philadelphia. “I am sure that if you once try it you will agree with me that it is good.” In fact, salting fruit remains a regional practice alive and well in the South…