The fact that the fruit matures in mid-February, near Valentine's Day, isn't the only reason it was given the nickname 'Valentine.' Cutting the fruit lengthwise and turning it upside-down reveals flesh that looks a little like a vibrant red heart.
The new Valentine hybrid is also an excellent eating fruit.
"It has a complex flavor that is different from the most common pummelo, Chandler," said Tracy Kahn, senior museum scientist with the UC Riverside Citrus Variety Collection. "It is sweeter and floral and the bright red streaking pigmentation adds to the experience."
The fruit is unique in being grapefruit sized and containing anthocyanin pigmentation. Anthocyanin, an antioxident that gives the fruit its deep red color, may diminish the risk of heart disease, some types of cancer and LDL cholesterol accumulation.
Budwood for the new hybrid was released by UC Riverside to nurseries in 2009. A few retail nurseries will have a small quantity of Valentine trees this year; more are coming in the future.
"Valentine will be a specialty crop, for sure, and will probably be sold for restaurants, in farmers markets and specialty grocery stories once a year, at the peak of its season, around Valentine's Day," Kahn said.
How to eat this new fruit cocktail? Kahn suggests cutting off the top and bottom of the fruit, sliding off the rind, peeling off the pith and cutting out the sections inside the membranes with a knife.