21st Century fresh fruit: tasteless, disagreeable


Pretty. Tasteless.

“Eat More Fruit and Vegetables”

You’ve heard that nagging recommendation ad nauseam (yes, it means you’re sick of it).  The advice is based on numbers: fruits and vegetables have lots of nutrients, frequently nutrients you can’t get from other foods.  So based on the numbers, eating more of these will improve your diet.

But what about taste?  People do not choose foods based on nutrient content.  They choose based primarily on taste (followed by cost and convenience).  And lately, when it comes to fruit, taste can be very off-putting.  Exhibit A: cantaloupe.

I don’t buy melon out of season.  No melon in January.  In July, melons are coming into season, and seasonal fruits should have the best flavors.  I bought this melon thinking it should taste pretty good.  Not.  It was flavorless and worse, the texture was a combination of styrofoam and dry sponge.  Yum!  But hey, it was pretty.

Unfortunately pretty isn’t enough, not for me and I’m guessing not for most people who spend good money on fresh fruit.  This stuff isn’t cheap, and unfortunately there’s no way to judge flavor before buying.  We can only go on appearance, and these days appearance of fresh fruit can be very deceiving.  Exhibit B: apples.  There are plenty of pretty red apples around all year long.  If you’re lucky, you’ll find good-tasting apples in September and October, when they’re in season.  Come January, most of them have no flavor at all, and the texture is either mealy and mushy or styrofoam.  But they still look pretty.

We’re looking for something that tastes good; if it’s also really healthy, so much the better.  But nutrient content isn’t enough when the fruit is bland and has an offensive texture.  It makes me sad/mad that lots of people are buying this sub-par fruit, trying to eat and enjoy it, and concluding that they don’t like fresh fruit.

How did this happen?  Don’t blame genetic engineering.  It’s plain old-fashioned plant breeding, with nothing more in mind than shelf life and appearance.  And when it comes to appearance, BIG and UNBLEMISHED is best.  Fresh fruit that isn’t local has to be shipped long distances, sitting around for prolonged periods of time in refrigeration, on trucks or in warehouses.  So it has to be tough enough to withstand the shipping process and still look BIG and UNBLEMISHED when it finally shows up in the produce aisle.  Apparently that’s not compatible with natural ripening, that produces lovely flavor and texture.What to do?

Well, I can’t speak for everyone.  Here’s what I try to do.  Buy fresh fruit that comes from reasonably local (in-state).  That means you buy seasonal fruit.  If that’s not available, I may buy one small piece (say a peach or plum) and try it out before buying more.  But even that doesn’t always work.  I’ve spent money on peaches and nectarines that sit around for a week and never, ever get ripe.  I’ve bought cherries that are BIG and SHINY but completely flavorless.  The only seasonal fruits that seem to be routinely acceptable are naval oranges, grapefruit and berries.  So I don’t really have a good answer, except shop farmer’s markets for fresh fruit if possible.  Frozen fruit and canned fruit can actually taste better, and nutrient loss is minimal.

Or you can focus on vegetables.  They have a huge nutritional bang for the buck, both the $$ buck and the calorie buck.  Plus vegetables don’t seem to have the flavor/texture problem, and all kinds of vegetables are available all year.

Speaking of GMOs

I’ve noted before that some of the most delicious papaya ever is available in Hawaii.  When I visit, I eat it every day, so I was intrigued to learn that papaya in Hawaii is GMO.  The plant was engineered to resist a virus that had wiped out papaya orchards.  The GMO variety is delicious, and in Hawaii, local.  A win-win.  There are probably naysayers who think the virus should have had its way rather than plant a genetically engineered resistant variety.  These people probably also think the 107 Nobel Laureates who recently signed a letter in favor of GMO plants are just stupid or corrupt.  Right.

The 107 Nobel Laureates wrote asking Greenpeace to end opposition to GMO plants, which the 107 Nobel Laureates say will provide immense relief to people around the world, by improving crops and nutrient intakes.  Who wouldn’t want to prevent vitamin-A deficiency blindness that afflicts millions of children in undeveloped countries?  Well, Greenpeace for one.  One of the 107 Nobel Laureates notes the irony: Greenpeace is all about science to support their climate change agenda, but completely anti-science when it comes to genetically engineered crops.  Let those poor people eat cake!  They certainly shouldn’t be eating papayas.

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