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Slouching Toward Mediocrity
June 25, 2010 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Let the best fruit win, and when it does, we'll know how to ask for it. 'The European Community requires that grapes, oranges, apples and pears be identified by variety at the point of sale, and the practice is common there for other fruits too.' 'Until 2006, the California Tree Fruit Agreement, the organization that sets standards for the state's shippers of peaches, nectarines and plums, required the specific variety to be identified on the carton. But some growers and shippers found that they could not readily market certain varieties perceived by buyers as inferior, and so the CTFA now allows fruit to be shipped under generic designations such as "yellow peach."''When inferior varieties are marketed generically, producers of inferior varieties piggyback on producers of better varieties. In a pomological version of Gresham's law, bad fruit drives out good.''All too often today, new varieties are bred to appeal to the lowest common denominator, to be inoffensive to the greatest number of people, so it suits the industrial distribution system when fruit is marketed anonymously. When fruit quality is homogenized, variety is less significant; in turn, anonymity deprives consumers of their main weapon to resist homogenization.'

'There are 230 varieties of peaches grown in California, freestone and clingstone, heirloom and newly developed, flavorful and bland, but when you go to the grocery store and even many farmers markets, they're usually sold just as "peaches."''The identification of a fruit's variety is the single most important piece of information consumers have in deciding what it will taste like and whether to buy, but the era in which consumers could look for distinctive varieties by name — Fantasia nectarine, O'Henry peach, Santa Rosa plum — is rapidly passing.'

'There was a time when many of the stone fruit varieties grown around the nation had long lives and distinctive identities. In recent decades, however, the interval between stone fruit variety generations has contracted to just 20 years, or even 10, after which growers replace their trees with newer varieties. Plus, supermarket produce managers, who now mostly have little in-depth knowledge of fruit, don't want to be bothered segregating batches by name.'
posted by VikingSword (137 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
First, they take the whales. Then, the peaches. :(
posted by No Robots at 10:34 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okay, I get it; I'm supposed to be outraged by something here. To be honest, I'm not sure what that is.
posted by a small part of the world at 10:37 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okay, I get it; I'm supposed to be outraged by something here. To be honest, I'm not sure what that is.

Stripping information from the hands of consumers so that they cannot make informed choices, because data shows that when they can, they do?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:39 AM on June 25, 2010 [28 favorites]


Just stick your indignation in the "generic fruit outrage" box.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:40 AM on June 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't care what kind of peaches I'm eating, just stopping fucking putting stickers on it.
posted by bondcliff at 10:40 AM on June 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Anyway, way too passive-aggressive. I want to be able to turn over an apple and see a sticker that says "Just eat this you fucking prole."
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:43 AM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Durn Bronzefist, I'm always wary of informed preferences arguments about consumer choice -- they seem to smack of misplaced paternalism. The article doesn't really zero in on what's objectively bad about consumers not demanding -- or not knowing about -- a variety of cultivars; beyond, that is, the suppressed premise that by not demanding/knowing about more cultivars, they are that much less sophisticated, and thus, you know, bad or stupid.
posted by a small part of the world at 10:44 AM on June 25, 2010


Trust that the mass market crap is crap and find local producers/distributors you can trust.

Works for non-fruit products and services, too.
posted by notyou at 10:44 AM on June 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


(Let me add that I agree that mass market crap is crap, as notyou points out; I just find the tone of the article needlessly condescending.)
posted by a small part of the world at 10:45 AM on June 25, 2010


Okay, I get it; I'm supposed to be outraged by something here. To be honest, I'm not sure what that is.

You're doing it wrong. It is not the purpose of FPPs on Metafilter, to "generate outrage". It is to find interesting links. I found this story interesting, and thought others might too. I - and many others - have long wondered why it is that fruits and vegetables in Europe have much stronger flavors. There are many explanations, and some of them can be glimpsed in the FPP link.
posted by VikingSword at 10:47 AM on June 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


Think about bananas. It seems that I can shop just about anywhere and always see the same kind of banana. No variation. I would love to find smaller bananas, because whole bananas make me sick, but instead I am stuck with this giant spear of banana, half of which I end up letting rot, and all because bananas are now merely unremarkable instances of class banana. The peach is going the way of the banana, for different reasons.

Some peaches are for eating right off and some peaches are for cooking, owing to acidity. Without a way to distinguish them, we just get the bland yellow peach, and people breed for it. The lowest common denominator peach. The temp peach, not particularly skilled in anything. Serviceable, but ultimately unsatisfying in its utilitarian approach to not being awful at anything, because it isn't very good at anything as a consequence. The Fahrenheit 451 peach, uninteresting because anything which could be off-putting has been removed.

Millions of peaches, peaches for me. Millions of peaches, low variety.
posted by adipocere at 10:47 AM on June 25, 2010 [22 favorites]


Let me add, as a small part of the world's comment reminds me, I buy plenty of mass market crap, because it's convenient.
posted by notyou at 10:48 AM on June 25, 2010


VikingSword, I feel I should apologize -- I didn't mean to shit in / derail the thread. Point taken. I found the article, not the FPP, impenetrable, but perhaps that should have been a sign to me to shut my mouth.
posted by a small part of the world at 10:49 AM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


No prob. aspotw, all points of view are appreciated.
posted by VikingSword at 10:51 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The main concern is the reduction of biodiversity.
posted by No Robots at 10:52 AM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you are confused, imagine a world where beer means PBR and only PBR. This is what the removal of "branding" for lack of a better term means. The loss of "branding" means that in order to compete on sales, good producers have to produce poor products otherwise they can't compete based upon their brand.

IE, yellow label no name produce. Eeewww.
posted by NiteMayr at 10:57 AM on June 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


When I lived in California (Silicon Valley), I found that the produce at the farmer's market was way fairly well-labeled in terms of varieties. Because of that I learned to look for O'Henry peaches, which I enjoyed far more than other varieties and were great for canning. I was also sad when many orchards gave up on Tartarian cherries in favor of Bing, as I felt they made much better pies and compote.

Yes, it's snobbish but I much prefer Jet Star or Big Boy tomatoes to the bullet-proof varieties in the store. I'd rather have a local Macoun or Arkansas Black to eat out of hand than the ubiquitous and eponyronic Red Delicious.

And I wish the local farm stands here were more forthcoming about the corn variety.
posted by plinth at 10:57 AM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


The article doesn't really zero in on what's objectively bad about consumers not demanding -- or not knowing about -- a variety of cultivars

Not demanding is fine. I agree, insisting it be there when no one wants to know is paternalistic (maternalistic?). But like all kinds of consumer information, usually some people want to know. In fact, the quoted bit seems to indicate that it's reliance on these identifiers that has driven the change. Now, the point is made that people seem to be relying on these identifiers to the exclusion of other important information -- in effect buying a less tasty product (and so, sure, this paints them as less sophisticated; I'm not sure how that point isn't being fairly made), but isn't a better solution further educating the public rather than reducing it all to "Now it's time to eat THIS"?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:58 AM on June 25, 2010


FOOD.
BEER.
posted by Artw at 10:59 AM on June 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


When I was visiting a friend in Texas, they had this fruit they were selling as a 'plumbcott' and it was really good. Other then that, I don't really have much to add. I don't care that much about this. I assume the higher quality varieties will be still be labeled as such, right? It's just that lower quality stuff will just be called by the generic.
posted by delmoi at 10:59 AM on June 25, 2010


Biodiversity is a real concern; I'm not sure I would rely on consumers to sustain it anymore than I would rely on eco-tourism to sustain endangered charismatic megafauna. I'd rather see a slew of regulations and laws governing the relevant agricultural practices such that we wouldn't find ourselves relying on a monocultural mode of peach production.

The comparison to PBR vs. craft brewing is helpful, but it's about an enriched vs. an impoverished world of consumer choice, not biodiversity. I tend to be agnostic about what the "best" choices consumers should be making are.
posted by a small part of the world at 11:00 AM on June 25, 2010


(frankly, I can't see how removing information isn't a more damning statement about the consumer. You want Tulameen raspberry? You can't handle Tulameen raspberry! /Jack Nicholson)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:00 AM on June 25, 2010


Will there be a day when we go to a market and where there was once a display stand showing "Oranges", "Lemons", "Limes" and "Grapefruits" there will only be a single huge bin filled with hundreds of identical-looking, completely inoffensive, bland and utterly unremarkable generic "Fruit"?
posted by WalterMitty at 11:00 AM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I eat a ton of produce and I cannot stand tasteless peaches and nectarines. I've often wondered if I could return a peach with a bite in it and say, look, this doesn't taste like anything, I want my money back.
posted by anniecat at 11:01 AM on June 25, 2010 [15 favorites]


I am outraged--OUTRAGED--that farmers are resorting to strategic marketing rather than simply going out of business.

OUTRAGED!!!
posted by Sys Rq at 11:01 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


sometimes adipocere is a poet.
posted by The Whelk at 11:03 AM on June 25, 2010


I am outraged--OUTRAGED--that farmers are resorting to strategic marketing rather than simply going out of business.

When the "strategic marketing" amounts to lobbying to change labeling laws in order to deprive consumers of choice, I'm sad if you are not outraged. That's not fair competition - that's cheating.
posted by VikingSword at 11:04 AM on June 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


And where's the farmer's pride in extolling his cultivars?
posted by No Robots at 11:06 AM on June 25, 2010


I know, right? This one time, I went into a grocery store and the checkout lady didn't even know what a Portobello mushroom was!
posted by The otter lady at 11:07 AM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


One word: HONEYCRISP.

It's spoiled me for all other apples.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:09 AM on June 25, 2010 [14 favorites]


All that 99% of society needs or cares to know about a peach is that it is, indeed, a peach. For the one percent of society with the passion, cultivation, and human capital needed to actually care about subtle distinctions between the 230 known varieties of peaches, this is an outrage. But you know what? Most people have more important things to do than care about this.
posted by notswedish at 11:10 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Will there be a day when we go to a market and where there was once a display stand showing "Oranges", "Lemons", "Limes" and "Grapefruits" there will only be a single huge bin filled with hundreds of identical-looking, completely inoffensive, bland and utterly unremarkable generic "Fruit"?

No, there won't, and insofar as the article tries to convey that impression, I think it's being silly.

(frankly, I can't see how removing information isn't a more damning statement about the consumer. You want Tulameen raspberry? You can't handle Tulameen raspberry! /Jack Nicholson)

I'm not particularly interested in defending the bruised feelings of self-righteously ignorant consumers. And lobbying of the kind that VikingSword mentions is indeed odious.

I find it weird though, I guess, that we think the appropriate point on which to focus is on consumer choice -- the moment in which The Consumer confronts the bevy -- or dearth -- of consumption choices available to her. I love my local indie organic grocery store, but I'm not changing the world by shopping there, and never will be. Nor is it a kind of civic good on my part that I patronize the store because the store buys from local, organic, and specialized suppliers.

If we're worried about biodiversity, the fate of local farmers, or both, for crying out loud why don't we LEGISLATE to the effect? And I don't mean writing legislation that puts more labels in grocery stores. Instead, we could punish big agriculture when it engages in anticompetitive practices, or place restrictions on its lobbying efforts, etc. But some consumers will continue to buy mass market goods, and some will continue to seek out upmarket or specialized goods instead.
posted by a small part of the world at 11:10 AM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I can hardly ever get good peaches, and I live in California, where we grow peaches, for the love of crap. It seems like I buy them, they're hard as a rock for three weeks, perfect for about three minutes, and then completely rotten. Sorry, if I wanted rotten produce, I'd be hovering around the dumpster with the rest of the fruit flies.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:12 AM on June 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: A pomological version of Gresham's law.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:13 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: perfect for about three minutes, and then completely rotten.
posted by jquinby at 11:16 AM on June 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


There is a growing movement, an alliance of consumers and producers who want high quality and lots of choice. This article speaks to that movement. I'm sorry that more people aren't interested in it, but it is a pretty substantial movement, as we see with the growth of farmers' markets.
posted by No Robots at 11:16 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fast Fruid.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:17 AM on June 25, 2010


re: bananas, there was a great FPP which explained the banana thing.

As far as it simply being about consumer choice... I think one of the main points is that people have an expectation that a peach should have qualities X, Y, and Z, and when they buy a "peach" without knowing what variety it is, they may discover that it lacks in certain ways which are actually a feature of that specific type of peach. They then begin to associate their failed peach expectations with that variety to peaches in general, because they don't know that they could be making a different choice, and so they give up eating peaches because they "don't like them."

We need to be encouraging people to find the kind of peach they DO like rather than setting up a situation where people don't have the choice... Every bit of encouragement to find eating fruit enjoyable possible can only improve our collective health.
posted by hippybear at 11:19 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I eat a ton of produce and I cannot stand tasteless peaches and nectarines. I've often wondered if I could return a peach with a bite in it and say, look, this doesn't taste like anything, I want my money back.

Jerry, this peach is subpar!

I'm with everyone for more info. There are a shitload of peaches that look a lot alike. There's no way I could remember or identify the ones I like without tasting.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:19 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


One word: HONEYCRISP.

It's spoiled me for all other apples.


My tastes are always changing. I love Braeburns one week, Pink Ladies another, I love Macintosh apples another week, and Galas the next month.

I'd like to join an apple club. Or a fruit of the month club where people get together and learn about new fruit. Or just pig out on fruit while playing badminton or something.
posted by anniecat at 11:21 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Given the backlash against perceived "elitist" consumers (eyeroll), I hesitate to offer the following: it seems to me, that even farmers markets are becoming infected with "strategic marketing" as hinted at in the article. I regularly visit the generally excellent Hollywood farmers market, and in the last couple of years have noticed increased commercialization and homogeneity. I hate to say it, but I'm looking for "greener pastures" and more authenticity... maybe actually visiting growers, or since that's not practical, maybe the various co-op schemes?
posted by VikingSword at 11:21 AM on June 25, 2010


I was hoping this was about some sort of fruit olympics, what with the "let the best fruit win." (Gold to tomato, silver to cherry, bronze to blueberry.)
posted by sallybrown at 11:22 AM on June 25, 2010


What about 'taters?
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:23 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


All that 99% of society needs or cares to know about a peach is that it is, indeed, a peach.

They ought to find out more about the pesticide levels in that peach, too, since there was that study linking ingested pesticides to ADD.
posted by anniecat at 11:25 AM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have about > <>fuckers have about ten times the choice and three times the growing season we do up here. But do you know what? When those Niagara peaches and plums and nectarines and cherries and well any stone fruit at all come in season, we are all over them like fruit flies. Oh god SO GOOOOOD. I hate truck fruit as a rule; the only truck fruit we buy are oranges, for selfish reasons previously disclosed. Stone fruit from trucks is just... dumb. Damnit, I want peaches now. (sigh)
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:26 AM on June 25, 2010


I eat a ton of produce and I cannot stand tasteless peaches and nectarines. I've often wondered if I could return a peach with a bite in it and say, look, this doesn't taste like anything, I want my money back.

This is me and watermelon. It's a crap shoot, and I'm tired of buying 5 at various times to get 1 good one.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:28 AM on June 25, 2010


maybe actually visiting growers

We have a lot of u-pick around here. Nothing better for the kids. I remember them trying to find me in a corn patch. I heard them crying and all I could see was the shaking of the cornstalks. And at a berry patch, I filled my bucket with Saskatoons and looked back to see my son way back at the first bush. He dumped a load in his diaper when we got home, and I thought I was going to have to take him to Emergency, there were so many tiny Saskatoon berry seeds.
posted by No Robots at 11:29 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is trendy now, so it kills me that I do this, but I've been shopping at farmers' markets for years, where, if they don't label the fruit, they'll tell you what variety it is. Usually at great length and with exactly what you should do with each kind of peach when and for how long, should you not run away quickly enough after getting the variety name.

Of course, this doesn't always work. I love grapefruit, and I haven't found a farmer yet in Maryland who grows them. I'm pretty sure they come in more varieties, though, than "white" and "pink." I have dreams of grapefruit tasting parties.
posted by QIbHom at 11:29 AM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can hardly ever get good peaches, and I live in California, where we grow peaches, for the love of crap.

There's a fantastic farm stand not too far from my office. I'm going there in a little while. In addition to his own produce, he carries stone fruits from a farmer who leaves some of his crop on the tree until it's ripe (can you imagine??), and then sells it to this farm stand. You can walk in, put your hand on any peach or nectarine, and it will be ripe for eating right then and there. Best. Thing. Ever.
posted by rtha at 11:29 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm just peeved that I have to jump through hoops to get sour cherries these days. Not everyone wants table fruit people. I want some sour-ass shit to stick in a can with a ton of sugar to enjoy in the winter.
posted by GuyZero at 11:30 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm just peeved that I have to jump through hoops to get sour cherries these days. Not everyone wants table fruit people. I want some sour-ass shit to stick in a can with a ton of sugar to enjoy in the winter.

In Europe, people eat sour cherries fresh - it's just another fruit. :)
posted by VikingSword at 11:32 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


We do in America too...at least one of us does.
posted by sallybrown at 11:33 AM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Look at apples. For a long time, apples meant Red Delicious. Maybe an occasional granny smith. But for the most part, apples = red delicious. The "Big Apple" is a red delicious. Then a revolution happened - people figured out there are thousands of varieties of apples and started demanding them. Now you can be an apple connoisseur, not unlike wine. It's been nothing but good for growers, suppliers and consumers. Today, most people I know have a favorite apple - 15 years ago no one talked about apple varieties. Honey Crisp anyone?

Ok so we have peaches. A peach is a peach, right? It's the Red Delicious all over again. Same with bananas and many other kinds of fruit, though bananas have a unique set of challenges in storage and shipment.

Anyway, I think what it comes down to is most people don't buy fresh fruit. They eat peaches in ice cream or out of can covered in syrup. Maybe someone brings home a basket in the summer from a local orchard. But if you had a wide variety of peaches to choose from, a "world of peaches to explore", peaches become a lot more interesting and you eat more of them, which is good for everyone.
posted by stbalbach at 11:35 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is another case of the elite not getting it. "O'Henry" peaches? "Bing" cherries? Peaches come at the bottom of yogurt and cherries come in little jars, with stems or without. Next you'll be lamenting the price of "Arugula" whatever that is.
posted by borkencode at 11:37 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh man, you guys, if my recent experience with apples counts for anything, we are in for a world of doom. DOOM, I tell you!

I've got OAS. Oral Allergy Syndrome. If I eat anything from the rose family, which includes fruits such as apples, cherries, peaches, plums, pears-- basically anything that's good and tasty, my lips, tongue and throat start to tingle and itch. It's a reaction to a surface protein, apparently, which is why I can eat things like apple pie: heat will inactivate/denature the protein.

I got this from my father. My mother's fine. Pop? The sight of cherries makes him itchy. He hasn't eaten these fruits in a long time. His dying wish? Well, two things: one, give him a cigarette, and two, get him two cold plums, because he hasn't had plums in so long he can't remember the taste of them.

A couple of years ago, I was dating this girl. She's into the sciences and is very smart. As I named the fruits I was allergic to, she said "hmn. that's interesting. They're all in the same family of plants. You should look for fruits outside that family that you haven't tried yet."

And that got me thinking. Maybe I'm just allergic to something on the skin, etc., etc., anyway the point is this: imagine having tasted some of the most delicious fucking stuff out there. Name it: Pocky, honey, strawberries, 9-volt batteries, taters, whatever. Now imagine not being able to have any of that for 20-30 years. Years, gentlemen. And many years of deprivation to come.

Point is, it got me thinking. OAS gained traction in the recent years. Specific proteins have been identified. Surface proteins. Surface proteins... surface... proteins.

And as I passed by a fruit stand the hospital had set up to encourage healthier eating, I smelled the aroma of plums, and apples, and pears. It was irresistible, and I was longing. I had to have one. If indeed my allergy were limited to the skin, would I not be able to skin an apple and eat the rest of it, enjoy it, and live to tell about it? Is this very facility I am in not the place to have an anaphylactic reaction if I were to have one? Doesn't that goddamn apple look so goddamn fucking wooroRRRAAAWAHGHGHHHH! I GOTTA HAVE ONE.

So I paged a colleague, and went to the physician's lounge with my apple and a knife I borrowed from the cafeteria. My friend met me and I explained that I was going to skin the apple, and eat the apple. I was allergic to apples.
"You're WHAT? And you're gonna do WHAT?"
Yeah man, but it's ok. Cuz I think it's just OH-AY-ESS, and my girlfriend said it's some protein on the skin.
"Are you fucking crazy? When was the last time you ate an apple?"
Like, fourth grade man. Tongue and throat got itchy. It's ok.
"Fuck this shit. Don't do it."
LOOK. I'M GONNA DO IT. ARE YOU GONNA HELP ME OR NOT.
"You should get some Benadryl, Pepcid, and an Epi-pen from the pharmacy before you--"
I'M DOING IT NOW! THIS IS WHAT REAL MEN DO!

And so I took the first bite of something I hadn't tasted in decades. It was the sweetest, juciest, most apple-like apple I've ever tasted. It was something that only the hottest, most sexiest and naked female form of God could make. I could taste the holy spirit. In my mind, I pictured a nude, omnipotent woman, and thought of the taste of 9-volt batteries.

I took another bite. This thing is so CRUNCHY. And pulpy. And the juice. Ohhh, god, apples. I love apples.

I finished the apple. And you know what? No fucking problem. None.

When I went home that day, I stopped by the grocery store and bought a basket of apples. All types. This color, that color, organic, non-organic. I ate apples every day. I bought a small Kershaw knife just so I could pare these apples. I named the knife "Lucille." I carried it with me so I could eat apples whenever I wanted to. I bought a fancy bowl for my dining room just to have something to keep my apples in. Sometimes I ate three or four apples a day. No one told me what apples would do to my GI tract and bowel movements, but it's ok. It was worth it.

Brother, let me tell you: I learned a lot about apples. There are so many varieties! Fuji, Braeburn, Gala, Honeycrisp, man-- and they all taste different, and they're all apples! I know that some are better for baking and cooking and canning and whatever, but they're all good for munching on. Except for Granny Smiths. They taste bitter and wack. And they're green.

Point being that we should never allow our apples to simply be labled as "Apples." We should know what we're eating. We should take delight in the differences between the varieties. We should take part in a healthy competition and wage Apple wars, where the strongest varieties of apples win out and take over the marketplace.

Anyway, fuck green apples. Green apples are for losers.
And don't even get me started on "Bananas."
posted by herrdoktor at 11:38 AM on June 25, 2010 [345 favorites]


I hate to say it, but I'm looking for "greener pastures" and more authenticity...

How's this for "authenticity": Growing stuff out of the ground is difficult and expensive. Growing stuff on trees is especially so. Changing over to a new variety of fruit tree can take TWENTY DAMN YEARS, during which time the grower must somehow stay afloat. Give 'em a break.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:38 AM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


That's a fantastic story herrdoktor! Good for you.
posted by VikingSword at 11:42 AM on June 25, 2010


There's a fantastic farm stand not too far from my office. I'm going there in a little while. In addition to his own produce, he carries stone fruits from a farmer who leaves some of his crop on the tree until it's ripe (can you imagine??), and then sells it to this farm stand. You can walk in, put your hand on any peach or nectarine, and it will be ripe for eating right then and there. Best. Thing. Ever.

Will you buy me a peach and bring it to me? I take my afternoon break at about 2:30, so I'll need it before then. Thanks.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:45 AM on June 25, 2010


I have oral allergy syndrome, too, but it's just with bananas! I used to love bananas, but now they're like a mouthful of mosquitos. At least I can still eat banana bread.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:48 AM on June 25, 2010


I will put one in the intertubes, infinitywaltz. Look for it in about an hour.
posted by rtha at 11:48 AM on June 25, 2010


Growing stuff out of the ground is difficult and expensive. Growing stuff on trees is especially so. Changing over to a new variety of fruit tree can take TWENTY DAMN YEARS, during which time the grower must somehow stay afloat. Give 'em a break.

And the best way to "give them a break" is to buy the fruit you like. And you can only do that if you know what it's called - and for that you need labels. Buying that fruit supports those growers. Lack of labels only supports the industrial agri-business at the cost of the individual farmer who takes pains to grow a particular cultivar. You wan to give 'em a break? Support better labeling.
posted by VikingSword at 11:48 AM on June 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


a farmer who leaves some of his crop on the tree until it's ripe (can you imagine??),

As far as I can tell, they don't sell edible peaches, pears, nectarines, or plums any more in supermarkets. You can buy them, but were picked so early that they never ripen. I don't care so much about whether my peach is a hip & trendy varietal, personally, my European friends. I just want to be able eventually to eat the damn thing.

Happily in summer there are local fruit stands and farmers' markets which don't have this problem (or at least not to the same extent as the giant supermarkets chock full of rock-hard tree fruit).
posted by aught at 11:48 AM on June 25, 2010


Wait...It's now elitist to expect peaches to actually taste like peaches? It's elitist to be for consumer choice? Oh, it's elitist to be for informed consumer choice. Gotcha.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:49 AM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


IMPORTANT: if you're allergic to certain fruits, or have Oral Allergy Syndrome, do NOT do what I did and risk anaphylaxis. My pop can't eat apple, with our without skin, at all. Different strokes for different folks, and I don't want anyone to be found, naked and dead, surrounded by apple peels, with a goofy grin on their face, hand clutching an apple, and near a computer tuned to Metafilter.com.


Whut. Everyone eats and surfs internet naked, right?

posted by herrdoktor at 11:54 AM on June 25, 2010 [16 favorites]


This is an important FPP and yet another symptom of factory farming that eschews all nuance for maximum profits for the huge agribusinesses which includes everything from the chemical companies to the farm equipment makers to the transportation industry to the packagers and processors that use the fruit to make convenience store shlop. The farmers have become the LEAST important part of this chain and semi-feudal peons in this system that only the largest agri-giants can control across the board.

Christ, it's not just the damned peaches, it's every type of fruit that is being reduced to it most basic component taste, flash frozen and shipped out. There are many people who have no idea what they're missing because that's the only taste (the agribusiness max profit flash frozen generic peach taste), they've ever known so the ignorance also becomes a bankable commodity.

The only way to fight this is to support local growers who're doing something different and still growing creatively and with a view towards freshness and taste. And the other is to get proper labeling showing not only variety, but where it was grown, what chemicals were used, if it was frozen or refrigerated at any point and for how long.

Also, more powerful anti-trust and anti-monopoly rules. And considering how powerful the agribusinesses are and the army of lobbyists they employ. Good luck with that.

Perhaps also local growers should get tax breaks the way other businesses do in certain regions.

Anyhow, none of that is going to happen, so either support local growers grow or grow your own.

But essentially we're fucked fruit and produce wise, and fuck you if you don't like it.
posted by Skygazer at 12:03 PM on June 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


herrdoktor, I had been assuming that what I had been experiencing up until now was the result of pesticides. After organic apples began having the same effect I assumed that people were lying about being organic. Now I know why I can't eat fresh fruit. I've got a lot of research to do.

THANK YOU!!!
posted by charred husk at 12:07 PM on June 25, 2010


Durn Bronzefist, I'm always wary of informed preferences arguments about consumer choice -- they seem to smack of misplaced paternalism.

Not meaning to pick on aspotw here at all, because I've seen a goodly number of statements like this around the internets lately, and I'm wondering if they changed the meaning of "paternalism" while I wasn't looking. It seems like every time I see it used now, it is used to mean the opposite of what I understand "paternalism" to mean.

So, in this example, I would characterize hiding information about a product from consumers as paternalism -- a sort of "daddy knows best, just buy the damn yellow peach" attitude. Whereas this statement seems to be saying that giving people more information is paternalism.

Am I misreading? Have we agreed to reverse the meaning of "paternalism?" Or what?
posted by rusty at 12:09 PM on June 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


herrdoktor: "do NOT do what I did and risk anaphylaxis."

Don't worry, I won't. My case is bad enough that I have issues even when the fruit is peeled.
Yet for some reason the apple wedges in the McDonald's fruit snacks have no effect. Hmmm...
posted by charred husk at 12:09 PM on June 25, 2010


All I know is if someone takes away my tomato varietals, it's killing spree time.
posted by mek at 12:09 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]



herrdoktor, I had been assuming that what I had been experiencing up until now was the result of pesticides. After organic apples began having the same effect I assumed that people were lying about being organic. Now I know why I can't eat fresh fruit. I've got a lot of research to do.

THANK YOU!!!
posted by charred husk at 3:07 PM on June 25 [+] [!]

Please please please be careful. Don't just try to skin an apple and try it like I did. You might really go into anaphylaxis
posted by herrdoktor at 12:10 PM on June 25, 2010


I used to love bananas, but now they're like a mouthful of mosquitos. At least I can still eat banana bread.

I think there was an article in the NY Times a year or two ago about how bananas sold in the US aren't the same anymore, in that they don't taste the same anymore. They're blander. I've been searching for the article but I can't find it.
posted by anniecat at 12:10 PM on June 25, 2010


in this example, I would characterize hiding information about a product from consumers as paternalism -- a sort of "daddy knows best, just buy the damn yellow peach" attitude

That's what I was getting at in my own ham-fisted way. I can't see how more information isn't better, unless truly no one wants it. But I've seen this arguement again and again with consumer info. It's always the case that some people want it, and the premise of this article seems to be that attention by consumers is in fact driving this change. So agreed completely: if anything is paternalistic, it's saying "No, you don't get to have this information", either because you're making the wrong decisions with it, or because you're learning to discriminate, and we want to be able to sell the crap, too.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:13 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Rotten peaches rotting in the sun
Seems I've seen that devil fruit since the world begun
Mercy I'm a criminal, Jesus I'm the one
Rotten peaches rotting in the sun"

posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:13 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


This post renews my joy that it is summer and farmer's markets are opening in my area again. My favorite farmers at the market definitely identify their produce by variety, and take the time to explain to the customers the quality of different varieties. Not just fruits, but all vegetables. Sold by plain old guys and gals in faded blue jeans and white t-shirts. Nothing elitist about it.

herrdoctor, that was a great story--right up until the point where you started dissing on granny smiths and other green apples. what apple is better with peanut butter, I ask you?
posted by freejinn at 12:14 PM on June 25, 2010


re: the status of paternalism

I would agree with Durn and rusty that more information == less paternalistic and withholding information at least smacks of paternalism. My complaint, poorly and clumsily articulated, was that I detected paternalism or condescension (a la "look at the stupid plebs eating pre-fab fruit!") in the tone article. I hold myself more than sufficiently answered and rebutted in having made that claim.

I *do* feel, though, that far too much emphasis is placed on consumption when it comes to the intersection of ethics, environmentalism, and agribusiness. Skygazer argues above that changing consumer behavior is the best and perhaps only way to address the very real problems he identifies, and assumes that legislation and regulation are essentially hopeless. I happen to believe the reverse is true.
posted by a small part of the world at 12:21 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


*tone of the article
posted by a small part of the world at 12:23 PM on June 25, 2010


Mainstream journalism is having a hard time with the growing "foodist" movement. They see it as elitist and/or quaint, rather than as a revolt against agribusiness and its products. Thus the tone of the article.
posted by No Robots at 12:26 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm a fellow traveler of the "foodist" movement, if not a fully paid-up member. I will agree, No Robots, that a lot of the "elitist" epithets that are tossed at the movement are canards or worse. Nevertheless, I find something distasteful in the notion that merely by choosing to buy P rather than Q I am somehow being virtuous. That's not a majority foodist attitude, of course, and it was unfair of me to suggest otherwise.

But private consumption choices do not, on my view, conduce to the kind of public political participation that might actually transform the political economy of food production in this country, which presumably foodists would like to see accomplished.

So by all means, buy Michael Pollan's books, eat and cook healthy, and buy produce worth eating. But those are necessary, and hardly sufficient, conditions for a healthier, more ecologically responsible agricultural-industrial complex.
posted by a small part of the world at 12:31 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


unclear phrasing; should go like: those are MERELY necessary, and NOT sufficient conditions, blah blah blah...
posted by a small part of the world at 12:35 PM on June 25, 2010


The objections to this article are weird. It's more paternalistic to assume that people can't make informed decisions? Moves by big agribusiness to crush the competitive edge of local farmers are necessary for farmers to make money? More choice is good for everyone except big producers who would like to be able to lower the cost of production at the expense of quality, but not be required to compete against higher quality products.

I agree that legislation against these kinds of anti-competitive practices would be good, but for the mean time I would be happy if we could just stop the flood of paid-for legislation which supports them.

The point Skygazer makes is an important one: Even if you can reduce the bias money has in the creation of legislation, you still have the bias that money can afford to find loopholes, weather lawsuits, avoid taxes, and pay fines. You can't really get around the fact that small growers are fucked without a strong demand for their products, which is where the emphasis on consumption comes from.
posted by Nothing at 12:46 PM on June 25, 2010


I think there was an article in the NY Times a year or two ago about how bananas sold in the US aren't the same anymore, in that they don't taste the same anymore. They're blander.

Until a fungus reduced it to near extinction, the dominant banana cultivar was the Gros Michel, or "Big Mike." It was a sturdy, fragrant fruit, noticeably sweeter than the Cavendish varietal that supplanted it as the definitive Banana. We can expect a new replacement soon enough: a new fungal strain that kills the Cavendish has devastated the fruit in Asia and will probably wipe it out in South America and Africa within the next decade.
posted by Iridic at 1:04 PM on June 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


"I'm just peeved that I have to jump through hoops to get sour cherries these days. Not everyone wants table fruit people. I want some sour-ass shit to stick in a can with a ton of sugar to enjoy in the winter."

This is one of my main drivers to own a house rather than renting. I can grow whatever damn tree I want (zone permitting). Luckily my house camewith a sour cherry tree so we're getting 40 lbs a year from day one.

"You can walk in, put your hand on any peach or nectarine, and it will be ripe for eating right then and there. Best. Thing. Ever."

It gets better. You walk outside at the break of dawn to maybe thirty minutes later and you pick the fruit off your tree and eat it. It's been chilled to a perfect temperature anf you've eaten it before it even knows it's dieing.
posted by Mitheral at 1:13 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


herrdoktor: ...Everyone eats and surfs internet naked, right?

Absolutely. Cooking naked, however, is ill-advised.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:17 PM on June 25, 2010


right up until the point where you started dissing on granny smiths and other green apples. what apple is better with peanut butter, I ask you?

and w/brie. I love putting green apples in my salads, with feta cheese and yogurt dressing. yummy!
posted by anniecat at 1:31 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is one of my main drivers to own a house rather than renting. I can grow whatever damn tree I want (zone permitting). Luckily my house camewith a sour cherry tree so we're getting 40 lbs a year from day one.

Yeah, I get more oranges than I know what to do with and it's just become plum-bombing season - I could probably pick 40+ lbs of dark Asian plums right this minute. We planted an avocado and an almond but there's no more darn space for a cherry. Granny Smith apples come the fall, Meyer lemons, Eureka lemons and mandarins come the winter/spring. Pumpkins this year too (pie pumpkins) and we had a bumper crop of peas earlier... oh I know what you're talking about.

Also: 6 strawberries and 2 blueberries. I gotta work on that.

Trouble with cherries is that I'm told you need two trees to pollinate properly and there aren't a lot of other cherry trees in the 'hood. I suppose I could cut a few ornamentals down...
posted by GuyZero at 1:39 PM on June 25, 2010


It's getting harder to find good produce even at the Farmers Market in this neck of the woods. Peaches can now join tomatoes, limes, bananas, beans, & corn on my list of lost foods.

At work yesterday the front office women were raving about the chocolate-covered strawberries someone brought in - but the strawberries were fat and bright red and completely tasteless. The 'chocolate' left a waxy residue in your mouth.

I think they were responding to the 'idea' of chocolate-covered strawberries. and would no longer recognize the real thing.

... and so I don't really mind if the article above was condescending, or if only "one percent of the population cares." At this point I'm happy for any voice fighting for a return to real food.
posted by kanewai at 1:56 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


GuyZero: "I'm just peeved that I have to jump through hoops to get sour cherries these days. Not everyone wants table fruit people. I want some sour-ass shit to stick in a can with a ton of sugar to enjoy in the winter."

Mithreal: This is one of my main drivers to own a house rather than renting. I can grow whatever damn tree I want (zone permitting). Luckily my house camewith a sour cherry tree so we're getting 40 lbs a year from day one.

Wow. If this isn't a million dollar, B to B and P to P and small grower to small grower (or restaurant) web distribution idea, I don't know what is. Either trade in kind with other foodstuffs, vegetables, fruits etc or plain old fashioned hard motha-fuckin' cash yo...and it can be driven through a end user (farmer, consumer, restaurant, grocer, food co-ops) and a geographical (local, national or international) user interface with ratings of course, for buyers and sellers.

It could be called: MetaFruiter.

Big poke in the eye of the agribusiness behemoths...

Someone call Matt H...

posted by Skygazer at 2:11 PM on June 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


* Also baked goods and all sorts of prepared foods.

Just leveraging, structurally and ideologically (slow food, local food etc) off Metafilter (and trusted Mefite recommendations) it would be fuckin' HUGE.

I'd be ordering stuff all the freaking time, so would most of my friends who're all getting into cooking and organics and all that....

posted by Skygazer at 2:16 PM on June 25, 2010


Great thinking, Skygazer. I've got a case of homebrew smoke stout for a case of BC cherries.
posted by No Robots at 2:25 PM on June 25, 2010


Yesterday at the farmers' market, I bought three pints of strawberries: Albion, Seascape, and Chandler. The Chandlers reminded me of dark chocolate, with a subtle bitter note that counterpointed and enhanced their sweetness. The handwritten sign described them as "Very jammy." I asked the farmer what kind of strawberries are the generic ones usually sold in grocery stores. "Probably Albion, or one of the other varieties that can stand up to shipping. Chandlers don't ship well."

Thanks for this post.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 2:31 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


It gets better. You walk outside at the break of dawn to maybe thirty minutes later and you pick the fruit off your tree and eat it. It's been chilled to a perfect temperature anf you've eaten it before it even knows it's dieing.

My grandmother had a cherry tree in her back garden, and I have childhood memories of her standing next to the tree at dawn, in a housedress, waving a broom, and shouting "You damn birds, get the hell out of my tree!"

This organization, in the Bay Area, will come to your house and pick all the fruit from your trees you can't eat yourself, and they donate it to local food banks.
posted by rtha at 2:33 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


i hate eating bananas in the US. there's at least 7 different varieties i grew up eating from my backyard in Puerto Rico alone. that doesnt include all the varieties of plantains we have. same with mangoes and guavas and oranges and every single tropical & vegetable fruit you can imagine. i mean, "batatas", yucas and potatoes? do you know all the varieties and flavors are out there in nature?

and what i hate is that the US has always had a ban on Puerto Rican produce and has done everything to kill any potential for export. they've strip local farmers of incentives and encourage imports from the US.

imperialism? it's not just about oil. it started a long time ago with the homogenization of food production and killing of production and export of local varieties not just the US but anywhere it has a agricultural interest.

so yeah, bananas ... you havent lived until you've eaten purple ones.
posted by liza at 2:36 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


MetaFruiter

William Burroughs probably got there first.
posted by Artw at 2:57 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


imperialism? it's not just about oil.

United Fruit Company
posted by Artw at 3:02 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


imperialism? it's not just about oil. it started a long time ago with the homogenization of food production and killing of production and export of local varieties not just the US but anywhere it has a agricultural interest.

In fairness, large-scale food production needs things like uniformity and shelf stability as much as any other attribute. I love weird varieties as much as anyone but simply not every one of them is suitable for the food supply chain.

and what i hate is that the US has always had a ban on Puerto Rican produce and has done everything to kill any potential for export. they've strip local farmers of incentives and encourage imports from the US.

This is, of course, bullshit (it's true, I just mean it's dumb). Then again, the Planet Money podcast just this past week had an episode on why it's cheaper for Jamaica to import US tomatoes then to grow them domestically.
posted by GuyZero at 3:04 PM on June 25, 2010


large-scale food production

There's yer problem, right there.
posted by No Robots at 3:06 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Then again, the Planet Money podcast just this past week had an episode on why it's cheaper for Jamaica to import US tomatoes then to grow them domestically.

Oh boy. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Look at corn. This is exactly what happened to Mexico. The result? Mass illegal immigration of bankrupt farmers from Mexico to the U.S., where they get to work in near-slave conditions on farms here - and bonus, get hated by law-and-order Americans who don't ask themselves about any of the causes. And so on with subsidies to U.S. agri-business that then can destroy farmers all over the world with dumping-level pricing (and the European Union farm subsidies are not to be discounted either).
posted by VikingSword at 3:09 PM on June 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


The actual reason had less to do with tariffs and subsidies and more with credit. American farmers can get loans to invest in capital like machinery. Jamaican farmers, because they have difficulty proving they own their land, often cannot get loans (as they lack land title as collateral) and are completely manual affairs. Now, in fairness, Planet Money is very interested in credit and not very interested in international import/export tariffs so they may be biased.

large-scale food production
There's yer problem, right there.


Agricultural productivity gains pretty much underlie all other productivity gains and are the difference between industrialized and agricultural societies. I'm all for supporting local & sustainable agriculture but lowering crop yields and agricultural output isn't going to do anyone any favors.
posted by GuyZero at 3:18 PM on June 25, 2010


A great documentary film on the subject of agribusiness and alternative: "Food, Inc". Previously.
posted by No Robots at 3:22 PM on June 25, 2010


lowering crop yields and agricultural output isn't going to do anyone any favors.

Of course. My contention is that small scale farming doesn't necessarily involve those negatives.
posted by No Robots at 3:23 PM on June 25, 2010


Agricultural productivity gains pretty much underlie all other productivity gains and are the difference between industrialized and agricultural societies. I'm all for supporting local & sustainable agriculture but lowering crop yields and agricultural output isn't going to do anyone any favors.

You know, I understand this argument, and I'm sympathetic. Unquestionably, we couldn't have food this cheap for so many for so long, were it not for the introduction of industrial practices.

That said - here's the killer: sustainability. These practices, no matter how productive in the short-medium run, are simply not sustainable long term, because the full cost is not actually being incorporated in the final product that reaches the consumer, especially the environmental impact. To take just one cost as an example: what happens when the ground water that's fueling so much agriculture (certainly here in California) runs out? It's not getting replenished anywhere near to extraction levels, and we're hitting deposits that are millennia old. It's not sustainable. Now what?
posted by VikingSword at 3:25 PM on June 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


Well there's some level of water consumption that's sustainable and the issues in California are a heady mix of increased residential use, agricultural use and protecting marine life in the delta upstream from the Bay. One could equally blame the water problems on the suburbs and exurbs that sprang up and that are now, ironically, "underwater".

Another way to look at the issue is that it's easier to convince planner to let you use more water than it is to get consumers to pay 2x for a head of lettuce. There are a lot of factors that with a little tweaking could make things a lot more sustainable.
posted by GuyZero at 3:42 PM on June 25, 2010


> It's not sustainable. Now what?

We do it until it can't be done any longer for one reason or another. Then we stop doing it, and whoever's gonna die without it dies.
posted by jfuller at 3:53 PM on June 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Trouble with cherries is that I'm told you need two trees to pollinate properly and there aren't a lot of other cherry trees in the 'hood. I suppose I could cut a few ornamentals down..."

I'm surprised people can cultivate cherries and oranges on the same land as cherries need a sustained winter chill and I thought that'd kill oranges. At any rate if you want cherries you don't need two trees. Some varieties are moderately self polinating (Stella and Lapins for example; lapins is a decent all around choice) but even better cherries graft well so multi grafts are available. That way you can grow 2-5 different types on a single rootstock.
posted by Mitheral at 5:07 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


As the population continues to rise, the quality of life continues to fall. This is not a prediction, this is an equation.
posted by Twang at 5:25 PM on June 25, 2010


They do this with mangoes; apparently 80% of the mangoes sold in Britain (and probably most of northern Europe) are of a variety named Tommy Atkins, developed by US agribusiness to survive longer in the supply chain, though at the cost of being flavourless and fibrous. Oddly enough, despite the 80% statistic, I have only rarely seen a mango or box of mangoes labelled as "Tommy Atkins", though have seen many with no information on the variety.

One can find Alfonso mangoes at some markets, though, alas, not the superb Australian varieties (Kensington Pride and R2E2); perhaps they don't grow them anywhere outside of Queensland?
posted by acb at 5:59 PM on June 25, 2010


subtle distinctions between the 230 known varieties of peaches

Subtle distinction: sweet and sawdust. I won't buy generic peaches anymore because they always seem to taste like sawdust.

On the other hand, I can remember when there were only apples. Now I can choose between a minimum of half a dozen varieties at my local supermarket, and I know quite well which are my favorites (Pacific Rose and Honeycrisp) and which I won't touch (Red Delicious).
posted by Jimmy Havok at 6:34 PM on June 25, 2010


I might have said this before, but if you happen to like tomatoes*, Japan is not the place for you. Tomatoes in Japan, by and large, don't have rounded bottoms. Instead, they come to a sort of dull point. It turns out that tomatoes in Japan have been bred this way so that they fit in packing cartons more easily, making them easier to transport. I've been told the flavor is something along the lines of wet cardboard, but most people here don't know that, because this is how tomatoes are. Every supermarket sells the same, pointed end, flavorless tomato. If you think educated consumer choice is just elitism, think of the last time you had a truly delicious tomato, and realize that, to around 120 million people, the word tomato has a totally different meaning.

*I personally can't stand tomatoes. I wish I could. They're so healthy, they add volume to salads and sandwiches, but no. The taste of a raw tomato literally induces a gag reflex in me. I wish I could eat them, but overcoming the urge to vomit doesn't really go well with eating.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:09 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Crazy thing about bananas. We have beautiful sweet locally grown bananas, and yet the grocery stores have piles of those pasty Cavendishes (which they label "yellow"). Fortunately enough people remember real bananas that they'll usually have a smaller pile (labeled "apple" or "local") next to it.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:12 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


and which I won't touch (Red Delicious)

Which is, in and of itself, a perfect example of the sort of thing this post is about. Red Delicious apples used to be quite tasty. Not the kind of tasty which I prefer, but they certainly had a distinctive (goodish) flavor. But they were bred for shiny redness and shelf-life and lost most of their taste, and now they're easily the worst tasting kind of (commonly available) apple.
posted by Justinian at 8:01 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Tomatoes in Japan, by and large, don't have rounded bottoms. Instead, they come to a sort of dull point. It turns out that tomatoes in Japan have been bred this way so that they fit in packing cartons more easily, making them easier to transport."

Apparently they are a Roma variety, which aren't awesome eating in the first place, but worse is they are picked while still green. It's the factory process that makes them so horrible.

"If you think educated consumer choice is just elitism, think of the last time you had a truly delicious tomato, and realize that, to around 120 million people, the word tomato has a totally different meaning. "

It's a lot more than that; the tomatoes you buy in the store in Canada are too horrible to contemplate.
posted by Mitheral at 9:25 PM on June 25, 2010


Been getting tomatoes from a guy with a market basket subscription service: he delivers a bag of excellent produce to you every Friday (assuming you work downtown). He was doing heirloom tomatoes for a few weeks, and they were DELICIOUS!!! They looked crazy, all kinds of colors ranging from purple and green stripes to bright yellow, but every one was packed with flavor. I guess his supply dried up, now we're getting little grape tomatoes that are just as explody with flavor.

I'm really surprised that the Japanese would put up with awful tomatoes, considering what food fetishists they are, but maybe they just don't know what a real tomato tastes like, and so they're more focused on the appearance. There are a lot of tiny farms tucked away in urban or semi-urban areas in Japan, it might be possible to find someone nearby who would be interested in growing some heirlooms.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:53 PM on June 25, 2010


Honeycrisp are good, but you don't really know apples until you try a russet.
posted by Ouisch at 11:31 PM on June 25, 2010


To take just one cost as an example: what happens when the ground water that's fueling so much agriculture (certainly here in California) runs out? It's not getting replenished anywhere near to extraction levels, and we're hitting deposits that are millennia old. It's not sustainable. Now what?

I'm assuming that in California, at least, we'll switch to different produce, seeing as how there's definitely stuff that can thrive in our climate. Maybe some kind of citrus; my next door neighbor has a tangelo tree that she never waters or cares for or anything, and we're still neck-deep in reasonably tasty tangelos.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:43 PM on June 25, 2010


Truly a market for lemons!
posted by miyabo at 6:27 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I belong to a CSA farm out here, and every summer, they order in peaches by the twenty-pound box for their customers from an organic farm across the mountains. Apples and potatoes, too. You have to buy the peaches by the box, not the pound. Last year I bought an experimental box of peaches.

Y'all, they were peaches. Peaches you had to eat in a weird hunched over posture, with a napkin clutched to your chin to catch the juice. Peaches with thick, leathery skin that you needed to peel off with your teeth as you ate the fruit. Peaches that my family consumed twenty pounds of in four days. (And we paid for it in potty time, but it was totally worth it.) This year, I'm buying three boxes and making pie filling to can up. Can you imagine peach cobbler in November made from real honest-to-God peaches?
posted by KathrynT at 8:36 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm assuming that in California, at least, we'll switch to different produce, seeing as how there's definitely stuff that can thrive in our climate.

Prickly pears!
posted by Sys Rq at 8:52 PM on June 26, 2010


So that's why it seems every nectarine I've eaten in the least few years has been awful.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 11:13 PM on June 26, 2010


I'm reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and getting the impression that producers, consumers, and the genetics of the stuff we eat are all being cheated very badly by this trend.

Grocery stores can carry 14 brands of toilet paper and 20 kinds of deodorant and 60 kinds of soda, stunning foreigners with their variety... but where it comes to actual food, they can't be bothered?
posted by Foosnark at 6:50 AM on June 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


Recently I've been eating some new apples that appeared at my local market - Jazz Apples. Apparently developed in 2004 in New Zealand ("a cross between Royal Gala and Braeburn"), and I must say it's not bad for a mass market type apple.
posted by VikingSword at 9:05 PM on June 27, 2010



One word: HONEYCRISP.

It's spoiled me for all other apples.


You know what's funny? I've never been one of the "It's popular and therefore I don't like it." kind of people all that much. But I'm actually annoyed by the Honeycrisp. Sure it's tasty and therefore popular, and rightly so. But all the farmers who grow it know this too, and where I live that means it's always a quarter more than the other varieties.

When you can be consuming such equally exciting varieties like the Northern Spy, the Arkansas Black, or even the lowly (but equally tasty) Pippin it hardly seems worth it to debase yourself by eating something so unimaginatively named Honey Crisp.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:09 PM on June 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, HoneyCrisp sold out. I much preferred their early material back when they were struggling and less produced...
posted by Skygazer at 11:28 AM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Spy is neither new nor exciting but it does make a fine pie. I find them slightly tart for eating straight. Personally I'm just glad that the Gala is widely available although I fear it will eventually go the way of the Red Delicious and become bland.

I wonder if part of the issue is that trees change the flavour of the fruit as they age. Being an old variety I imagine that a lot of Red Delicious trees are quite old by now.
posted by GuyZero at 11:39 AM on June 28, 2010


GuyZero, please, let us not be age-ist, when we speak of apples. My personal favorite new apple is the Red Deathalicious.
posted by Skygazer at 11:57 AM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I read an article recently that talked about how fruit trees have an optimum bearing age, and commercial growers cut them down when they pass it. So the issue isn't with older trees, I suspect it's with the choice of trees that they replant. They choose Red Delicious for color and shipping stability, and so flavor has gone by the wayside.

I too remember when a Red Delicious was delicious. They started going downhill about 30 years ago, if I recall correctly, and now have reached the bottom of that hill.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:26 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


herrdoctor: If indeed my allergy were limited to the skin, would I not be able to skin an apple and eat the rest of it, enjoy it, and live to tell about it?

Not to rain on this fantastic post, but many people who suffer from OAS cannot eat the fruits or vegetables they react to simply by peeling them. Peeling apples does nothing to stem my reactions, only cooking them does. Have you tried eating the skins? It's possible you've grown out of this particular allergy.

Again, not to bitch, but I'd hate to see someone with OAS eat a big helping of something they're allergic to on a lark. Especially since there's a delay of a few minutes between eating and onset of symptoms.
posted by Adam_S at 9:41 AM on July 7, 2010


Whoops, sorry Herrdoktor, missed your follow-up.
posted by Adam_S at 9:45 AM on July 7, 2010


If you live in WA state and looking for amazing apples, look for Jones Creek apples, at Seattle Capitol hill Farmers market, Kirkland's Market, or their farm in Sedro Woolley. Full disclosure: my sister works there. They have heirloom apples that will blow your taste buds. Apples that taste like cinnamon. Apples with flesh that turns red when chopped. Tart apples the size of grapefruits, some sour as a lemon, perfect for apple pie. Visit the farm and u-pick, and sample for free. If you ask nicely they will ship to you.
posted by uni verse at 5:32 PM on July 7, 2010


OK, I want these gigantic lemon-sour apples. You must tell me what variety they are. NOW.
posted by GuyZero at 5:36 PM on July 7, 2010


GuyZero: They are bramley (seedlings).
posted by uni verse at 6:16 PM on July 7, 2010


When I consume fruit, I need it to be cold and out of the fridge. I wonder if this is because I was raised in North America. This shouldn't ruin my enjoyment of a perfectly good fruit, and yet whenever I bite into a warm plum, I find myself wishing it were cold and fresh out of the ice-box. Anyone else like this?
posted by Fizz at 5:27 AM on July 8, 2010


I've got OAS. Oral Allergy Syndrome. If I eat anything from the rose family, which includes fruits such as apples, cherries, peaches, plums, pears-- basically anything that's good and tasty, my lips, tongue and throat start to tingle and itch. It's a reaction to a surface protein, apparently, which is why I can eat things like apple pie: heat will inactivate/denature the protein.

Holy crap, I think my son has this! Certain fruits make him itchy just like this! Except neither me nor my wife are this way. Anyway, thanks for the tip.
posted by DU at 6:57 AM on July 8, 2010


Mitheral wrote: "It's a lot more than that; the tomatoes you buy in the store in Canada are too horrible to contemplate."

Heh, I have two or three decent choices at the grocery store most of the year. Even in the dead of winter there's the hothouse-grown Chilean tomatoes that aren't even too bad. Yeah, they aren't as strongly flavored as something grown locally, but reasonably good, unlike the ultra-cheap practically green tomatoes they also have so they can advertise a ridiculously low price.

If I don't like those, I can go to the meat market whenever tomatoes are in season here, since they also has a bunch of locally grown vegetables to match their locally grown meat. Usually, I'm too lazy. Unless whatever is at the supermarket is actively bad (like just after the Chilean earthquake a few months back when all they had was the not-very-good industrial kind), I just can't be bothered.
posted by wierdo at 8:27 AM on July 8, 2010


An entire thread full of apple talk and only one mention of macintosh? In season Northeast U.S. macintosh apples are so, so, SO good. Eat a macintosh (with a nice slice of cheddar perhaps) while drinking some cider and then dip a cider donut in there and then for dessert, some apple pie. I want it to be apple season.
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:10 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love peaches. But, the thought of biting through its fuzzy skin creeps me out...kinda like how some people react to fingers scratching a blackboard. Peel, slice and then I can enjoy them.
posted by ericb at 1:33 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thank you SO MUCH for the tip on OAS. I have had this ever since I hit puberty; so has my brother. I cannot believe I am 28 years old and seen a million doctors and they've never told me this, yet here the information is on Metafilter. CRAZY. Thank you, herrdoktor!!
posted by Jessness at 6:39 PM on July 9, 2010


Which is, in and of itself, a perfect example of the sort of thing this post is about. Red Delicious apples used to be quite tasty.

The same was once true of Granny Smith's as well. herrdoktor describes them as 'bitter and wack' -- which they may well be. I haven't eaten one for years. But back in the day, a decent Granny Smith used to be 'tart', that wonderful combination of sweet and sharp which, combined with the crispness and juicyness, made them almost as popular as a Cox's Orange Pippin in these parts.

And don't get me started on Cox's either. Whatever happened to that wonderful orange scent that they used to have? You'll occasionally get it on one from someone's garden, but those things that they import from Australia taste nothing like a decent Pippin should.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:03 AM on July 17, 2010


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