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Food for Thought

My husband never fails to be disappointed with the produce from our local grocery store. Well, to be fair, it’s not just our local store — it’s any grocery store.

After dinner, he’ll look longingly at some peaches he picked up that day at the store. He’ll pick one up, roll it around in his hand, maybe even give it a sniff. Then he’ll sink his teeth into it.

“Ugh,” he’ll pronounce, then put it down and push it aside in disgust. “It looked so good,” he’ll say, “but it’s just pulpy inside. No flavour, terrible texture.” The thing with him is that he’s a perpetual optimist and he’ll be just as hopeful for a juicy peach next time he buys one from the store. And so it goes.

I have always attributed this disappointment of his to the difference between eating a fruit right off of a tree to eating one that’s had to travel goodness knows how many kilometres in a truck. You see, he grew up on a fruit farm in Australia.

The September/October issue of Mother Jones magazine gave me some further food for thought on this issue. Science and environmental journalist Heather Smith explains that today’s hybrid crops “are often bred for size and color, not nutrients.” Her article “Looks Great, Less Filling,” then goes on to compare the nutrient value of fruits and vegetables from the 1950s to today’s counterparts. It’s pretty alarming, really. Or at least interesting.

For instance, according to Mother Jones and USDA data, today’s broccoli offers 52% less vitamin A, 60% less calcium, and 27% less iron. And a honey dew mellow provides 68% less calcium and an astounding 84% less iron. 84% less. Wow, that’s some serious change.

With this kind of radical change in nutrients, can one deduce that there would also be a change in taste? Perhaps that’s why today’s peach doesn’t taste as peachy as it did when my husband was a boy.

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  1. I wonder if the same holds true for veggies grown in your own garden – i.e. are the seeds you buy as nutrient deficient as stuff grown on farms?

  2. I totally HEAR you! I actually avoid fruit all together save for berries these days – and even then, strawberries can be downright awful. Because it is peach season, I asked my husband to pick me up two peaches last week, and so I sat down to breakfast on Saturday morning, determined to finish off my meal with a nice juicy peach. BOTH peaches, back to back, were that hideous spurgy sponge. No moisture whatsoever. Total waste of money – threw them both in the garbage. So what do you do? I cram as much as I can into my garden, but a peach tree certainly doesn’t fit. However, I have tomatoes…boy do I have tomatoes. And zucchini, and cucumbers, and peppers (various varieties) and spinach and onions and carrots and beans and herbs and and and and….all in a town home yard. But it is worth it to have veggies with a little flavour! Great post and so true. Now that I am a little better off financially, i think it is time for me to invest in local produce when I can. I’m starting yesterday.

  3. Supermarket produce is regularly very bad tasting. I remember peaches from my youth and their yummy juicy goodness…

    Sad really. (I find the market up street is pretty good but still… not what it was.)

  4. You should read The End of Food by Thomas Pawlick, it’s all in there. It seems to obvious, but part of the problem is we’ve become used to buying all fruits and vegetables all year round, so they are coming from hundreds and often thousands of miles away. Not surprisingly, they need to breed those suckers so they travel well. Pawlick notes that the 2 most things you would hold dear in anything you eat – flavour and nutrition – are not among the growing criteria for any industrial food growers these days. That’s why we’re buying local, in season and also growing our own. (And yes, if you use heirloom seeds, which have never been genetically modified the way modern crops have, you’ll get far more nutrients in your diet.)

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