You ever wonder why the majority of those seemingly flawless fruits and veggies that come from the supermarket have absolutely no taste at all? We’ve all had those moments when biting into that plasticized apple brought back memories of eating paint chips as a child….come on, you know what I’m talking about.
The majority of fruits and veggies you get at the supermarket are produced and cultivated because these particular varieties can withstand trips from long distances and remain seemingly fresh for weeks before showing signs of age. The taste however, is usually closer to cardboard than a fruit or vegetable.
We begin to ask ourselves, where did all the real fruits and veggies go? The ones that our grandparents told us about when they were kids? These sweet, succulent, fresh, and delicious fruit and vegetable varieties, or heirlooms, can be readily found at local natural foods stores and farmers markets. This is where the consumer goes when he is fed up with the fake stuff.
Heirloom, or antique, is a word that is used for a fruit/veggie variety that has been cultivated for many generations. These varieties were cultivated much more at the beginning of human agricultural history than they are now on a large-scale. Heirloom seeds have a long history, constantly adapting and changing to thrive properly within their respective environments, making them resistant to local pests and diseases. Because these heirloom varieties have a pedigree, they come in interesting shapes and colors, such as white tomatos, purple carrots, and striped beets.
The flavors of these products speak for themselves. Because they are only grown during their respective growing seasons, when purchased, these fruits and veggies are at the peak of freshness, and usually come from a relatively local farm.
So you may be asking, “If these Heirloom things are such a big deal, then why wouldn’t supermarkets carry them?” Well, unfortunately heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables are not as profitable as your generic mass produced varieties. They usually perish more quickly and can therefore not sit for long on shelves or keep well for cross-country/international shipments. Also, the varieties bred for the supermarket usually all look the same both in size and color, and ripen at the same time, allow for a more convenient/reliable product.
The commercial grower’s hybrid bred varieties are a sacrifice not only to taste, but to the rich culture and history of American agriculture. For example, before the mass production of commercialized hybrid produce varieties, nearly 7,000 varieties of apples existed in the country in the early 1900s, now unfortunately less than 1,000 exists and the number is constantly diminishing. This reality exists for a large array of our fruits and vegetables, including potatos, lettuce, carrots, and tomatos.
Home gardeners and small farms continue to cultivate heirloom varieties to maintain the richness of our agricultural past. It is something of a tribute to a memory of the centuries old fruit and vegetable lineage that is slowly dying out for more capitalistic motivations. This is the biodiversity that is being lost to the industrialization of agriculture, and what a shame. We are being denied the fundamental right to gastronomical pleasure, just so the commercial growers can make an extra buck!
To gain some perspective. Lets do some photo comparisons.
The Supermarket Tomato
Heirloom Variety Tomato:
My opinon may seem bias, but that is only because I can see and taste the difference between the commercially produced and the environmentally sound and delicious Heirloom varieties. Next time you find yourself in your local neighborhood market, pick up an heirloom fruit/veggie and give yourself a blind taste test with the other fruits and veggies you have at home. Tasting is believing.
You’ll thank me.