Holy Heirloom!!!

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.

Apples:

The Grapple

The Grapple?
Because who doesn't want an apple that's genetically modified to taste like grapes?

Heirloom Fuji Variety

Tree-ripe Heirloom Fuji
Tree-ripe Heirloom Fuji: I'd prefer an apple that tastes like apples thanks.

Carrots:

The Supermarket Carrot
Is that a cheese puff?
Is that a cheese puff?
Heirloom Purple Haze Carrots

Purple Haze Heirloom Carrots
Purple Haze Heirloom Carrots

Tomato:

The Supermarket Tomato

Flavorless Genetic Zombie Tomatoe
Flavorless Genetic Zombie Tomato

Heirloom Variety Tomato:

Vibrant and Colorful Heirloom Tomato
Vibrant and Colorful Heirloom 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.

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Monsanto: Rounding up an agricultural monopoly.

While the name, Monsanto, might not sound immediately familiar, this company has one of the most deep-‘seeded’ successful businesses in the history of American agriculture.Monsanto is the country’s lead producer of the genetically engineered seed, dominating between 70%-100% of the market for a wide variety of crops produced in the country. The company’s monopolization of this industry had created serious problems for the environment, small farm owners, and the health of millions of consumers all over the world.

The company began with its production of ,”Ready Seed Roundup,” one of the most used herbicides in agricultural farming. In order to combat the accidental death of wanted crops with the use of this herbicide, the company created genetically engineered seeds that could withstand the Roundup spray. Seems like the perfect combination, farmers could use the herbicide to get rid of unwanted weeds, while not having to worry about killing off any of their precious crops. The perfect plant, right?

Initially, it seemed like a foolproof plan, however; as the company continued to gain momentum, its success gave it enough power to almost completely take over the entire agricultural industry, bringing with it some severe environmental consequences.

Monsanto Cartoon
Monsanto Cartoon

The Monoculture: Death of Biodiversity: Before the birth of advanced agricultural technology, the United States flourished with endless varieties of fruits and vegetables, all growing in their respective local climates. Agriculture was biodiverse and soil was rich. Now, with the obvious profit benefits of creating an monoculture, that is: The agricultural practice of producing one crop over a large area, has made it almost impossible for other plant and crop species to flourish.

The Consequences? Catastrophic Crop Failure: If this one crop strain becomes affected by a pathogen, that means the entire harvest is gone. No variation=less adaptability to changing environmental conditions.

According to Ag-Journal Online “Statistics show a vastly shrinking innovation in biotech submissions and doubling of time to approval by USDA. Agriculture is in danger of losing its innovation due to single trait crop development many experts think. Roundup Ready herbicide resistance has so dominated the World’s commodity corn and soybean growing areas that few even bother to submit alternative trials. Studies by three major watchdog groups shows innovative biotech plant submissions drying up.”

The company has patented this seed, and made it almost impossible for small farmers to live in peace, without the anxiety of this seed to accidentally become entwined in their crops. The video below, a clip from the documentary, “The Future of Food,” gives some insight about the current situation that exists with Monsanto, its patenting of seeds, and the toll this takes on our environment and the jobs and financial security of small farmers.

To see more of “The Future Of Food” you can purchase a copy from the Grassroots Gourmet Online Store that can be found in the list of links to your left!

Monsanto is developing problems for our environment, economy, and personal health, but these problems are way too vast to try and swallow in one entry, plus, I wouldn’t want to ruin your appetite.

Monsanto posts will be regular, with updates and sections based on the environment, health issues, and economical issues as well.

More news to come..