This morning I was preparing for breakfast. I had a beautiful assortment of fruit laid out to serve. Some lovely looking apricots, peaches, kiwis, bananas and pineapple. From the exterior they all looked pristine and perfect. When I started cutting them up I realized that the vast majority were either totally rotten or totally unripened. This is the not so sweet truth about fruit. It’s all about looks, but no substance.
We live in a country where every grocery store is stocked with a vast array of fruits and vegetables, year round. You can find tropical fruits like kiwis and bananas year round at the local Super Walmart, and at a reasonable price. But the cost of this abundance of variety is enormous. Most of this fruit came not just from across the country, but from around the world. Take a look at some of the labels. The kiwis we can buy locally come from Italy (which perplexes me because Italy is most certainly not a tropical island). Oranges and avocados come from Mexico. Tomatoes may come from the U.S. but are generally hydroponically grown or grown in a hot house, without ever seeing the light of day.
These fruits and vegetables are shells of what they really should be. They have no flavor and no scent. You are almost better off consuming fake wax fruit from a decorative bowl. They would probably have more flavor than these pseudo fruits. Most fruit is picked completely unripened so that it can withstand the long voyage it will make to your local grocery store. Delicate fruits like strawberries and apricots cannot withstand 1000’s of miles and several days in a truck en route to your Super Walmart so they are brought to a warehouse and then gassed with ethylene gas to quickly ripen them, or at least give the illusion from the outside that they are ripe. By the time you see the perfect looking fruits and veggies at the grocery store, they have been harvested more than a week prior, gassed and possibly waxed to show a shiny, pristine looking fruit.
Bring them home and you realize that they are tasteless and unripe. Or, in the case of some of the more delicate fruits, you bring them home and within a day they are completely rotten because they have been around for so long. It’s an incredible waste of money. I literally purchase a third more fruit than I think I will need for breakfasts, knowing full well that by the time I serve them, many will no longer be edible. It’s like gambling in a casino, only I think the odds are better at the blackjack table than with the fruit.
So what can you do? Really, if you are not located somewhere that has a moderate climate year round which can support fresh fruit growing all the time, you are kind of at the mercy of the commercial food system that has developed in this country. When possible, buy local. It is not only the best quality fruit you will get, but it supports the local economy and reduces the carbon footprint of your food. Around here we do have several farms that grow berries, apples, melons and more. This time of year all of these fruits will start appearing and even some of the local grocery chains will supply locally grown fruit. If you see them, opt for those.
In the winter I do what I can and select the fruits that are least likely to be problematic. I also opt for organic where I can. In some cases it doesn’t matter, bananas come to mind, but in others it does make a distinct difference in terms of the quality of the fruit. I won’t say it isn’t frustrating, but it is what it is. But I always maintain that money talks and if we want to see things change and to encourage more local small family farms, we have to put our money where our mouths and stomachs are and make sure we go out of our way to support those local farms when they have food available. That’s my policy here at CSI and I take it very seriously.