Bitter Fruit

Summer should be the season of fresh fruits and vegetables. But for many who buy only at a supermarket, all that bounty often doesn't taste half as good as it looks.

By now, most of us know why. For decades, produce has been bred for looks and transportability, not flavor. So that nectarine that looks beautiful on the outside but is barely palatable on the inside - it's no mistake. The same for tomatoes, apricots, melons, strawberries, and cherries.

Cherries: there's an interesting case. This year, the early cherries, which usually draw high prices, were harvested early in California to minimize the effects of a May hot spell. But many were so lacking in flavor that lots of the fruit had to be sent back.

Is there a limit to what shoppers will accept purely on the basis of looks? Somewhat ominous taste tests have indicated older shoppers tend to be the most concerned with flavor, while younger ones focus more on appearance and firmness. Are we in danger of forgetting what a truly good apple or peach or tomato tastes like?

Surely, some scientists searching for the perfect fruit must think it possible to have a product that travels well and can be eaten with a smile, too.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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