It being summer and all here in the UK, I have been overcome by a desire to eat as much fruit as I can humanly manage (oh yes there is a limit). This is similar to my lettuce phase a few years ago but that’s over now and we don’t talk about it.
This fruit obsession of mine must have its roots in South Africa, where a wide selection of huge quantities of fruit is always availiable, but the best and perfect specimens are always exported, to where Continental supermarkets have accustomed their clientele to perfection.
I was lucky enough to grow up on an export table grape farm (as opposed to wine grapes), and 90% of the bunches are destined for European shopping trolleys. Currently living in England, I’m confronted by a staggering display of fruit and vegetables from all over the world. I’m loving it, but something has become disappointingly apparent. The supermarkets, in their quest to procure the best from the world’s gardens; and the producers, in their scramble to be the chosen few that have the benefit of earning in foreign currency, have seemed to sacrifice the ultimate commoddity – taste. This is at its most noticeable when produce is grown outside its natural season.
Many factors contribute to the blandness : mass production due to sheer demand, lengthy storage and travel, artificial ripening methods, and of course plants forced to produce outside of their natural inclination to do so.
Currently in my garden I have blackberries cascading (apologies for naff word) over a wall, and picked straight off the plant they are incredible. I hope supermarkets don’t accustom their shoppers too much to watered-down fresh produce. This way all demand for fruit and vegetables at their prime will diminish, and a sense for and of seasonal food will be lost, something that would be very sad.