Looks aren't everything
One of the grocers I shop at, Spud, has a good blog post about produce. You may already know this, but, generally speaking if you want really good fruits and vegetables, you need to find the ones that don’t look too perfect, that have a blemish or two. Reminds me of a post I wrote for Farmstead Wines years ago about Paris Hilton the winemaker.
Today’s consumers are raised on TV, airbrushed photos and carefully manipulated images designed to sell illusions of perfection. But when it comes to produce, looks aren’t everything. Chances are that shiny apple, or yellow banana are gassed, bathed in pesticides and fungicides or injected with food dyes that make them a toxic treat for the senses. Let’s slip into bananas. We’ve recently had some quality issues with this family favorite. This is because February and March are traditionally tough months for banana growers. Soaring humidity makes their crop very vulnerable to rot. Organic growers typically treat this disease naturally, with aids such as grapefruit seed oil extract. It’s not a perfect system. But the blemished bananas contain far fewer chemical contaminants than their photogenic golden “conventional” counterparts.
“Conventional” bananas are picked before they ripen naturally. Calcium Carbide, ammonia or sulphur dioxide then ripens them at super-speed. In high concentration, these toxins may damage the nervous system, kidneys and liver. The bananas might also be soaked in the carcinogen benonomyl, and repeatedly sprayed with pesticides. Tomatoes are also picked before maturity and shipped long distances. They’re gassed with the plant hormone ethylene to ripen them and may be injected with red dye for eye appeal. Because the “conventional” tomato was never truly ripe it’s now vitamin deficient…unless you count the nutrient value of its chemical fertilizers, pesticides, ripeners and dye. And its taste pales next to a vine-ripened, fresh organic tomato full of flavour. What about “juicy” ‘conventional’ grocery store apples? They’re full of enough preservatives to change the slogan to “an apple a day keeps decompostion away.” Picked while still green, apples are sprayed with thiabendazole at the warehouse, a chemical known to cause birth defects. After sorting they’re treated with preservatives to keep them juicy and crisp, and then covered with shellac or carnuba wax. Overall, there are many variables that affect the look of our organic produce—as well as quality and availability. One factor that’s growing in importance is climate change. For example, this year in California extreme drought devastated farmers. In India, disastrous gales wiped out mango crops. And in Florida, farmers felt the chill as the coldest winter in decades played havoc with their citrus harvest.
You can count on us to keep you posted on environmental events that affect our produce selection—and our world’s food security. And to seek out produce that is always delicious and nutritious…even if that means a blemish or two.
After all, as Joni Mitchell wrote, “Give me spots on my apples, but leave me the birds and the bees.” Organic produce may not always look as “pretty” as its ‘conventional’ counterpart, but it’s less toxic and more tasty.
Wondering what else they do to your favorite foods? Here’s an interesting website where you’ll find info on other “Extreme Food Makeovers”