I grew up with a yard bursting with fresh fruit. Although our property was not any larger than a normal home lot, the previous owner was obviously a fan of fruit and we inherited a virtual paradise of different fruit choices to gorge on every spring and summer. With two different pear trees, yellow apple and delicious apple trees, a cherry tree, a fence covered with concord grapes and blueberry and raspberry bushes, we had our choice of fruit to enjoy. Because of this, I have always been a fruit lover in all things that contain these wonders of nature.
But, fruit has changed. Because we now “enjoy” seasonal fruits year-round, our fruits no longer come from the local farm. Most people think the majority of our fruit comes from California and during it’s growing season, a good portion does. But, out of season, over 90% of imported fruits and vegetables come from Mexico, Central America, and South America.
During the season, there was never a problem getting fresh fruit from your local farmer. Stop by the local farmers market or visit the farm itself and you were set. Even your local grocer carried local produce. However, consumers wanted those juicy plums and tart lemons year round and producers have learned how to “preserve” a “fresh” fruit for shipment from all corners of the world. Unfortunately, although it may look just like the plum you remember (or even better) it no longer tastes like that juicy plum.
For years, providers have been focused on the “look” of your fruit and not necessarily the flavor or texture. Most people know about the waxing of apples by your grocer to add a shiny surface but, few know about the transparent coatings that are sprayed on fruit to extend their shelf life. Even fewer have ever heard of Postharvest Ripening and Maturation. Not to get too technical here but, you need to understand that fruits are classified in terms of two categories, climacteric (harvested when mature) and nonclimacteric (harvested while immature). This refers to how a fruit ripens. The faster a fruit ripens the more perishable the fruit. To prevent this, many fruits are exposed to ethylene gas to create a more uniform ripening or to enhance the fruit’s color.
How a fruit is stored is also important because, the higher the temperature, the more rapidly most fruits deteriorate which, reduces their shelf life. Because of this, upon harvest, most fruits are cooled to their optimum storage temperature as quickly as possible.
All of these methods enhance how your “fresh” fruit looks but is also the reason your peach is now tasteless and mealy.
That’s why we offer our seasonal crumb cakes only when the fruit is fresh from local farmers. You may love our Peaches & Cream crumb cakes BUT, you’ll only be able to get them in July because that’s when our local peach orchards produce their finest peaches. Like our cake schedule, you should set your fruit schedule to the time of year fruits come to harvest in your area. As an alternative, buy large quantities and freeze or preserve your fruits for down times.
To assure you’re eating “fresh” fruit that has not been manipulated by man, buy your fruit from local farmers and only during their local season. Yes, you’ll miss that juicy strawberry in the winter but, when you DO get your strawberries next spring, they’ll taste just like a strawberry should taste, juicy and sweet.
J Stephen Sadler