Posted by: Bystander PJ12 FEB 2014
The food industry spends a fortune on developing new varieties of fruit and vegetables. Unfortunately for the consumer, most of these innovations are designed not to improve the food’s flavour or its nutritional value but to provide more profit for the growers and distributors through greater disease resistance, bigger yields, longer growing seasons and easier harvesting.
These developments have been accompanied by consumer brainwashing campaigns so successful that UK consumers will, for example, continue to buy bland imported Golden Delicious apples even when superior UK-grown traditional varieties such as Cox’s Orange Pippin and Egremont Russet are available for the same price or less.
And now it appears that some of the newer cultivars may be much less nutritious than our traditional older varieties. A couple of years ago, researchers at Unilever found that the Egremont Russet (first recorded in 1872) has a much greater content of phytonutrients than some modern apple varieties.
In partnership with Cranfield University and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Unilever has assembled a scientific consortium to identify “pre-domesticated” varieties of fruit and vegetable that have been changed relatively little by breeding and might be richer in nutrients and fibre than the varieties promoted by today’s food industry. The researchers hope that their work will one day lead to new ranges of naturally healthy products.
While on the subject of fruit and vegetables, I must add that I loathe the UK food industry’s obsession with offering produce of uniform size and regular shape, particularly since the price we pay presumably has to take into account the cost of any discarded irregularly shaped produce.
I love shopping for food on the continent, where I am offered luscious vegetables in an amazing range of sizes and shapes.