Field of Science

Are fruits and vegetables better tasting in Europe?

After TPP retired, the Phactors rented a villa outside of Florence and just soaked up Italian culture, food, and wine for a month, and yes, this was much better than traveling around like a pinball, bing, bing, bing, from place to place. It was hard not to notice how much better the produce was even in large grocery stores.  And of course speculation about why this was the case was a topic of our conversation. Some of it was certainly seasonality.  This was something TPP grew up with; you only ate peas during pea season, and sweet corn during sweet corn season, which for my Father was as extended as the climate made possible (His late clambake corn for October would get frosted every other year or so, a gamble he felt was worth while.), and so on. Yes, some produce would get frozen or canned for winter, but it just wasn't the same, and you knew it.  In Italy a particular type of melon season arrived while the Phactors were in residence, and a mob of little old ladies just about beat TPP with their umbrellas for having his effrontery of getting between them and the first boxes of melons to be put on display. The melons were uniformly ripe and delicious, and in the USA buying a melon in a store is a bad bet with many under ripe and tasteless friuts. And it was obvious Italian shoppers demanded high quality produce.  So here's another analysis that includes our conclusions.  Produce is better in Europe because: 1. American farmers put an emphasis on yield and durability, not flavor. 2. American shoppers favour access over seasonality. 3. The US government regulates for safety — but not quality. 4. Finding flavourful food is a matter of priorities.
Sometimes things get better. OK, so having an Italian menu for our dinner club (members for 38 years) in January 2016 was not the smartest idea, but it was for that reason strawberries were needed for the zabaglione (hint: out of circumstance an anejo rum was used instead of marsala, but it's a good sub.), and the berries were smaller, more columnar, and the best tasting out-of-season strawberries TPP has ever had!  Don't know the variety, but think they were raised in Mexico. Picked under ripe for long travel is the reason they usually are tasteless, that and the varieties were bred to be big and robust so as not to bruise easily in travel, such varieties usually leave out the flavor.  This is how the Delicious apple (really was delicious) became the Red Delicious (not so much), prettier, more durable, but something important was lost.  At any rate no question in our minds that these are the main factors in the lower quality of our produce.  Farmer's markets and local produce are trends that are improving the situation.  

1 comment:

William M. Connolley said...

Generalising from rural Italy to all of Europe might not be right. We have plenty of poor food in Europe too!