Organic fruit and veg – what’s your take? During the economic crisis, sales have taken a bit of a hit with many cash strapped families opting for “supermarket perfect” apples, onions, tomatoes and carrots. OK, so the mass produced variety is generally cheaper than the organic alternative. But what about look, feel and taste?
Opinion’s divided about taste, but fresh from the field wins hands down in the look and feel department. Trouble is, we’ve all been conditioned to expect our fruit and veg to look so perfect, be of a uniform size and be sold in shrink-wrapped packaging without the merest hint that it’s actually been in contact with soil (in fact many salad vegetable have been grown under plastic, hydroponically, so that they’re effectively factory produced). This is all wrong.
This summer we’ve been travelling a bit in the tropics. There, savvy buyers seek out green bananas, misshapen tomatoes and green beans that are often yellow. They know what fruit and veg should taste like – image is immaterial. Go to any market in France, Spain or Italy and you’ll witness the same buying behaviour.
We’re lucky enough to be able to eat vegetables that have been grown the way nature intended. Brian, our good friend, has a sizeable plot on which he grows everything from rocket to rhubarb. He lifts it from the ground when it’s ready to eat – complete with the well-rotted horse manure that nourished it.
Nothing is perfect. Carrots are misshapen, onions have long stems, the tomatoes are seldom a supermarket red and the beans never of a uniform length. He also provides us with eggs – again they’d fail the “quality controls” of the large buyers, but we don’t care. They taste great fried and boiled!
We really can taste the difference. Tomatoes are sweet and juicy and actually have flavour (what a joke that some supermarkets boast that their tomatoes are “grown for flavour”.
Er, why else would you grow them?). Cucumbers are fresh and crisp, chillies hot and zingy – perfect with locally caught fish. Ok, so we have to spend a few minutes rinsing, peeling and preparing. But that’s all part of the joy of cooking.
The carrots scrub up and make for wonderful cakes. There’s a real connection with the ground – the realisation that something’s actually had a life cycle. So many things we buy today are mere commodities, bought without giving a second thought to how they ever appeared on the shelf.
We know that the supermarkets are ruthless in rejecting fruit and veg that don’t meet the mark. But that mark is set by us, the consumer. So where you can, get dirty and buy produce that doesn’t look perfect. You’ll really taste the difference and might even save yourself a few pence. Every little helps.