fruit for thought

Fruit is good stuff. Everyone knows that. We should all eat whole fruits because they are alive with ingredients that benefit us, as long as they are clean, inside and out.

Unless you live in a climate like Thailand, Peru, or Costa Rica, eating good quality whole-fruit year-round is not so easy.  In climates where winters dip near zero, available (fresh) fruit must come from somewhere else, which means they are harvested before their time and artificially ripened in transit.

Dragon fruit from Taiwan, just down the road a piece

Dragon fruit from Taiwan, just down the road a piece

When fruit is picked prior to its natural ripeness, the nutrient growth is halted.  Additionally, once fruit is plucked from the limb where it bloomed, nutrients begin a shelf-life decay.  A ripe peach has more nutrients the day it is picked than it does a week or two later.

these asian pears are packed to withstand a little jostling in transit

these asian pears are packed to withstand a little jostling in transit

But really, we might be splitting peach fuzz.  We’ve been selectively cross-pollinating seeds for thousands of years, since we started farming.  It’s something we humans do with just about every type of plant and animal — we alter them, over time, to make them better.  We do that breeding dogs, horses, and chickens.  And we’ve done that with just about every fruit and vegetable known to man.  (Luckily, we have not started doing that to ourselves yet.)

there is no papaya grown around these parts

there is no papaya grown around these parts

Point is, most fruits are selectively larger and hardier now than they were hundreds or thousands of years ago.  Many didn’t even exist then.  Now, most fruit can withstand thousands of miles in transit — giving us a non-stop, wide variety to select from.

no worries about washing this fruit

no worries about washing this fruit

Because fruit has such a high water content, they are as good as the water that helped them grow.  When I lived in Lima, I was told to eat only the watermelon from certain areas, as the fruit from low-lying areas was fed polluted water.  When I travelled frequently to Madagascar, I was told to avoid eating the strawberries because they were bacteria ridden.  Where I am in currently, I’ve heard that some of the fruits may be suspect, as the rivers and streams used for irrigation are a little tough to keep clean when 1.3 billion people are using them. Enough of the inside.

Dear Ole Dad taught me years ago the value of washing fruit well, especially those who’s skin is consumed, like grapes, tomatoes, cucumber, and apples.  We’ve all seen fruit drop on the floor and be picked up again, and used.  Rinsing with tap water removes most of the dirt, but not wax and not all of the oils from the fingers of those who have handled the fruit.  A wash with a natural cleaner is ideal.  I’m amazed by the amount of people I see in stores popping unwashed grapes or strawberries in their mouths.

there are lots of different versions of natural fruit and vegetable wash, but not so easy to find where washing is not deemed important

there are lots of different versions of natural fruit and vegetable wash, but not so easy to find where washing is not deemed important

When we buy fresh cut fruit, we like to think that it was prepared in a sanitary condition.  In Colombia, I watched many street vendors handle delicious looking, fresh-cut mango and pineapple with bare hands, while they changed money in between peeling and cutting.  Just this morning in a relatively nice supermarket, I watched a girl in the produce section preparing peeled grapefruit by handling the meat of the fruit in her bare hands, and in between, doing other projects.  No washing, nor gloves.

gift-wrapped grapefruit

sub-tropical, gift-wrapped grapefruit

I’m a New Yorker, where not much fruit is grown.  For that reason, and many of those above, I’m a frozen fruit fan — especially organic frozen.  Frozen fruit is picked when it is naturally ripe, then washed and flash frozen, all within a very short time period of being harvested.  Fortunately, within a block of where I live in NYC, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Fairway markets all carry a variety of organic whole frozen fruits.

these grapefruit sections had their white skin pulled off by fingernails

these grapefruit sections had their white skin pulled off by fingernails

Unfortunately, where I am now there is zero frozen fruit in any of the markets. Well, almost zero.  I did find frozen blueberries and blackberries in a market catering to foreigners, but they are so freezer-burnt, which you can see through the packaging, that it’s a wonder anyone would buy them.

While frozen fruit may not seem fresh, it’s probably more fresh than whole-fresh, and likely to contain more nutrients.  But who is counting?  Transported fruit is better than no fruit.  But dirty fruit may not be.  Anyway, it’s just fruit for thought.