The Fruit Hunters

From The Telegraph:

Fruitstory1_1408976f Coy friends are serving me fruit at their peril since I read Adam Leith Gollner’s passion-packed book on the subject. Presented with a dish of sliced lemons at a pancake party recently, I caused several female guests to cross their legs by explaining that Casanova used these same fruits (halved and squeezed) as contraceptive diaphragms, believing that the acidic pulp acted as a spermicide. And the other day a waiter almost dropped my sister’s creme brûlée when he heard me tell her that the conquistadors named the vanilla bean after the Latin word for vagina.

Today there are an estimated 240,000 to 500,000 fruit-bearing plant species with perhaps 70,000 to 80,000 of these being edible. But most of our food comes from only 20 crops. Puréeing together the science, history, art and politics of fruit, Gollner tells the tale of how humans took small and often relatively bitter morsels from the wild and cultivated increasingly large and succulent varieties. Then of how big agriculture and global markets required farmers to engineer fruits that could be picked before they were ripe, transported thousands of miles to stack uniformly and durably on supermarket shelves in all seasons, resulting in “Stepford Fruits: gorgeous replicants that look perfect, feel like silicon implants and taste like tennis balls, mothballs or mealy, juiceless cotton wads”.

More here.