ALL ABOUT FRUITS - WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
HISTORY OF AGRICULTURE
Did you know the relationship between the human species and the fruits of flowering plants is far older even than the human species itself. The skulls of the earliest Hominids (any member of the primate family), testify to the fact that they were omnivores (eaters of both plants and animals). They had teeth specialisted for the chewing of plant material as well as teeth designed for the ripping and tearing of animal flesh, just like we do. Along with animals (including insects), fruits were the primary constituents of our earliest ancestors' diets. Did you know, that :- fruits were the FIRST plants cultivated by humans as well.
Early Humans praticed the age-old arts of hunting and gathering. This survival strategy requires a nomadic lifestyle as even a small population of humans will quickly strip almost any terrain bare of naturally occurring nutrition after a short time, and so they were required to move on every once in a while.
Eventually, they would return to the area they had foraged a few years earlier, and they must have been surprised to find a lush garden growing exactly where they had once used as a toilet. THUS BEGAN AGRICULTURE.
They quickly learned that it was easier to plant a few fruit trees than to constantly go off searching for more. The seeds of most fruits are easy to germinate, require little or no active cultivation given proper growing conditions, and many will produce fruite for generations. Fruit-bearing plants produce a prodigious amount of caloric output (pronounced "food") relative to their small requirement for caloric input (pronounced "labor"), so the cultivation of fruits produces more return on investment than any oher survival strategy. The days of nomandic foraging were a thing of the past. Thank goodness for that.
The reason I am say "Thank goodness" is mainly because this new technology, which we now call "Agriculture", has motivated people to stay put long enough to actually accomplish something. It has allowed them to domesticate wild animals which could be pastured and penned.This would have been a tricky proposition for any tribe of nomads whose animals surely would have wandered off in search of food, while their masters were busy wandering around the place to try and find food for themselves. This had allowed for the development of trading centres and the beginning of commerce.
This also freed people from the all - consuming effort to get enough food for them to eat every day, as well as allowing them to pursue other interests that they may like to do.This specialisation resulted in the development of the :-
- NEW TECHNOLOGIES
- ORGANISED RELIGION
- GOVERNMENTAL AND MILITARY ORGANISATIONS
- ALL KINDS OF PROFESSIONAL ENDEAVOURS
All of these factors combined to form what we know as CIVILISATION , and this all began with the planting of a few fruit trees. The rest is, as you say "Literally , history
The majority of the people reading this are really very fortunate to be living in places where many fresh fruits are available year round, regardless of whether or not the they are "in season". We owe this of course, to the International commerce in fruits and other produce which allows North Americans to have fresh peaches in January and Australians to have fresh strawberries in August.
Thanks to the advances in breeding, harvesting, storing and transportation, fresh fruits make their way from the orchards of the southern hemisphere while it suffers through the colder months, and vice versa. The ability to transport fresh produce over such great distances and have it arrive ready for the market was considered economically unfeasible, if not technically impossible, only a few decades ago. and this is truly one of the more remarkable, yet often overlooked, accomplishments of our modern society.
However, as much as I do and probably most of you as well, enjoy the luxury of having fresh mangoes, peaches, pears, and of course good old grapes, which I love, available whenever I feel like eating them, I am also aware tha t the best (and least expensive I might add) produce, arrives in some of the markets when it is in season in my own hemisphere, and the best of these are actually grown as possible to my home. This is of course, in spite of the miraculous advances in our technology that I have already told you about previously, there is no fruit better than fresh fruit, ripened in the field and still warm from the sun, YUMMY.
Okay, the moral of my story is simple: you buy the freshest locally grown fruits that are available in your own area. Go to Farmer's Markets, Roadside Stands and even many small indenpendently owned groceries, and you will find that they offer the best of locally grown fruits. Even when the fruits are not grown within several thousand kilometres of where you live, you will always find that the best quality fruits, will always be available during their natural season fresh. You will also find that strawberries , which I just love to eat, don't you, well these will always be good to eat in the Spring season, regardless of where it is that they are grown.
One thing to keep in the back of your mind, and often I forgotten this until it is too late, is that most of the fruit we buy will continue to ripen after you have bought them. How many of us fall into this trap especially with those dreaded bananas. Oh that is something that I have done so many times with the bananas, and then I have to throw them out, what a waste. I am betting some of you have fallen into this trap as well, don't you just spue with yourself when it happens. We only have ourselves to blame too. Well, I have learnt my lesson, so now I buy two of three bananas from a ripe bunch, and two or three from a green bunch. This way I don't have them all ripen up at the same time. Otherwise, of course we go back to the black ones, yuck yuck.
There are of course, many other fruits , that continue to ripen after then have been picked. These would be apricots, melons, mangos, (love them), papayas, peaches, pears, nectarines, persimmons and plums, and to a lesser degree of course, good old strawberries and pineapples..
However, conventional wisdom dictates that we should buy fresh fruit in season and from the local growers as much as we can. Remember to buy your fresh fruits often and only little amounts at a time to prevent spoilage and of course, the big one (waste) don't like waste at all myself. Always store the fruit under optimal condtions.
Your main objective when you are buying your fruit, you have to remember, is that you want it to stay in an edible state until you are ready to eat it. Basically, what I am saying, you don't win if it spoils before you want to eat your fruit.
So, I thought it would be a good idea to have a look at why this happens to our fruit. I know I have thrown more fruit out in my bin than I would like as I am guessing, a lot of you are guility of the same crime .
Okay, fruit goes off or spoils because of two main reasons.
- The first is the result of Microbial Activity, and the Microbes in question here are primarily Moulds, and , to a lesser degree, Bacteria. These dear little things are all around us in the air, and all they need to do their worst, is for us to provide them with a nice warm place, with plenty of fresh air and sunshine, (just kidding, that's a description of my holiday that I really need) no what they need is plenty of water and sugar to launch their rockets of danger on your unsuspecting pieces of fruit. Not a pretty picture, is it? The skin on the fruit is it's primary defence againt microbial invasion, and this is why it is important to treat your ripe fruit with delicate care. The slightest bruise will provide just what these little fellows need , to establish themselves in your fruit and away they go doing what they doing best, CAUSING YOUR FRUIT TO GO BAD.
- The action of Enzymes and other chemical processes in our fruit, can also lead to spoilage, only this is usually described as over-ripening. We can usually tell this when the fruit becomes discoloured, soft (mushy) and a distinctly "off" flavour and aroma. Which ever way you look at it, the fruit is not good when it is "spoiled". It sounds familiar doesn't it? I know it does to me.
Both of these processes, are slowed dramatically when we put the fruit in our refrigerators. The downfall is, the refrigerator also stops the ripening of our fruit that isn't quite ready for us to eat.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU BRING HOME YOUR FRUIT?
- Always store your fruit at room temperature until ripe.
- Storing in a loosly closed paper bagwill speed up the ripening process, and if you include an apple as well, this will further hasten this process because of the ethylene gas that apples (as well as most other fruits) produce. They don't why, but it does.
- You should refrigerate or eat your fruit, once it is ripe.
- Do not use plastic bags, as they will retain moisture and speed up the spoiling process in the bottom of your refrigerator, and we don't want this, do we? I'm sure we all know about that , messy heh. Using the vegetable crisper drawer is beaut for this job. You can keep most of your fruits in this. Most of your fruit will keep for weeks, and your apples up to about six months. How many of you know this fact. I know that I didn't know this. I can only guess how much fruit we have wasted here because we didn't think of putting it in the crisper drawer. Another interesting fact, and this is a good one. Even though your bananas go black, they are still able to be eaten. In fact, they will remain firm for several days beyond their life expectancy.
FREEZING YOUR FRUIT
You can freeze your fruit whether whole or in small pieces for several months in airtight containers or plastic bags. Just be careful though, because the expansion of the water in the cells of the fruits will cause cellular damage to occur, and the thawed fruit will have lost the original crispness it had. Because of this, thawed fruit is not ideal for eating raw,but it can be cooked and treated exactly like fresh fruit in baking. You can also get excellent results with preserves.