Friday, 7 February 2014

Food Friday (Confused Fruit?)

No one is going to dispute that fruit is an important part of a healthy eating plan.  But what happened to the days when the only choices you had to make were from what was in season and how much money you wanted to spend to have those delicious looking peaches in February (they usually weren’t as yummy as they looked).

Now we have all kinds of exotic fruit to choose from.  Don’t get me wrong I love the idea of trying new things and new taste sensations.  I don’t even mind spending a couple of dollars on fruit when I have no idea what it is going to taste like.  I mean, who knew I might enjoy lychee fruit. 

Admittedly, I have no idea as to how one goes about eating some of the fruit I see at the grocers.  Star fruit is still a mystery to me.

But now … now, we have designer fruit to choose from as well.  Yesterday I heard about Grapples (pronounced ‘grape-l’).  They look like apples, crunch like apples and bruise like apples – but they smell and taste of – grapes?  Yes, a Washington based apple grower has started producing Concord grape-flavoured apples.

Todd Snyder, the man behind Grapples assures customers that the unusual fruits contain absolutely no extra sugar or carbs than the fruit that is picked straight from the tree.  The Grapple is made by soaking Fuji or Gala apples in a mixture of water and flavouring agents and is NOT genetically modified in any way.  The natural and artificial taste of the grape is something called methyl anthranilate and is used in grape juices and grape candy.  It simply permeates the apple’s flesh through to the core.

The result … apples that have the distinct flavour of grapes mixed in.

Now I could get my head around something like that.  After all, I do enjoy nectarines which is a combo fruit albeit one that does grow on trees.  I do enjoy mixed fruit juices and Grapples are (sort of) a taste extension of that.  I guess it’s just difficult to get my head around biting into an apple and tasting a grape?


That’s not where this whole thing ends!  Oh no … not by a long shot.  One can also purchase Cotton Candy Grapes.  David Cain, a fruit geneticist and a former researcher for the U.S. Department of Agriculture has applied his talents to “breeding” experimental fruit for profit.  His latest invention – the Cotton Candy Grape – supposedly delivers a flavour similar to the well-known carnival treat when biting into a grape.

Obviously GMO comes immediately to mind but Mr. Cain assures consumers that what he doing is actually using cross-breeding techniques that have been around for centuries, and actually verges on the old-fashioned to produce the cotton candy grape, pollen from the male plant was brushed onto the female – an agricultural version of in-vitro fertilization. 

Okay – my mother used to use similar techniques on her rose bushes to achieve interesting colours in the blooms, and as I stated above I do enjoy nectarines and tangerines – so I get the whole cross pollination thing.  But where does the cotton candy taste come from.  No matter where I looked, I couldn’t really find a satisfactory answer to that question.

Cain states, “We’re competing against candy bars and cookies and the competition is fierce.  There’s no denying that the sweet tooth of modern man is obscuring most other available flavours.  And while the Clementine and the Honeycrisp apple were novel in their day, the problem with sweetness is that people become habituated to it, and they end up wanting more and more”.

The article I read mentioned the inevitability of someone producing wine from this grape – tailor made wine that tastes like soda pop.  I don’t know?  Zinfandel is pretty sweet for my palette when it comes to wine.  Cotton Candy wine might not be something I would line up to buy!

OH …

The price point of these products, you ask?  Currently the Cotton Candy Grapes sell for in the neighbourhood of $6 per pound and the Grapples, available in stores until May sell for around $5 for a four-pack in stores or on-line one can purchase a gift box of 12 for $26.95 including shipping and handling.

My curiosity is peaked enough that if I see these products in my supermarket I will spend the money to pick them up … at least once … just for my personal edification.  If I find them and try them – stay tuned – I’ll share my thoughts in a future blog post.

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