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Perspective on Too Much Perfect Fruit

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In the U.S., we see way too much perfect fruit.

Despite looking like perfect limes, these are baby lemons.

Our expectations as to what fruit looks like in the wild have been inflated roughly to the size of one of those supermarket watermelons. It’s affected by advertising, by social media, and by the imag standards which supermarkets now have to uphold, by consumer demand.

In most pictures of citrus trees, the fruits are all ripe at the same time. This never happens in real life.

In most pictures of citrus trees, the fruits are  ripe at all ONCE. This DOES NOT happen in real life.

Because I work on a coffee & cacao plantation, I am involved in a lot of processing of raw ​materials in order to form a final product not in the least resembling its sources. For instance, I just drank some fresh milk from town that honestly? Tasted like cheese. Really threw me off, striking me as a flavor more at home in a pupusa than chocolate milk.

I wasn’t a huge fan, and I think my taste buds rejected it right off because I’m so used to the flavours being separate— milk is sweet & creamy, cheese is sturdy & pungent, never the two shall meet. But this milk was like liquid cheese, breaking forever all my preconceptions as to the constancy of milk’s flavor. I don’t think I’ll be drinking much more farm-fresh milk.

A very much failed attempt at chocolate milk.

A very much failed attempt at chocolate milk.

This has been repeated in varying forms with the fruits and veggies I eat here in Ecuador. We grow most of them ourselves, all pesticide-free, and they are so far from perfect. At least their outsides are; they still taste perfect. In fact, finding a perfect-looking one is a rarity, and usually we eat it right away, because it’s just like the others.

On the farm, we don’t care.

In terms of citrus, I have only ever found a single lemon which would live up to US supermarket standards. This fruit is seriously ugly, but it sells just fine in Ecuador. Though to be honest, I have yet to find a citrus whose inherent character would fit into one of the prescribed categories of fruit in US supermarkets. There are so many varieties of oranges, yet none of them are quite what Americans would consider an orange: very sweet orange, mandarin, sour orange, mandarin lime, sweet lime, woody lemon… the list goes on as the citruses (citrii?) continue to mingle.

We don't always manage to get that perfect lemon, but that doesn't stop us from reaching for it.

We don’t always manage to get that perfect lemon, but that doesn’t stop us from reaching for it.

As consumers far removed from the areas in which our food is grown, rarely do we see up close the impact of industrial agriculture. Everywhere we go to feed our burdening population— sorry, “burgeoning”— we destroy life in the process of creating it. Tearing apart fully-formed spiderwebs on a coffee plantation. Poisoning children with pesticides in Paraguay. Demolishing anthills to sow corn on a hillside. We see so much perfect fruit in the US, especially in the cities, that we become removed from it all.

Nowadays, it’s even hard for children to accurately identify the origins of their foods. People’s relationships with agriculture are hugely variable and change each day. It is immensely important for us to understand the delicate balance in which we all live, which means realizing where you stand with your food, and how you interact with it can be mucking up other beings’ lives & ecosystems without even being on the same continent.

The only somewhat familiar lemon I have ever seen on the farm, next to a regular woody lemon.

The only somewhat familiar lemon I have ever seen on the farm, next to a regular woody lemon.

What are your thoughts? Is a little supermarket perspective too much to ask if it means avoiding waste?

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