Flavourful produce hard to find -- even in France

14th September 2005, Comments 0 comments

ANGERS, France, Sept 14 (AFP) - The French fell in love with broccoli in the 1990s, shortly after US president Bush the Elder publicly maligned the vegetable, but they otherwise choose from a diminishing range of often tasteless veggies and fruit, experts say.

ANGERS, France, Sept 14 (AFP) - The French fell in love with broccoli in the 1990s, shortly after US president Bush the Elder publicly maligned the vegetable, but they otherwise choose from a diminishing range of often tasteless veggies and fruit, experts say.

"I do not like broccoli," George H W Bush famously declared in 1990. "And I'm president of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli."

Whether Bush senior's cruel rejection in any way inspired French tastebuds is a question for historians. But what is certain, a meeting of growers and marketers here heard recently, is that adding new vegetables and fruit to the French marketplace is the exception rather than the rule.

A professional group has catalogued 2,191 varieties of vegetables throughout France, but only a tiny proportion are available in stores.

"The supermarkets are overflowing with vegetables of all shapes and colours," said Pierre Guy, the head of the French Association for the Conservation of Vegetable Species. "The consumer may get the impression of diversification, but in fact there are many vegetables you can no longer buy."

Dominique Daviot, of a seeds and plants group, pointed out that taste is not always the most important criterion for shoppers.

"Most consumers buying fruit and vegetables make their choice according to appearance rather than thinking about taste," said Daviot.

That is epitomised by supermarket tomatoes, which will beat home-grown varieties every time in a beauty contest, but which generally don't have nearly as much flavour.

"People want to eat the same vegetables year-round without respecting the rhythm of seasons," said Guy. "The result is that the taste of tomatoes is diminishing and in the end they may become so bland that they put people off, like Golden Delicious apples."

One problem, Daviot pointed out, is that the vegetables and fruit that taste best are not always easy to transport and store.

But, in private gardens across France, little-known varieties of lettuce, tomatoes, beans, cabbages and other vegetables are grown by enthusiasts.

"Fashions in vegetables are sometimes linked to people's travels and discovery of new vegetables, said Jean Wohrer, another official with the seeds and plants group.

"Work on genetic amelioration and the creation of new varieties is constant, but diversification is not always technically feasible," Wohrer said.

And Wohrer warned: "Don't fall into the trap of 'old' versus 'new' varieties. Just because a variety is old does not necessarily mean it is good. Some of the old varieties of carrot are inedible."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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