[NAFEX] Question for Lon - or anyone

Lon J. Rombough lonrom at hevanet.com
Mon Nov 23 22:04:58 EST 2009


There is an amazing range of flavors possible in grapes, not just a 
balance of sugar and acid.  Some I've tried include: cherry, black 
currant, strawberry, pear, almond, a whole spectrum of Concord-like 
derivatives, not to mention the ones like muscat, riesling, herbaceous, 
green pepper, etc.
The reason there aren't  many like that in stores is the need to have 
firm grapes  that hold up in storage and shipping.  It's not just firm 
berries, you need varieties with stems that  don't break or turn brown 
in storage.  The berry skin mustn't be  TOO  tough, but tough  enough 
the berries won't spoil easily.
Point is, it's hard to select varieties that have ALL the necessary 
commercial traits.  A breeder can easily go through 5,000 or more 
seedlings without finding one that  combines all the characteristics 
desired.
So most breeders have to settle for a lack of bad flavors rather than 
looking FOR a specific flavor.
There are breeders ( mostly private ones) at  work on new grapes with 
more flavors, but many of their creations still have seeds and can't 
survive long distance shipping.
If you really want to  explore the range of flavors in grapes, the best 
way is to grow your own,  and be willing to eat grapes that  have 
seeds.
-Lon Rombough
Grapes, writing, consulting, my book, The Grape Grower, at 
http://www.bunchgrapes.com  Winner of the Garden Writers Association 
"Best Talent in Writing" award for 2003.
Grape pruning video: http://www.bunchgrapes.com/dvd.html View a short, 
low resolution clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Q58zFY0B1M
A video about The Grape Grower : 
http://cookingupastory.com/index.php/2008/04/18/the-grape-grower/

On Nov 23, 2009, at 2:42 PM, Stephen Sadler wrote:

There are the on-the-tongue flavors, like sweet and acid/sour; then 
there are the deeper flavors, richness, that let you know one 
sweet/acid fruit from another.  Some of these crisp, balanced grapes 
I’ve been buying lately do well with the former, but the latter is 
completely missing.  I love those crispy things though – a fruit that 
is juicy, sweet, tart, and snaps when I bite it is something I can 
forgive even a lack of depth of flavor.  But a concentrate of these 
grapes is used as a fruit-based sweetener; there is nothing there to 
influence the final flavor.  Try that with Concord concentrate – it 
would overwhelm.  Concord is, I suppose, what I think of as iconically 
grapey – but I don’t care which grapiness  a grape his, or what other 
flavors it brings to the table.  I remember my first time tasting wine 
grapes, like Pinot Noir,  full of rich flavor.  Why hadn’t it occurred 
to me before that delicious wine would come from delicious grapes?  And 
why are some varieties only considered wine grapes, rather than table 
grapes, or grapes to be preserved by methods other that juice 
fermentation? 
 
When I was young seeded full-flavored table varieties were giving way 
to seedless ones.   What made me think of all this is that the other 
day at the store a mother was buying grapes for her daughter.  She 
picked a seedless variety racked just above the Concords.  I was 
thinking, “That poor child may have never actually tasted ‘grape’ “ – 
at least not in an actual grape.  Turned out the mother hadn’t either.
 
For a long time I had simply thought seedless, thornless, and otherwise 
convenient fruits often are coincidentally bereft of fullness and 
complexity of flavor, and that a proper goal of plant breeding would be 
to have both flavor and convenience in one or more varieties. 
 
Now I wonder.  Warm-water ocean fish outsell colder water ocean or 
fresh-water fish.  My suspicion about why this is was confirmed when I 
read that Tilapia producers had bred the ‘fishiness’ out of it to suit 
the American palate; one which seems to want fish to be a Wonderbread 
of a main course, with all the flavor coming from sauces, breading, 
fat, salt.  Fat and salt, but not the flavorful fats beneath the skin 
of cold-water fish, not the salt of brine.  I bought venison a while 
back that has been bred to be the Tilapia of game; and store-bought 
pheasant is milder that factory-produced skinless, boneless, 
fill-in-your-own-less chicken breasts. 
 
Is this happening with fruit?  Or are fruit-eaters a healthier and more 
hedonistic sort that enjoys flavor?  Or is fruit breeding now 
influenced by people who can’t stand any full-flavored thing, who sit 
in front of the TV with their breaded-mystery-meat sandwich, a 
deep-fried potato product of generic provenance and a few white 
seedless grapes; a snack to eat as they watch Top Chef or the Food 
Network, maybe read an article from the final issue of Gourmet?
 
~ Stephen
 




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