I’m all out of deep thoughts for the moment, so why not just have a look at this article about an attempt to engineer a better broccoli:
There it sits, a deep-green beauty at the farmers’ market: that sweet, crisp nutritional dynamo we know as fresh local broccoli.
And then there’s this: a bitter, rubbery mass that’s starting to turn yellow around the tips, all bumped and bruised from its long trip from the field to the supermarket.
Thomas Bjorkman, a plant scientist at Cornell University, examined the store-bought specimen like a diagnostician, unflinchingly but with a certain compassion.
“It’s soft, almost limp,” he said, prodding one of the heads. “That sharp smell is from the sulfur compounds. Scale of 10, with 10 being broccoli picked the same day you eat it? I’d give this a 2, maybe a 3.”
For all the wonders of fresh broccoli, in most parts of the country it is available from local growers only during the cooler weeks at either end of the growing season, nowhere near long enough to become a fixture in grocery stores or kitchens.
Broccoli hates too much heat, which is why 90 percent of it sold in the United States comes from temperate California, which is often bathed by fog. The heads are fine if you live there, but for the rest of us they require a long truck ride (four or five days to the East Coast) and then some waiting time in a warehouse, tarnishing the appeal of a vegetable that health experts can’t praise enough.
I love broccoli! It’s great raw with a little homemade vinaigrette, or cooked in a stir fry. Heck, you can just give it a quick sweat, put it over brown rice, and make a sauce out of soy sauce, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, olive oil, red pepper flake and curry powder. Dinner!
And all this time I had no idea that I was eating such an inferior version of it. The stuff I find in my local supermarket is pretty darn tasty. I can only imagine how good the real thing is.
The article is fairly long, and also discusses issues with Bjorkman’s collaboration with Monsanto. The part that jumped out at me, though, was this:
In recent months, the Cornell lab has turned out a full-flavored habanero pepper without the burning heat, snap peas without the pesky strings, and luscious apples that won’t brown when sliced — a huge boon to school cafeteria matrons plagued by piles of fruit that students won’t eat unless it is cut up.
Sheer madness. The burning heat is the whole point of a habanero pepper.