Twitter can be a great place to find stuff out (even stuff that you sort of thought you knew). If you follow some of the right people they link to all sorts of strange and interesting articles. One of the more interesting ones I follow is Tim Harford who wrote the Undercover Economist and often tweets links to interesting articles. I was intrigued by the following tweet
So, I duly clicked on the link and came to an article on the National Geographic website and came across this very worrying graphic (you can click on it to see it more clearly).
The above is taken from the US but it is the case in this country as well. There is just a huge decline in the varieties that we can choose from as a society.
This has important implications for a number of reasons. Firstly, we are missing out. As a child I helped out on a fruit farm near to my home in Kent. There was a huge variety of fruit available for people to come and pick. Numerous varieties of apples and other fruit. But when you go into my local supermarket (Sainsbury’s) there are only about six varieties available – most of them ok but often pretty bland. As a child the apple I preferred above all others was Laxton’s Favourite. It was delicious.
But now all our fruit and veg is picked too early and has to look uniform and boring. Fruit often doesn’t ripen enough and either tastes horrible or goes off before it properly ripens.
Then there is the issue of genetic stock. If we keep reducing the varieties of fruit and vegetables available then if a disease or pest strikes there is more likelihood of not having a resistant strain available.
Then there is the huge amount of orchards that have been grubbed up to make way for grain fields or for golf courses. Where I grew up in Kent there was a huge orchard over the road from us where acres of cherries, hops and other fruit was grown. I used to walk through it to get to my part-time job. It was wonderful. Then about 25 years ago it was all chopped down and turned into an enormous grain field. We used to have hop trailers going past our house and the smell of hops would linger for ages.
In 1972 there were 55,000 acres of eating apple orchards in this country. By 2010 this had fallen to 4,886 acres. Less than 10% of the acreage.
Now I know that there are Farmer’s markets and that if you travel here, there and everywhere you can find some interesting foods. But it used to be the case that they were readily available in your own community.
So, since I’m not going to make time for an allotment and I’m not going to travel all over the place for different strains I’m going to do my small part for bio-diversity. I’ve ordered a Laxton’s Favourite. They’ve got to graft it on and grow it for me first and I won’t receive it until next year. But then I hope that it will provide a little bit of variety and bio-diversity in the years ahead. I also hope that I won’t be disappointed with the taste!
PS Should also admit that my lettuces and beans have been a disaster this year!