So several people have told me, in response to my post about fructose and fruit, that fruit is natural and “has to be good for you” and any benefits outweigh the risks of taking in fructose. Click here for more information After all, they reason, our ancestors as hunter-gatheres would have eaten fruit.
First of all, I claim no expertise on the dangers of eating too much fruit, or in the ways of hunter-gatherers, but let me play Devil’s advocate for a moment.
The way we Americans eat fruit, and the fruit we eat, seems to me has to be quite different from the the manner and fruit that was eaten by our ancestors.
Hunter-gatherers, more recent ancestors as well as indigenous people around the world, all would have eaten, or still do eat, what was local and what was in season. That means no blueberries in January and no kiwis if you lived in Northern Europe. Our ability to eat practically any fruit we desire, at any point in the year is what is wholly “unnatural.”
Secondly, wild fruit is very different from its cultivated counterpart in that the fruit you find in the market is much larger than wild fruit, in general. Think Granny Smith apples vs. crabapples. Wild strawberries vs. those honkin’ tasteless things they sell at stores. Bigger fruit = more money:
Peter Hirst, a Purdue University associate professor of horticulture, found that an anomaly in some Gala apple trees causes some apples to grow much larger than others because cells aren’t splitting. The findings, reported in the current issue of the Journal of Experimental Botany, showed that the new variety, called Grand Gala, is about 38 percent heavier and has a diameter 15 percent larger than regular Galas.
And then . . .
Hirst is trying to understand what causes the difference in the size of apples – for instance, why Gala apples are so much larger than crabapples.
“There is real incentive for fruit growers to increase the size of their apples,” Hirst said. “At 125 apples per bushel, a grower gets 8 cents per apple. But if they have larger apples – 88 per bushel – the price more than doubles.”
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Also, fruit sold in the markets tend to be the sweeter fruits. We love bing cherries and Rainier cherries but what about chokecherries and sandcherries? Currants are easy to grow, and quite beautiful but we seldom eat them unless they have been dried so as to concentrate the fructose in them. And what about gooseberries? I’m not an anthropologist, but I find it hard to believe that hunter-gatherers, or even peasants in the 17th century, snubbed their noses at Guelder Rose berries because they were not sweet or big enough.
In the D.C. area, you can see Mulberry trees bursting with fruit in the spring. Locals walk by and drive by this free source of delicious fruit every day, even going so far as to call the trees an annoyance since they drop their juicy bounty onto the ground, where it can get smushed underfoot, or onto cars. But not everyone snubs the generous Mulberry. This story in the Washington Post describes how immigrants from Mulberry-lovin’ countries harvest the Capitol’s bounty. But they’re weird, aren’t they? Normal people buy their fruit, duh.
And finally, our ancestors labored for their fruit. They gathered it. Picking berries is hard, there are often thorns, there are always bugs, there’s heat and bees and bears if you’re picking salmonberries in the PNW (a personal experience). And no, while driving into a parking lot, fighting over a good spot and then dealing with the crowds at an air-conditioned Whole Foods can be annoying, it’s not really physical labor.