Fruit is my favourite food. Sure, pretzels, pizza and red beans and rice all tie for second, but fruit in any form is my absolute number one choice.
Living in Scotland, there are some fruits that I never buy any more, because the disappointment is just too much once I have tasted them. I love grapefruit (especially ruby red!) but I have never consumed a perfectly ripe one in the UK- only hard as a rock or mushy and always very bitter. Watermelons are microscopic and don’t have any flavour, and there’s only about a 10% chance you’ll hit on a ripe-enough avocado (I have to admit that I wrote this post on Friday and consumed a ripe avocado that very night). Fine, I have told myself, this makes me stick to buying fruit that is in season and has only travelled a reasonable distance. These two rules go hand-in-hand and largely guide my purchases.
1. Fruit that has only travelled a reasonable distance.
2. Fruit that is in season.
When foraging, I can pick cherries by the river for one magical fortnight each summer, or pick pretty decent blackberry and apple harvests locally as well. I make jam and/or freeze a lot of the fruit I forage, but blackberries run out by winter and the jam is sweetened so doesn’t really count as a full fruit. Other things that are local and in-season are pretty expensive. Strawberries were usually on the list of ‘not quite obtainable’, until we inherited a strawberry patch with the house. Let’s take blueberries as an example: I feel like an absolute fool each time I ponder paying £4 for a carton of blueberries that is only one berry deep. Growing up, I could walk out back and stuff my face and belly full in June/July. The same holds true for raspberries.
Widening beyond Britain (generally to Western Europe for food miles and some form of labour control), we’ll hit grape season. Again, one of my favourite childhood memories is hanging from the gazebo out back and talking to my little sister as we stuffed grapes (5 varieties!) into our faces for hours. I feel silly paying for them. So what other fruits can we get (besides the British standard of apples and pears) in season from Western Europe at affordable prices? Oranges. Obviously this is ‘in season’ for growing, but not so good for my body in the winter. Sure, vitamin C is great in the Winter, but thinning my blood with Summer fruit is not.
Bananas are an exception to the local and in season rules, as they don’t generally grow in Western Europe and achy muscles need them. I’m uncomfortable buying bananas that aren’t fair trade unless I’m grabbing them from the reduced section and saving them from the dumpster.
Add to this the desire to buy organic-which crests after I remind myself about the terrible toxins I absolutely do not want to consume yet slumps when I find less variety and volume for higher prices- and you may begin to understand my consumption trends. Prioritise which items to buy organic with help from this list.
So ultimately, the habit of fruit buying that I have gotten into in the past six years, is of only buying local/in season fruits or reduced fruits, often topping this up with tins of fruit in water. The result? Apples, pears, sometimes bananas or oranges and peaches/pears/pineapples from a can (whichever is cheapest when we buy them). Now, there’s a reason you’ve never heard of ‘iron cans’ in the supermarket- they don’t exist. This means that any metal (or lined with horrible plastic!) cans our food comes in has questionable effects on our bodies. How, though, to move away from relying on canned/tinned fruit when the options are so limited?
I fully recognise that this is a quandary for the landless middle classes. I know that many people can’t afford fruit at all, or are grateful when it does come in a can or from another hemisphere. There is definitely a part of me that feels guilty worrying about silly fruit rules when others are going hungry.
Still, I was taught to use my resources wisely and this doesn’t just include pocket money, but the planet’s resources and its people working to grow the food. Privilege is only a problem when we do not recognise it or recognise it and exploit it. The reason I am pondering fruit so much today, is that I have identified in my diet that because of my attempts at doing the ‘right’ thing, I do not eat enough of my favourite food. For the sake of vitamins, five apples a day are not good enough. Three types of fruit (apples, raisins and the one fruit juice permitted) are also not good enough. We are not eating enough of a food that is not a luxury for our bodies, but quite essential to staying healthy. Here’s a chart that lists portion sizes that count as one of five.
In all of this pondering, I am trying to figure out what rules need to bend in order to ensure that my wife and I are eating at least the 5 a day recommended as minimum. I have already bent or ignored the organic fruit rule much more than I want to, which makes me worry. Does the balance tip more towards less fruit that is all organic, or more fruit that is not organic? I wonder which factor-insufficient fresh vitamins or more chemicals-will do the most bodily damage. I think what else probably has to give in order to actually consume the minimum portions, is price and distance. This is unfortunate. Does this choice make anyone else feel like the Onceler simply protecting himself and not the planet?
What factors do you use to guide your purchases? How do you decide which rules are more flexible?