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I have been to Italy, Greece & Turkey. Fruit & Veg in these places tastes amazing! So much flavour, really awesome!

In the UK when I buy the same fruit or veg, it is absolutely tasteless, it is just crunchy water!

Why is this? I used to think it was because there was very little Sun here. However, many of the fruit & veg in question come from Spain! A place with a lot of sunshine! Something else must be in play!

I am talking about melons & watermelons, grapes, tomatoes, cucumbers, plums, peaches, oranges and much more!

Any clarification would be greatly appreciated.

PS. Places I shop at are Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, Asda, Sainsburys.

  • 4
    The UK also gets a lot of sub par fruit dumped on its shores by less than reputable agriculture countries, but because these are often food that the UK cannot produce themselves it seems to be permitted. – Neil Meyer Jul 4 '16 at 19:27
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    The fact that you talk about e.g. "tomatoes", unqualified, suggests that that your supermarkets do not offer a variety of races. I think my local supermarket has about 10 varieties on sale, and the ones that are sold as just "tomatoes" are cheap and tasteless, probably what was cheapest in bulk that morning. But for a premium (which can run up quite high!) you can get much better tasting tomatoes. – MSalters Jul 5 '16 at 11:23
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    @MSalters Oddly though, you can buy the "tasty" varieties (and the more "exotic" fruit/veg) at much more reasonable prices in independent stores. I've always wondered why the supermarkets, which have much bigger purchasing power, are unable and/or unwilling to compete with the smaller shops in this one aspect. – JBentley Jul 6 '16 at 13:39
38

Non-native and out of season fruits and vegetables that are available in northern countries (e.g. UK, Canada) need to be shipped from far away and will be picked before they are naturally ripe (under the normal sun and heat and getting nutrients from the soil).

They will ripen in controlled environments (UV lights, maybe controlled atmosphere and temperature) to be able to be ripen on time during the long transit to be ready when they are put on shelves in your local stores.

In the UK, it is currently the high season for strawberries (I assume it is the same time as in Québec); compare locally-grown strawberries to imported strawberries and compare the flavour and aromas.

(anecdotal) A quick tip when buying imported fruits (and vegetables); keep them outside of the fridge as much as possible, and if planning to eat soon, place them in the sun for a little while and the flavours will get better.

  • 4
    Isn't the latter tip dependent on the type of produce and whether they continue to ripen when picked? – user25798 Jul 5 '16 at 12:25
  • yes, not all produce rippen after being picked – Max Jul 5 '16 at 12:36
  • Nothing I can do about it then :( Unless I ignore my mortgage payments and go for the high end stuff! – J86 Jul 5 '16 at 12:44
  • @Ciwan You might be able to get slightly better deals in some cases by going to local marketplaces. Those are usually the farmer selling his produce directly, often at significantly lower prices than you'd get at the supermarket. yorkshire.com/view/attractions/huddersfield/… shows the ones in Huddersfield (where you live). – Nzall Jul 5 '16 at 15:00
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    Place them in the sun? Wouldn't that require sending them back to the countries they were grown in? *sigh* #BritishSoCalledSummer – David Richerby Jul 5 '16 at 16:52
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In addition to Max's answer, much UK supermarket fruits and vegetables are from varieties grown to have tough skins (so they don't damage in transit), have a long shelf life (so they can be transported long distances and won't go off in the shop), and don't easily bruise / spoil. UK consumers (at least according to supermarkets) care more about cosmetic appearance than their continental counterparts who appear to care more about taste, and UK supermarkets care more about consistency of product (size, weight, appearance, availability). Consistency of availability also means UK supermarkets are less likely to stock a great product that is only available for two weeks of the year (there is a cost to setting up the supply chain). In essence supermarkets stock what sells, and what sells is often tasteless but resilient fruit / veg that will happily sit in someone's fridge for a considerable period of time without spoiling, but in general tastes less good.

Much food in supermarkets in (e.g.) South of France, is grown locally to the supermarket, and not transported to one end of the country and back, and is thus likely to be fresher (and hence tastier); in France at least I understand this is due to local buying by supermarkets which does not exist to nearly the same extent in the UK. I can't specifically comment on Italy, Greece and Turkey but I would guess it's similar.

Whilst per the above I agree there is a difference, I think something else might be at play. When you eat that peach you bought in Greece at the market, it is at ambient temperature for Greece (higher than the UK), and you are eating it in a relaxed environment (assuming you are there on holiday), in the sunshine. When you eat the peach from Sainsbury straight from the fridge in a rainy July in the UK, it's cooler, and you aren't in such a good mood. The increased temperature will increase the volatility of the organic compounds and thus increase the perceived aroma and thus the taste. Your better mood also plays into things (see e.g. http://www.nature.com/news/2006/061204/full/news061204-5.html). Try leaving the fruit out to at least get to room temperature before eating it.

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    A prime example in the US regarding your first paragraph: supermarket tomatoes. What I love about US summers are the locally grown heirloom tomatoes--they are worlds better than the off season imports. – Paulb Jul 4 '16 at 17:29
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    It's also worth pointing out that fruits and vegetable varieties tend to be chosen on the basis of consistency - ie, if there are two types of pepper - one that tastes nice but comes in random sizes, and one that tastes boring but all the peppers look identical, the latter will tend to be chosen. – Max Williams Jul 5 '16 at 10:27
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    I'm not convinced that supermarkets think their customers value produce having consistent size. Rather, I think it's more convenient for the supermarkets (for example, it allows them to price produce per item, rather than by weight, without consumers feeling ripped off). – David Richerby Jul 5 '16 at 16:54
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    @Ciwan - possibly because if you're used to buying most of your food in packets, you can only judge what something looks, as you have no training to tell how things will actually taste. But I don't really know, I find it equally bizarre. – abligh Jul 6 '16 at 14:18
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    @Joe Indeed - fruit producers prefer varieties with not just more dependably-sized but also larger fruits because they massively reduce the processing costs. But often smaller fruits are tastier. I see this problem particularly with blackberries. Supermarket blackberries tend to be huge in comparison with locally-produced ones, but seem to only have about half the flavour to me. – Jules Jul 7 '16 at 11:00
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You have fallen to false believe that fruits from Spain are grown on the fields. Where they are planted in soil by Jose and they go through full vegetation cycle under the Spanish sky.

In fact, those tasteless fruits are probably from Almeria greenhouses. http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=4508

The seedlings are imported from other countries (i.e. Poland) and they go through speeded up grow process so they can harvest fruit 3 to 4 times a year. Also to prevent veggies & frits from getting spoiled they are shipped while still "green" and they "maturate" in storage or on the supermarket shelfs

8

We are planting tomatoes. Some outside in the garden, some in the glasshouse. Seeds are very same, soil, treatment, everything is same - except for the weather.

The ones from glasshouse are lesser tasty compared with the ones from garden. But both outclass the ones from supermarkets.

The reasons why the fruits and vegetables lack taste are:

  • Picking up before they are ripe;
  • Off-stem ripening;
  • Fast growing;
  • Growing focused on mass production versus the costs;
  • Long transportation/storage
  • 2
    Which of those explains your glasshouse difference? – JDługosz Jul 5 '16 at 12:10
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    Faster growing. If you compare two trees with same height and diameter and one is significantly older, the younger one has lighter and weaker wood than the older one. – Crowley Jul 5 '16 at 16:22
  • So you should adjust your greenhouse conditions to be less ideal; just free from damaging extremes of climate and pests. – JDługosz Jul 5 '16 at 16:28
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    I've changed the words slightly. Our greenhouse is far from ideal as Pluto is far from the Sun :-) It is 30 years old, handmade structure but the effects is sensible. All tastes are softer compared to outside growth. – Crowley Jul 5 '16 at 16:36
  • How do they compare to canned tomatoes, which are typically vine-ripened? – Random832 Jul 5 '16 at 17:06
6

Produce growers manipulate the plants until they find one with thick skins that can be transported, and picked green but will produce a nice color once on the shelves of the grocers. They are not cultivated for vitamin content nor taste, but just so they transport good and 'appear' good to the customer.

Tomatoes are a particular letdown for me. Some never ripen enough to get that sweet juicy taste. Instead of ripening they dehydrate. Others are mealy tasting, which might mean they were transported at too cold a temperature.

Plum tomatoes used to have superior taste, but even these let me down recently. I now seem to prefer cocktail tomatoes from the grocer.

Everything is geared for the quick sale and as long as there is no competition for decent produce, they can sell this garbage to the public with impunity.

  • 1
    They are not cultivated for vitamin content nor taste, but just so they transport good and 'appear' good to the customer. I want to punch those that made this decision. – J86 Jul 5 '16 at 22:10
  • Yes. The grocers and producers and distributors have less spoiled fruit and vegetables, but we are stuck with empty calories and tasteless produce. It's a shame that produce do not have to meet certain standards for at least vitamin content before they are allowed to sell it. – goldengrain Jul 7 '16 at 11:08
  • If you enforce such standards, you likely will raise food prices and create even more market entry barriers... – rackandboneman Jul 8 '16 at 15:06
  • What's the sense of eating if it brings so little nutrition. The purpose of food is for health, not disease. Even profit is secondary to health. Why not sell flavored sawdust? Attitudes like this are why people demand GMO and labeling for any tampering with the food source. – goldengrain Jul 9 '16 at 15:55
2

I am based in the UK and agree that the fruits and the vegetables are tasteless. However, the place that I am coming from Greece is agricultural region and exports to the rest of EU. I am engineer specialised in food industry and I know people who export these fruits and veg. The supermarket agents when they are coming in Greece, they choose the worst and the smallest varieties. Pick up all these varieties according the quantity/ punnet and not the quality/ kg. They want to fit 5 peaches in a punnet, when normally you cannot fit one into it, therefore they cannot sell quantity instead of quality and make more money. Also, the funny thing in the story is, that they ask compensation for any rotten fruits on the arrival in the UK and that makes more difficult to collaborate with them. Usually when someone buys 10 tonnes of fruits, the seller complains about the rotten staff and they already sent couple more for compensation. That's a normal procedure in general and not just on this trade. From the UK they ask money back or even worse big compensation for profit losses. Prices for 20kg of peaches cost 5 euro, cherries 2 euro/kg, watermelon 25 cents/kg. Unfortunately all these producers they cannot sell their goods and end up or in eastern countries for much lower prices or to the big BIN!!!

  • This is so sad to hear. Thanks for the information Vark :) PS. I love Greece :D – J86 Jun 16 '17 at 7:17

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