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Fresh Produce Tour

August 18, 2014

Last week I visited research farms in Woodland, California, as part of Seminis (Monsanto) Vegetable Seeds Field Days. It was fascinating to learn how seeds are bred, grown, processed, and marketed. I'll share my photos with some veggie and fruit tips.

We tasted dozens of tomatoes in a quest for the perfect variety, which turns out is a matter of taste. Some are sweeter, some firmer, and some have more acidity.

In general, cherry tomatoes have the most flavor punch.

These tangerine-colored tomatoes were my favorites in the field.

We tasted several types of watermelon picked fresh from the field. The melon on the right is an Extended Quality Watermelon, grown for the "cut market" and food service industry. It has less leakage than the traditional seedless variety on the left.

In the U.S., 80% of the watermelons sold are seedless varieties (being cut in the photo). However, Central and South America still prefers seeded (left). Some people swear that the old-fashioned seeded watermelons have more flavor. To see if a melon is ripe, look at the bare spot on the rind where there are no stripes. That spot should be yellow, not white. However, it could be overripe if it's yellow.

Melon breeder Jeff Mills is holding an Orange Beauty personal-sized melon, traditionally grown for the French market. It's being introduced to the U.S. in Sam's Club as melorange. Delicious.

Cucumber breeder Nischit Shetty is holding the ideal size pickling cucumber, a 3A, grown mainly in the Midwest U.S. It can be machine sliced and diced, or pickled whole. They are harvested by machine. Smaller "gherkin" cucumbers have to be harvested by hand every day, and are too labor intensive for U.S. growers. They are mainly grown in South America and Asia.

These are sweet banana peppers in a research field. They are great for frying, pickling and cutting into pepper rings for salads and sandwiches.

If you wonder why red tomatoes in the store taste bland, it's because they are picked at this ripeness for shipping.

This was a small part of the fabulous vegetable aisle at the Nugget grocery store we toured in Davis, CA.

Squash breeder Bill Johnson confirmed what I feared: "Zucchini are not vitamin packed. They are really just bags of water." Pick them every day and don't let any get too large or the plant will stop producing new squash.

For more information on vegetable and fruit varieties, go here: http://www.seminis.com/global/us/products/Pages/Home-Gardeners.aspx

 

 

 

 

Comments (1)

lothringen wrote:
My mother-in-law grew those little pear-shaped tomatoes, a yellow variety, back in Nebraska. They are the absolute best! I heard a commercial tomato grower interviewed on NPR. He said buyers want size and color so that's where he targets his nutrients, and let the flavor fall where it may.

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