People think that older varieties have more flavour, but it’s often simply not true
As the leaves begin to turn, right now is the perfect time to start ordering fruit trees and bushes to plant out. However, I implore you not to fall victim to the buzzword “heritage” in the catalogues, at least if you are looking for good flavour. It sounds counterintuitive, I know, but speaking as a botanist who has tried and tested hundreds of varieties for flavour, I can give you some good reasons why to avoid these plants.
There is the popular belief that the older the variety, the better the flavour. Harking back to a time before intensive plant breeders bred all the “goodness” out of crops, according to this narrative modern crops are watery, bland, loaded with sugar and low in nutrition. Diet gurus on Twitter warn that modern fruit is now so sugary that zoo monkeys can no longer be fed bananas. Celebrity chefs will claim modern apples have seen their sugar content double, pandering to our “insatiable sweet tooth”. Food writers will even report on the “toxic truth” of grapes such as Thompson Seedless. One thing you will rarely see, however, is evidence.
Even the subject of fruit growing can’t escape our temptation to retreat to an idealised past Continue reading...