Aprium, anyone? The pick of hybrid fruit and vegetables

Posted by on March 29, 2018

The Guardian.
Some of the tastier food on supermarket shelves created by experimentation in the produce world.
badger flame beetroots
 Mellow beets: Badger Flame beetroots. Photograph: twitter/@UWMadisonCIAS

Badger Flame beetroot

Row 7, a collaboration between a chef, a plant breeder and a seedsman, aims to sell seeds for vegetables that might not otherwise reach a broad market, reported the New York Times last month. One of its offerings is the Badger Flame, a beetroot of brilliant orange that a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison bred to produce a sweet and mild variety his children would enjoy.

 

evermild onions
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 No more tears? The EverMild onion. Photograph: evermild.com

The EverMild onion

The troubled reputation of agriculture giant Monsanto was built on Roundup, Agent Orange and genetically modified commodity crops. But it discovered that GM wasn’t as effective in producing new vegetables as a tried-and-tested method: crossbreeding (enhanced for the 21st century by a technique called genetic marking). Among its inventions is the EverMild onion, bred for lower levels of the pyruvate that lend onions their pungency and tear-inducing qualities.

 

The oroblanco: big in Japan.
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 The oroblanco: big in Japan. Photograph: Alamy

The oroblanco

The oroblanco was introduced to the world in the 1980s after its development at the University of California Citrus Experiment Station. A cross between the grapefruit and a pomelo, it borrows from the latter to make a less bitter hybrid. Initially unsuccessful because it is green even when ripe, it has bounced back, partly due to success in popularising the similar Sweetie variety in Japan.

 

Major toms: black tomatoes, a product of US-Israeli experimentation.
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 Major toms: black tomatoes, a product of US-Israeli experimentation. Photograph: Alamy

Black tomatoes

Scientists from the US and Israel have experimented with breeding “black tomatoes” that are red on the inside and dark on the outside. Their exterior hue derives from high levels of anthocyanin, the pigment that lends blueberries, blackberries and chokeberries their colour. Black tomatoes are commercially available in the UK under the name Indigo Rose.

 

Basket weave: Apriums are mostly apricot, with a hint of plum.
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 Basket weave: Apriums are mostly apricot, with a hint of plum. Photograph: Alamy

Apriums and pluots

Developed in California in the 1980s by Floyd Zaiger, apriums and pluots are hybrids themselves descended from hybrids. Plums and apricots have been naturally cross-pollinating for centuries. The aprium and pluot were created by tinkering with proportions. The aprium is mostly apricot and part plum; the pluot the other way around.

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