>Tired of eating your greens? And oranges? And reds? Then maybe you need to get into the somewhat vainglorious world of fruit hybridisation. Back in the day, the early “noughties” to be precise, some over-enthusiastic marketeer decided that it would be an unparalleled stroke of genius to cross an apple and grape. As if this was what the world needed at the crisis-prone turn of the third millennium – a vaccine for AIDS? A solution to the impending environmental disaster? Rectifying global inequality and injustice? – No, don’t be ridiculous, they just wondered what it would be like to have an apple that tasted a bit like a grape. Brilliant.
Unfortunately what the marketing of the “Grapple”TM failed to point out was that it wasn’t a true hybrid at all, it was just an artificially sweetened apple, engineered to appeal to an American market hooked on a sweet-tooth sugar-fix because, hey, you sell more fruit if it tastes like sugar. And if you sell more fruit then you make more money, then everyone’s* a winner! (*everyone meaning the person who owns the fruit company).
But don’t let such tales of woe put you off hybridised fruit altogether, in the 1880s a similarly entrepreneurial soul, Judge J.H. Logan devised the utterly pointless loganberry – a cross between a raspberry and the not entirely dissimilar blackberry (no, “youth of today” that is not just an electronic device used for organising riots, it is also a quaint hedgerow plant that greying vicar’s wives in the shires enjoy putting in jars for prolonged periods and swapping around with other elderly people…come to think of it though, either way it facilitates a sense of community I suppose…).
Another, perhaps more favourably fruity US invention was the nectarine – a cross between a peach and a plum. As well as supporting a number of playground jokes about Dracula’s favourite fruit (and probably other slightly less innocent jokes concerning peaches and plums) this offering has actually proved remarkably popular and rather disproves my cynicism somewhat.
Other outstanding fruit hybrids, offered up for your delectation by the sum of human knowledge and achievement handed down to us thus far from history, include the barely acknowledged Plumcot and of course, the perennially tasty Peppermint (although again, truly world changing applications of this plant seem somewhat illusive – unless you count that vaguely sticky and hair-covered mint your granny somehow always managed to pull out from a musty coat pocket when you least expected… or wanted). Somewhat more interestingly named is the limequat, bred in 1909 by Dr. Walter Swingle, for absolutely no good reason whatsoever.
You have to give it to the Grapefruit however, if only because it is a Barbados export that continues to be more popular and certainly more interesting than Rihanna – and only marginally less likely to make you screw up your face in a pronounced wince over the breakfast table. Next time you are considering taking your summer holidays in Barbados, you’ll know that in putting together a pommelo and a sweet orange, this endearing Caribbean island has done its bit to promote healthy lifestyles before breakfast (well as part of breakfast at least…). This got me thinking, what other health promoting hybrids could we come up with? Let’s not waste the technology on fripperies, rather we could be shouldering our share in the difficult task of promoting health and well-being amongst the populus. How about saving time in the morning by crossing orange juice with toothpaste? Urgh no, on second thoughts… crossing tobacco with coffee instead perhaps? Now that would certainly save time, but it’s marginally less healthy… What about crossing bees with lemons – instant honey and lemon drink? No? Or perhaps we could go further still and cross A&E with a nightclub and save even more time. Hmm, maybe not. Alright perhaps we just stick with grapefruits.