I just spent an hour picking blueberries. Our property has a large number of tall bush wild blueberries and about every third year, the forces all come together to give a good crop of these small, flavorful berries. This promises to be our best year in the 11 years we have been here. We also have a large number of low bush blueberries that produce lots of green berries. I have yet to see a ripe blueberry on these. I suspect the chipmunks and squirrels are very happy and well fed. As I was picking, I reflected on the fact that these wild berries are very tasty in comparison with what I might buy at the market (were I so inclined). On the other hand, they are rather small (1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter) so would not compete well on a supermarket shelf. As I picked, I kept an eye out for our neighborhood black bear who may decide that these are his bushes, an impression that I am hesitant to discuss let alone debate. A few years ago, he tore a large limb off of a cherry tree in search of tasty fruit. The solution to those attacks has turned out to be an annual attack by brown fungus that destroys all of the cherries just as they turn ripe. Last year, we got three cherries. This year, none.
These little guys have been evolving for millenia in order to tempt birds and mammals to eat them and then crap the seeds elsewhere thus providing a reproductive advantage to the most tasty ones. Our farmers have worked on evolving their agricultural blueberries to those that will present well for humans shopping. These will be larger and prettier although, not necessarily tastier. Shoppers tend to pick based on appearance not taste. Here is an interesting article on taste of tomatoes, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/frankentomatoes-edmund-burke/ .It seems that in tomatoes as in blueberries, we shop for appearance more than taste. It is of interest that heirloom tomatoes are not especially good looking although their taste is incredible. I should add that I do not find supermarket tomatoes untasty just not as tasty as those heirloom fruits. I should also admit that I rarely buy bagged apples since I want to pick from the open bins for the prettiest ones (especially avoiding bruises).
Turns out that it is not just in blueberries and tomatoes that our genetic management of crops impacts on taste and, even nutrition. Wheat crops were selected about 10,000 years ago for criteria possibly related to uniformity, ease of growing, and related factors. Some of the related crops have much more complex carbohydrates meaning that they are digested more slowly and have less stimulus effect on insulin. Thus, the “ancient” grain wheat related crops have less tendency to lay down fat than the genetic selected wheat most of us use. It has become popular to refer to genetic modification of such crops. In actuality, what has been done has been guided evolution with selection for crop characteristics that are desirable. Genetic modification is a more aggressive process of chemically modifying the genetic structure of the crop.
All of this helped pass time while I pursued the rather boring job of pulling blueberries from bush limbs. I wonder if we should consider watching what the bears eat? The good news for farmers may be that wild animals may be less likely to eat their crops than the wild alternatives (if available). Any way, it seemed a somewhat less contentious subject than religion or the ACA.
PS, Our dog just now alerted us that Mr Bear is working on some of the bushes. She seems smart enough (smart in discussing a dog seems oxymoronic) to not challenge him other than to bark a lot. In any event, he appears to agree that our berries are good.