Last week I was thinking and writing about the green fruits that we currently have on offer and more general thoughts about maturity and ripeness.
This week when I've been out and about I've had that on my mind and been tuned in to all of the 'green' fruits that are around. So I've been noticing the green sloes on the bushes and the unripe damsons and casting my mind forward to the Autumn. If you're a regular reader of the newsletter then you'll by now be familiar with many of the themes that come up and this had me thinking about flowers and how they are very early indicators of where fruit is going to be later in the year. Equally, these green fruits are subtle enough to be noticed and yet their colour clearly says that the plant would rather they didn't leave just yet.
As a brief digression, I thought I should explain the function of colour in fruit. Fruits generally start off green and then they turn yellow to red and sometimes they continue to turn black (which in blackberries, elderberries and so on is actually a very dark shade of red as you see if you press the juice from them) or blue. One of the primary reasons for this colouring is birds.These tree dwellers are the principal consumers of briar, bush and tree fruits as anyone who has tried to cultivate cherries or blackcurrants can testify to. They are excellent seed distributors as they conveniently transport the seed from one location to another (via airmail) and deposit it with a small patch of fertiliser. Birds see light in the UltraViolet end of the spectrum which means that those reds and particularly those blacks are highly visible to them as many of the berries reflect UV rays. This explains why the birds never eat my Autumn fruiting raspberries as they fruit at the same time as blackberries so the birds are always drawn to the darker berry which in their vision would almost glow! It also explains why they are completely blind to the white strawberries that I'm cultivating.
So as the seed inside the berry reaches maturity the fruit changes colour and becomes more visible to the birds, those flying seed dispersal units. Fruit being green is in a sense the tree trying to keep it hidden; it's not necessarily the case that it's not ready but rather that the tree doesn't want it to go yet.
To return to my starting point, I've been noticing all these green fruits and thinking ahead to the Autumn. I've actually been thinking about all the fruit that I'll be eating and getting hungry and almost salivating at the prospect of it. See my confession here is that I'm a bit of a sugar addict; cakes are a real weakness along with cookies and all manner of other sugary delights. I don't have to feel guilty about this as apparently we're hard-wired to seek out and enjoy fat and sugar. In our hunter-gatherer past we would have sought out these occasional carbohydrate rich treats and they were an essential survival mechanism. In that scenario we would have only got that sugar rush in the Autumn when the fruit season was on not all year round as we are now able to. Equally, we would get stores of fat less frequently and presumably more in the Autumn and Winter when the animals we would be hunting would have had their own fat reserves replenished.
I was discussing fruit last week with our resident chef Ben. I was saying how I think that it served a key purpose in the past. In England, in preparation for the Winter we probably needed to get fat. To get fat you need to be eating fats and carbohydrates at the same time otherwise your body will just burn off all of one or the other. So this ideal scenario presents itself where there is an abundance of sugar rich fruit all at once, at the end of the Summer so that our body is being supplied with its immediate energy requirements in the form of sugar and can therefore start to store up fat. It's also still lovely and warm at the tail of Summer so you don't need to burn up valuable calories in generating body heat. I particularly like this scenario as it goes entirely against the grain of modern media influenced habits. In Summer we're being told from every angle that we should be out with our lean sun-kissed bodies flaunting it on the beach. In my scenario we should actually be taking advantage of the sugar, the fats and the warmth to get fatter so that we can waddle our way into Winter!