It is sad commentary on our food system that we have often lost the pleasure of sweet ripe fruit. While winter is a time for citrus, finding a sweet, flavorful orange or grapefruit is often impossible if you are not growing it yourself. Over the past few weeks, I have eaten any number of grapefruit but every one was sour and tough. They all look great in the market but clearly were picked very green and ‘ripened’ in a warehouse. Likely, I will not eat any more this season unless I can find some that were tree ripened.
I remember the first time I had a fully ripe pineapple in Costa Rica. It was hard to believe that it was the same fruit we get in the market in Northern California. The juicy sweetness was so overwhelming that I ate a whole one every day. Bigger, redder and tougher has been the mantra for strawberry varieties for a long time and we now have the biggest, toughest and least flavorful berry money can buy. They can be picked while still half green and look mouthwatering until you actually taste one.
Lemons are no different. If they are picked green and ‘ripened’ in a warehouse, they might look great on a shelf but will have little flavor, just sourness. Leaving them on the tree until they are ripe makes them more fragile so picking and packing has to be done with more care but the result is a much more flavorful lemon. The skin is also less bitter when using it for zest, baking or marmalade.