Re: [gardeners] A matter of taste

Liz Albrook (
Thu, 25 Jun 1998 14:15:57 +0000

Catharine Vinson <> wrote:

> Enter the Age of Merchandising of Diversity in Foodstuffs? Are we going to 
> see 30 years of heirloom and "new hybrid" proliferation akin to the 
> industrial "model of the year" of industrial output (and software, and 
> etc.)? 
> Will what worked for deodorant and toothpaste and tennis shows work for 
> 'taters and 'maters? Should it?

Take a look at cookbooks today.  There are many out on the market 
that suggest particular varieties of vegetables -- Deborah Madison's 
three books on veggies are great examples.  The latest edition of 
_Joy of Cooking_, possibly the most popular cookbook in the US, 
discusses 2 or 3 dozen different varieties of beans.  Sunset magazine 
had a recent issue containing new recipes for heirloom beans and gave 
mailorder sources (the best of which is in Idaho BTW) for purchasing 

I think that the American palate has been largely uneducated and 
the mid-western cooking style has contributed to that.  Meats are 
cooked until dry and vegetables cooked until limp.  I think about my 
mother's green beans -- cooked for over an hour until they were limp 
and grey-green with bacon or ham hocks and new potatoes added in the 
last 30 minutes of cooking.  When you cook that way what difference 
does it make which variety you start with?  Newer cookbooks and 
cooking techniques combined with an emphasis on lower fat diets serve 
to highlight the concept that the taste of the produce we start with 
makes all the difference.

Look at chiles -- a fine example of the demand for increasing 
varieties at the grocers spurred by cookbooks and, to Americans, 
newer foods.  In my part of the country Ranier cherries command a 
premium price -- Ranier lookalikes don't.  Most people can taste the 

I think those of us who are the adventurous home gardeners, willing 
to try varieties new to us and possibly new to our region (though the 
varieties themselves may be old) are ahead of the curve but that the 
rest of the people will catch up.  That some of us are ridiculed for 
that is pretty meaningless in the overall scheme of things.