Monday, August 10, 2009

The Fruit Hunters: A Fascinating Read

"Every time we eat a fruit, we're tasting forgotten histories." (p.11)

It seems that many people choose to ignore the Introduction at the start of books. They want to get right into the heart of the story and often feel the introduction will be boring, uninformative or repetitive. That can be a mistake though as some introductions are very worthy. The Introduction to this book is not to be missed.

The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce and Obsession by Adam Leith Gollner (Renouf Publishing Company, Ltd, March 2009, $19.95) is a trade-sized paperback of 280 pages. Adam has written for several magazines, is the former editor of Vice Magazine, and is a musician. This is his first book and I hope not his last. The book is an eclectic blend of plentiful and fascinating information about many aspects of fruit. It also is deserving of my highest recommendation.

This book hooked me from the start, the Introduction providing an intriguing beginning on the discussion of fruit. Adam is a skilled writer, presenting one interesting fact after another about the wide world of fruit. His writing style is compelling, making for an easy and satisfying read. The book also motivated me to seek out more information about fruit, especially some of the items that Adam mentioned.

I was unaware of the multitude of fruits that are eaten all around the world, yet rarely, if ever, make it to the U.S. There are about 70-80,000 edible fruits around the world. The exotic fruits sound so enticing, so delicious, that I hope more and more of those fruits end up on our shores and into our markets and stores. Just some of their names are so evocative: zombi apples, Congo goobers, bastard cherries, num-nums, pincushion fruit, emu apple, and sword fruits.

The book begins defining "fruit", noting how the term can be defined differently dependent on context. Technically, a fruit is any plant part containing a seed. This greatly expands what we might commonly consider to be fruits. For example, green peppers, cucumbers and corn are all technically fruit, not that most people though would consider them so.

From that first chapter, Adam travels across the world, visiting numerous countries and meeting lots of people involved with fruit. The book includes a brief history of fruit consumption, fruit hunters/explorers, fruitarians (who only eat fruit), fruit smugglers, how fruits come to market, genetic engineering, fruit wholesalers, conservation measures and even a cult that seeks immortality through fruit. Throughout this comprehensive journey, Adam peppers the book with a plethora of fascinating facts and anecdotes.

I could write dozens of posts about all of the matters which intrigued me. And I might write and expand upon some of those items in the future. For example, did you know that Durian flavored condoms are popular in Indonesia? Do you know the term "scrumping?" It refers to stealing apples from someone else's trees. Were you aware that certain wasps spend almost their entire lives inside of figs? Did you know that in the first half of the 20th century that more oranges were eaten than any other fresh fruit?

If you want an excellent read, one that will keep you interested from start to finish, then check out this book. And you will be seeing more about fruit on my blog in the near future.


Jacqueline Church said...

I love it! You and I are super food and word geeks - this sounds like our kind of book! Here's one fruit fact I learned recently: the fruit we know as strawberry isn't actually the fruit. It's a false fruit...I think technically the fruit of the strawberry is the tiny seeds and the luscious fleshy part is the delivery mechanism. I'm sure I've got it mixed up but this book probably clarifies it!

Richard Auffrey said...

You will definitely love this book!

newtomato said...

I saw Jacqueline recommend this review at the Table Talk chat today... it's now at the top of my GoodReads "to read" list - fascinating!

I don't think I could have imagined something more vile than a Durian flavored condom! *clearly* an acquired taste. ahem.