- Yes it is true that some fruits such as raspberries and vegetables such as spinach in supermarkets taste different, when compared to local farms and farmers markets since most varieties of fruits and vegetables found in supermarkets are chosen for yield, growth rate, and ability to withstand long-distance transport rather than taste.
Fruit and vegetable varieties differ in appearance and taste, as well as their vitamin, mineral, and phytochemical content.
However, whether these findings appear to be a general rule for organic vegetables/fruits vs supermarket versions is debatable since climacteric fruits will change in taste over time. Published research findings on comparing the organoleptic quality of organic food to conventional food findings by Richard C. Theuer in 2006 state that "Most studies report no consistent or significant differences in taste and organoleptic quality." and better taste of organic fruits/vegetables felt by the consumer is due to the "halo effect" of the organic label.
Rex: First, you have to remember that sugar is a part of Brix, but Brix is not sugar. If you go back and study a few later BrixTalk posts, you may spot the place where I commented on the “insipid” label used in Florida to address overly ripe oranges that had stayed on the tree too long. Taste is far more than just sugar. There are acids, flavonoids, aminos, antioxidants, oils and who knows what else involved. If the tree is in poor soil and does not have adequate resources to create what I call “goodies,” that does not mean the leaves will cease making sugar and if the fruit remains on the tree past proper harvest time that sugar will accumulate.
High Brix values may indicate a sweeter taste and also that the fruit will keep from perishing for longer duration i.e. harvest-fresh fruits tend to have higher Brix values.
Climacteric fruits – such as apples, nectarines, melons, apricots, peaches, and tomatoes – are capable of generating the ripening hormone ethylene, after being detached from the mother plant. Non-climacteric crops – for example, peppers and citrus – reach commercial maturity on the plant only. Being somewhat autonomous, from the ripening point of view, climacteric fruits will change in taste, aroma, color and texture as they reach and pass a transitory respiratory peak related to ethylene.
Some researchers also believe that "there is currently no solid scientific evidence that Brix values alone can be used to describe a food's nutritional value" while others feel that "high Brix value does not guarantee a sweet flavor" and "crops with the highest Brix reading will not necessarily taste sweetest or best."
°Brix values are a measure of the soluble solids content of a solution. Sugars are the most abundant soluble solid in fruit and vegetable juices. Soluble solid (sugar) levels (°Brix readings) can be measured reliably on the farm, during storage, or at market using refractometers, which are inexpensive and small. Care must be taken, however, in selecting samples, completing readings, and making use of °Brix values. These values are affected by genetic and management factors. Also, they correlate much more strongly with how sweet a product may taste than how nutritious it may be.
Also this taste difference between supermarkets and local produce varies from country to country which is noted in one Australian supermarket plum variety which tasted sweeter than their earlier bred versions.
Food scientists dismiss nostalgia about yesteryear's plums and peaches. They say their modern supermarket cousins can taste sweeter. The sweetness in fruit is measured in degrees Brix and many of the current varieties are bred to reach high Brix levels. "We have plums that have Brix levels of 20," says Rowan Little, general manager of fruit company Montague Fresh. "Twenty years ago we thought a really sweet plum was 12."
Researchers are now working on versions of vegetables such as tomatoes to have good taste as comparable to locally produced varieties by various methods including manipulation of a genetic switch for sugar production.
Researchers tested over 25 commercial tomato varieties from around the world and found that they all contained the mutation that left them with an absence of the GLK protein. "The mutation they describe in their paper is in literally 100 percent of modern breeds sold in grocery stores today," Harry Klee, a molecular geneticist at the University of Florida, Gainesville, who studies the chemistry and genetics of flavor in fruits and vegetables, told MSNBC. "It's a really good illustration of some of the problems with modern breeding of tomatoes."
- People will tend to only consistently choose fruits and vegetables grown on local farms over supermarket equivalents in blinded or nonblinded tests because farmers growing for a local market favor taste over shipability when choosing the variety of fruits and vegetables for farming. However, majority of research studies find no consistent or significant differences in taste between local and conventional produce seen in supermarkets except for apples and also this superior taste of organic apples is found in most rigorously controlled studies but not universally in all studies.
Farmers producing for a local and direct market (farmers’ market, community supported agriculture (CSA) members, or a local restaurant or grocer, for example), are more likely to prioritize taste and nutritional quality over durability when making varietal decisions. First, even when
the highest post-harvest handling standards are met, foods grown far away that spend significant time on the road, and therefore have more time to loss nutrients before reaching the marketplace. Second, farmers growing for a local (and especially a direct) market favor taste, nutrition and diversity over shipability when choosing varieties.
There is also some bias expected in blind or unblind taste tests when one compares locally grown produce that is harvested and marketed in a shorter time to supermarket produce which is picked unripe and shipped over a long distance.
Valid market surveys of food quality as a function of production system become more difficult when locally-grown produce that is harvested ripe and marketed immediately is compared to produce picked unripe and shipped thousands of miles, or produce stored for months prior to retail distribution. Several researchers have concluded that maturity at harvest and storage methods generally trump
production systems with respect to organoleptic quality.
Preharvesting and refrigeration also is found to play a role in the determination of superior taste of locally produced vegetables and fruits.
Normally, farmers pick their produce while they are still green. The ripening process is then induced by spraying the fruits or vegetables with ethylene gas when they reach their destination. For long hauls, fruits and vegetables are refrigerated to prevent damage and delay their ripening. However, there are drawbacks to these postharvest practices. Fruits that have been harvested prematurely may result in poor taste and quality despite appearing as fully ripened ones. Fruits transported for long periods under refrigeration also have the tendency to lose their quality.