Don't Fear the Unknown, Hybrid Fruits and Veggies Are Delicious!
Tangelo. Pluot. Jostaberry.
Believe it or not, these are not made up words.
Well, technically, someone made them up. But they're actual things. Fruits, to be specific.
Hybrid fruits and vegetables are more than just a scientific experiment or the conclusion of a bored scientist's hours in a lab. Not only do they sometimes occur in nature, they can benefit your life in areas you didn't even know needed benefiting.
Consider the banana.
It's common. It's tasty… enough. It's easy.
But what if you could start your day, boost up your afternoon, or have an evening snack that was so much more than easy?
Hybrid fruits and vegetables are ready to take your senses on a revolutionary journey. Will you join them?
Any food that needs a modifier is automatically weird, new, or suspicious, right?
Like, what is organic, really?
And how can my ice cream really be fat-free?
So what makes hybrid fruits any less deserving of wary glances and skeptical consideration?
Well, for one thing, hybrid fruits aren't always as tricky or unusual as their name makes them sound.
Broad strokes here, folks: hybrid fruits and vegetables are created when one plant is pollinated by a plant from a slightly different (but sometimes related) family. Two plants combine to create offspring that has qualities taken from both parents. See, it's kind of sweet.
Just like a hybrid car combines a traditional gas car with electricity and a labradoodle highlights the best qualities of a labrador and a poodle, hybrid fruits bring out the best in everyone. They'll sure bring out the best in you when you finally taste them.
It Sounds so Unnatural…
So there's a little plant, right? It's just hanging out, being a plant. Let's say it's a blackberry plant.
This plant is chillin', doing what it does best: photosynthesizing like a beast and growing bigger and better with every day.
But one day, this little plant grows some flowers.
These flowers are pretty important. Actually, that's an understatement. The flowers are the most important.
Pollen lives inside the flowers, and pollen is needed to create seeds and thus more plants of the same type. Once there is pollen, there can be a future.
The pollen goes from one plant to another, and what happens when pollen meets a new flower? Fertilization, baby.
And fertilization means fruit. In some plants, anyway. Lots of plants just produce seeds that are then blown away to start their own plant lives somewhere else, but the fruit-producers are what you're here for.
Some plants need something else to transport their pollen to other plants (the wind, an insect, a bird), and these crazy factors throw off the entire pollinate-your-own-species game.
Say a bee lands on our berry plant and waddles up into the flower, coating its legs with delicious pollen.
It hangs out there for a minute, but a bee's gotta do what a bee's gotta do, so it's not going to settle there forever. Its next stop might be on a red raspberry plant. And even though the pollen was from a blackberry, guess what? It can still pollinate that red raspberry plant.
The magic of pollination takes place, and a little while later there's a beautiful bouncing bundle of baby berry joy.
That isn't to say that all hybrid fruits are created in the wild -- there are plenty of innovative scientists and agriculturists experimenting and trying to get you the best of the best when it comes to your fruit and vegetable choices. But they're not always in it for the wow factor, either.
Lots of times, when people are playing around with cross-pollination, they're trying to make your fruit-eating or fruit-picking experience better. Sometimes it's for taste, sometimes for plant hardiness, sometimes it's even to ensure fruit consistency. So don't hate on the hybrids!
They've Been Here the Whole Time?!
And actually, even if you're not cracking open limequats every morning, chances are, you've been eating hybrid fruits and vegetables for a long time.
Nearly all citrus fruits are natural hybrids: Meyer lemons, the sweet orange, the mandarin orange… all hybrids.
Apples, too. Apples are funny fruits, because when you plant an apple seed you won't necessarily get an apple tree of the same type. Farmers graft apple leaves of a certain variety to an already-growing apple tree, ensuring that the apple variety they want will actually be produced on that tree. It's a little more scientific than the bee, sure, but it's the same premise.
Boysenberries, grapefruits, kiwis and even your boring morning banana: all hybrids.
Hybrid Fruits, GMO Fruits, Do I Even Want a Fruit?
Different things, my friend, different things.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) have been in the news a lot, and their bad press is leaking over onto poor hybrid fruits. GMOs are lab-altered and their creation involves genetic engineering. When scientists create GMOs, they're actually adjusting the DNA of the plant itself, which is something that basic hybridization never touches.
new DNA that wouldn't naturally appear; hybrid fruits and vegetables are only created when nature says it's okay for these two plants (within the same species or genus) to combine DNA.
Will This Hybrid Save Me Gas Money?
Hybrid fruits are amazing! Hybrid fruits are healthy and hearty and wholesome!
But no, they won't save you gas money.Seriously, though.
Hybrid fruits and vegetables are pretty exceptional, and not just because they look funny and have cool names.
People have been experimenting with and creating hybrid fruits for almost as long as they've been in the ag game. Mayans tried to create the best corn, people in areas without very much rice-growing land are creating rice hybrids to maximize food output, and a vast array of squash and other vegetables have been created through natural hybridization.
Hybrid fruits will not hurt you. Hybrid foods are not fake foods or man-made foods or food on par with the Star Trek-esque food-making machines of the future. Hybrid fruits and vegetables contain just as much nutritional value as other fruits and vegetables (if not more), and while we're on the subject…
and the good ones create foods and survive for years and years, until another better berry or potato or lettuce leaf variety is created in the same way and becomes the new favorite.
Hate to break it to you, but avoiding hybrid fruits and vegetables will not necessarily keep you happy, healthy, and perfect. Neither, admittedly, will eating them like crazy all the time and forever.
Hybrid fruits and vegetables require the same amount of eater discretion as other foods do. Don't eat rabbage if you don't want rabbage, but don't avoid it just because it has a funny name, a funny look, and the label “hybrid.” At the same time, maybe don't eat an entire bag of pluots at once -- not because they're hybrids, but because they have a decent amount of delicious sugar (just taste one and you'll know for sure).
The Hybrid-iest of the Hybrids
So now you know: you don't need to be afraid of they “Hybrid Fruits and Vegetables” section of your grocery store, and you probably even have a pretty close relationship with some popular hybrid fruits. But that doesn't mean that all of the excitement is gone.
Some hybrid fruits and vegetables are just… well, they're just weird.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't try them -- they might be your delicious new favorite -- but, you know. Maybe think twice before you introduce them to your parents?
Have you heard of a mucott? A temple? No? Then the tangor is just one more family member you have yet to meet.
The tangor is a bright orange blend of a sweet orange and a mandarin orange. Sitting at
only 63 calories per serving and giving you more Vitamin C than a traditional tangerine, if you're into citrus the tangor has got to be on your next shopping list.
Even if you didn't recognize the name, you've probably seen this star of the fruit section. Also known (helpfully) as “star fruit,” this fun and festive yellow food is as delicious as it is nutritious.
The flavor is a little sweet and a little sour -- the smaller your product, the more sour it'll be. It's only about 28 calories per fruit, and packs a punch with over 50% of your daily required Vitamin C. Instead of putting it back on the shelf after gazing in wonderment at its weird shape, put in in your cart instead of the orange juice.
This fruit can double as an insult, but only if you don't know what you're talking about. The ugli is a sweet, funny addition to any salad or fruit dish, or just keep it all for yourself.
The ugli has a thick rind, but only to protect all the nutritious goodness growing inside. Like most other citrus fruits it has a substantial amount of Vitamin C, but it also contains a ton of Vitamin B (to keep those teeth and gums health) and will also prevent kidney stones from forming. Who you calling ugli now?
It's a berry but it won't taste like the berries you're used to! This black berry is technically a combination of the currant and the gooseberry, but it brings in flavors of kiwi,
blueberry, and grape, too. These big berries can be used in almost any way you want: raw and delicious, in ice cream, or even in wine.
Even though it doesn't sound like it, the rangpur is kind of like a lime, and if you were in Costa Rica people would think
you weird for not being super familiar with it. Even though a lot of people just use the poor rangpur for decoration, it can be a valuable and delicious (if acidic) burst to your next dessert, drink, or sauce.
Say that name out loud. Rabbage. Doesn't it just make you laugh? Rabbage.The taste isn't quite as hilarious.
This combination of radish and cabbage is kind of radish-y spicy, but it looks like a lettuce-type leafy green. If you're looking to spice up your next dinner (literally), check out the rabbage aisle of your grocery store. (Or, you know, the little eclectic vegetable market that might actually stock rabbage).
The pun options are endless with a name like “yuzu.” Yuzu will never settle for a plain old grapefruit again, even though
yuzu might be weirded out by the bumpy skin. Under that skin, though, the good-smelly fruit has enough Vitamin P to get your blood flowing, activate fat burning, and relax your mind and body. Yuzu has quite the history, both as food and as medicine. It has been yuzu-ed as a cure for colds and soaps, and in healing baths to rejuvenate the skin and overall health. Don't skimp out on the yuzu.
It doesn't come in a box or a bottle, but they are pretty tasty. Similar to a raspberry in taste and containing an admirable amount of Vitamin C, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, wineberries
have been known to protect the liver and heart and even prevent cancer. Not bad, not bad at all. Wineberries can be eaten raw, made into jams, or even… wait for it… made into wine. Put ‘em in the fridge, put ‘em in a sauce, and relish in all your hard cancer-preventing work.
Get ready for this. The pineberry looks like the little creepy ghost relative of the strawberry. You know, the one who stays in the attic or basement and always says the weirdest stuff.
Lucky for us all, the real pineberry is not nearly as skitchy. Though it admittedly might haunt your dreams with its deliciousness. It looks like a strawberry (in shape) and tastes like a pineapple, hence the name. It's excellent especially in drinks, just don't look it straight in the eye.
It's a mix of mixes: the dekopon fruit is a hybrid between the tangor and the ponkan; the tangor is a cross between a trovita orange and a satsuma…. Don't get too far down the rabbit hole. It's citrus, seedless, big, and sweet.
The dekopon tastes like an orange, but it's super sweet. Try it in a fancy sandwich, on its own, or as part of a sweet orange drink. You won't regret it (and, at the size of a softball, you'll probably get your money's worth).
And if you want more where that came from, check out the video below.
Not Buying the Crazy?
Now, not all funny-named hybrid fruits are totally unfamiliar. Other than the ones you already know you know (back to the apples and such), there is a whole long list of moderately crazy hybrid fruits for those less willing to take an immediate jump into the wild.
Just like it sounds, the pluerry is a combo of plums and cherries. The fun-filled pluerry combines the flavors of both parent fruits -- it's a party!
Guess what this one is? Yep. Peach and nectarine. All of the flavor, none of the fuzz.
Plumcot and the Pluot
It sounds like the start to a bad joke. A plum and an apricot walk into a bar… But plumcots and pluots are anything but ridiculous. The early plumcot demonstrated
some growing difficulties, so committed scientists developed the 70/30 plum/apricot ratio and created the fantastically sweet pluot.
What in the world? Despite the name, you'll recognize the ingredients of this fruit punch flavored hybrid fruit: apricot, peach, and plum. Prepare yourself for a flavor explosion.
Haven't you always wanted an easy way to combine lime and kumquat in a jam or jelly? No? Well, after trying the limequat you might wish you had wondered about it earlier. This tart fruit even has legit edible skin.
Come on, really? This was the best you could do? BrusselKale is, unsurprisingly, a hybrid vegetable of brussel sprouts and kale. They look kind of like little pretty purple cabbages and are helping everyone to redevelop their tired kale obsession.
Where did the “tay” come from? A tayberry is a blackberry and a red raspberry and feature a tarty sweet flavor, but be warned: they're notoriously hard to harvest, so don't develop too intense an obsession.
Ooof, vegetable hybrids need to up their name game. The broccoflower, a broccoli/cauliflower hybrid, is more mild, more sweet, and more attractive than either of its parents. Maybe that will convince your kids to eat it?
Okay, this one is pretty good. Brokali is a hybrid broccoli and kale veggie that has the leaves of kale and the stem of broccoli. However you slice it, it's going to be sweet. (Really. The brokali has a pretty sweet flavor.)
No need to grapple over the grapple decision or definition: grape + apple = grapple. Tastes like a grape, looks like an apple. Is there a better pairing?
Solo Parenting: DIY Hybrid Fruit Breeding
You've eaten them.
You've loved them.
You want to be them.
Okay, not quite. But do you want to create them?
You're in luck. You don't have to be a fancy scientist, an agronomist, or have full access to a crazy science lab from the movies to make your own hybrid fruits and vegetables.
You just have to have a little bit of plant know-how, space to grow, and a whole lot of patience. Curiosity doesn't hurt, either.
1. Choose your plants. Do some research before you start, because no matter how hard you shove them together, some fruits will not mix.
2. Use a magnifying glass and maybe a fruit plant guidebook to identify the stamen (male part) and pistil (female part) of your plants. The stamen will have pollen. (You might have one plant with one and one with the other, or both of your plants might have both. Either is okay.)
3. Make sure your plants are up to the challenge. They should be sturdy and hearty, and there shouldn't be pollen on the pistil part of the plant yet. Your stamen part should be producing a lot of pollen and the pistil part should be good and sticky, all the better to grab those pollens.
4. Cut off the stamens on your stamen plant. It feels a little mean, but you want to make sure you're doing the pollinating work, not the plant.
5. Rub the pollen-y stamens on the sticky pistils. Take a deep breath and step away. Your work here is done.
6. Well, sort of done. Keep your plant well watered and in plenty of sunlight.
7. If you're lucky, pretty soon your pistil plant will start to grow fruit! Harvest the fruit, and, most importantly, the seeds. Air-dry the seeds before planting.
8. Plant your new hybrid seeds like you would any other fruit plant seeds. Water them, watch them, and care for them as though they were your own little babies.Plant your new hybrid seeds like you would any other fruit plant seeds. Water them, watch them, and care for them as though they were your own little babies.
9. When your new plant develops fruit, taste it and (hopefully) enjoy. But if your creation is a veritable Frankenstein's monster, don't worry. You don't need to release this one on the unsuspecting community. Record your results, toss it to the dog or in the trash, and try, try again.
10. Congratulate yourself! Whatever the outcome of this particular experiment, you tried. And were it not for the scientists and explorers and agronomists who were willing to try, our fruit shelves would look pretty piddly.
Check out this video for detailed instructions about how to crossbreed vegetables, too:
An Apple a Day and the Doctor and All That
Okay, so you don't have to eat apples. In fact, you shouldn't eat just apples or stick to any one kind of fruit or vegetable exclusively. But fruits and vegetables should be a major component of your diet, for real.
But lucky you! And lucky for your kids and your parents and your friends and your colleagues and the people that you run into on the street and the people who live within shouting distance of you.
Because now, you have a whole new world of fruits and vegetables to explore.
You probably won't love all of them, but you can sure try all of them. Get those sweet sweet Vitamin C benefits, broaden your food horizons, and explore the world of hybrid fruits and veggies.
Hungry yet? Yeah, me too.