April 19, 2014

1 - Vegetables may not taste the same to you now as they did when you were younger for a variety of reasons.

Yard and Garden April 19, 2014


When I was young, I helped my parents in the garden and ate the produce from the garden. Now, I’m older and beginning to think that vegetables from the stores do not taste as good as those from my childhood garden. Have vegetable varieties changed to the detriment of flavor?



There have been reports that in breeding some vegetables to be better able to be transported, flavor was lost. It was important to develop varieties that could be shipped across the country without spoiling for the sake of food safety. However, since claims of lost flavor arose many vegetable breeders consider flavor. So, some there may be some support for the idea that some vegetables have less flavor, but there are others bred for flavor. Many gardeners have developed preferences for growing "heirloom" varieties, those varieties that were grown long ago in local and home gardens when long distance transport of vegetables was less of a consideration. These varieties for local use were often selected for their flavors. At New Mexico State University, Dr. Paul Bosland began a program of rebreeding certain varieties of chiles that had “lost” their flavors. These are called the "heritage" varieties and are specifically bred for their flavor and proper heat levels.

Another consideration is that the varieties sold in stores are often different varieties from those grown in home gardens. Different varieties will often have different flavors. Varieties sold in stores, because they may be shipped long distances, are often picked early so that they will ripen on the way to your local store and not be spoiled (and unsafe to eat) when you purchase them.

A final consideration is you! As time passes, your tastes change. Some vegetables that I did not enjoy eating as a child are some that I now enjoy very much. That is part of maturing. When you worked in your garden you invested your sore muscles, sweat, and effort in the production of the food you ate. That psychologically affects your attitude toward the taste of the food. For some people that labor input caused a negative response; for others it was positive. I remember growing radishes when I was young. I did not like the flavor of radishes, but with pride in growing them, I learned to like them. If you enjoy the act of gardening, you will better enjoy the results of that labor. However, a wise gardener is sure to grow the things that they know they enjoy eating.

Happy gardening and bon appetit!

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: desertblooms@nmsu.edu, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at desertblooms@nmsu.edu, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook page.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!