Funky Foods

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When I think of tomatoes, I picture red tomatoes slightly smaller than an apple. And in my mind, watermelons are enormous and take two arms to hold. But what if the fruits and vegetables we know and love could be different: different colors, different sizes, even different flavors?

According to this LA Times article, farms in Israel are doing just that redefining our perception of food. Some of the funky new foods invented include star-shaped zucchini, worm-shaped berries, and mini watermelons. 

Besides offering strange new shapes and a kaleidoscope of colors for our favorite fruits and veggies, some of the foods are genetically-modified with added health or storage advantages. 

At Hazera Genetics, an Israeli-run company that produces food hybrids, many of their vegetables are not obviously novel. Some modified crops sport only practical enhancements, like longer shelf lives and disease-resistance. 

Often these tweaks are more for growers than consumers. Instead of having to sell all their tomatoes immediately when prices are low, farmers with these new long-lasting strains can wait a few weeks. Customers like it, too, because their beloved food are available for longer periods of time.

Products like the mini-watermelon, however, are created specifically for the consumers. The usually gargantuan fruit is a source of consternation for many people, who complain they're too big to finish.

Personally, I love the never-ending feel of regular watermelons, but not everyone shares my zeal for their luscious flesh. For those folks, the mini watermelons proved perfect. 

Other countries are also trying their hand at engineering foods. Japan produces square watermelons, which are easier for stacking,  and the United States dominates yellow tomato production. 

Not all the scientific inventions have been a success, however. A few of the rejects include tear-shaped tomatoes and snow-white colored tomatoes. 

No matter how delicious or appetizing a newly invented food may look, some people vehemently oppose genetically modified crops as a whole.

Some worry that tinkering with plants' genetic material could reduce the efficiency of pesticides, and could transfer designed genes to unintended crops, causing who-knows-what sort of Franken-plants to take hold in the wild, where they could damage ecosystems..

Some Israeli farmers with these same concerns stick to the old-fashioned way of breeding new crops: cross-pollination between two varieties. This is done instead of injecting plants with desired genes, though the results can be just as dramatic.

I am excited for what weird foods the future holds. My consumer request: extra sweet vegetables. Then maybe I’ll finally meet the daily recommended dose of veggies.

Image: Cygnus921, Flickr