Thursday, January 25, 2007

fruit: a risk vs. reward analysis

(design courtesy of Matt Bites)

fruit: banana
risk: low
reward: moderate
analysis: Never a bad choice, the banana is the .290 hitter of fruit. When was the last time you had a surprisingly bad banana? Never, that’s when. More importantly, the banana offers the most easily interpreted warning signs in the fruit family: if it’s slightly green or covered in brown spots, you know you’re rolling the dice. You will most likely never eat a memorable banana, but for a low-risk fruit that pays out solid dividends, you can’t do better. If you don’t like surprises, the banana might be the fruit for you.

fruit: apple
risk: high
reward: moderate
analysis: There are several schools of thought on the apple, so let’s just examine the facts. For a good month-long stretch in the Fall, you can do no wrong with an apple. If it has no bumps or bruises and feels solid, you’re good to go. But what happens after that? Suddenly the traditional warning signs break down and what was once a promising piece of fruit is a mushy disaster. There are few fruit experiences worse than the first bite of a bad apple – it makes you question everything you thought you knew about fruit. Granted that a good apple is a solid fruit experience, is it really worth the risk? No, it’s not.

fruit: orange
risk: moderately low
reward: high
analysis: A good orange is the holy grail of fruit. Long praised for its sweetness, the orange really brings a complete game to the table. Its rind is one of the most durable in the fruit family, capable of sustaining the kind of turbulence that would simply destroy an apple or pear. While not quite banana-like in its warning signs, the worst (dry) oranges will reveal themselves before that all-important first bite. It is a true testament to the character of this fruit that many people are willing to ignore this warning sign in the hopes of a decent wedge or sweet spot. You will find no better risk/reward payout in the fruit family than the orange.

fruit: pear
risk: high
reward: high
analysis: The often ignored pear presents an interesting dilemma. On one hand, a good pear is rivaled only by the orange. On the other, a bad pear is only eclipsed by a bad apple. While a bad pear may show more easily than an apple, don’t be fooled: a pear can be bad in more ways. There is nothing wrong with taking a gamble with the occasional pear, but as a daily fruit it will eventually let you down.

fruit: the berry family (blue, black, straw, etc.)
risk: high
reward: moderately high
analysis: While some might scoff at the notion of lumping these together, they share a variety of characteristics that cannot be disputed. Bad berries are disgusting – they make you wince. It's time to face the facts: berries are overrated. People eat strawberries with cream and add a variety of berries to cereal. A real fruit can stand on its own. While the berry family exhibits fairly easily interpreted warning signs (mushiness, spots), it will still throw you the occasional curveball. If you’re thinking about buying berries, stop and ask yourself if it’s really worth the risk. It’s probably not.

fruit: grapes
risk: moderate
reward: high
analysis: Grapes succeed where berries fail. They are comparable in size and texture, but more durable and predictable. Even the occasional sour grape is a taste that is quickly erased by the next sweet one. A fruit with options in color and seed, the grape is a solid fruit choice. Second only to the banana in warning signals (softness), it is easy to pick good grapes. You’d think the fruit that produces wine would garner more respect, but the grape continues to be an overlooked, solid performer well worth adding to your portfolio.

fruit: plum
risk: moderate
reward: moderately high
analysis: While no one in recorded history has ever uttered the phrase “wow, that was a fantastic plum,” this is a fruit that delivers. Firmness and mushiness are warning signs, although a not-quite ripe plum is still edible, which is more than you can say for a lot of fruit. With a satisfyingly smooth texture and solid moistness density, the plum is a good, low-risk fruit. It scores like a less stable banana with higher dividends.

fruit: peach
risk: high
reward: high
analysis: The peach performs similarly to the pear: great when it’s good, terrible when it’s bad. While a good summer peach is one of the pinnacles of fruit experience, the first bite of bad peach is eclipsed only by that of the apple. If you can afford the possible negative fallout and diversify your fruit choices, by all means, grab a peach. But if you’re on a tight budget and need a more predictable piece of fruit, go orange.

fruit: kiwi
risk: moderate
reward: moderate
analysis: Somewhat of an enigma, the jury is still out on the kiwi. A solid performer in fruit salads, the kiwi is still seen as too exotic by many in the fruit world. In fact, many a fruit expert has confessed an inability to differentiate between a good and bad kiwi. It also presents a confusing set of eating/peeling methods. You might want to hold out on the kiwi for a bit, but be sure to track its progress in the coming months.

fruit: mango
risk: moderately high
reward: high
analysis: A good mango rounds out the consensus top four positive fruit experiences, along with the orange, pear and peach, but is considerably more high-maintenance than the others. There is no conclusive proof as to the correct way to eat or serve a mango, and the absurdly large pit/thing presents an enormous set of problems. The potential for some sort of knife accident cannot be ignored, nor can the messiness factor. While fairly easy to predict in terms of quality, the purchase of a mango involves a higher commitment than any other fruit. Purchase pre-sliced when possible.

fruit: the melon family (water, honeydew, cantaloupe)
risk: moderate
reward: high
analysis: The SUVs of the fruit family, melons truly play by their own set of rules. While they do present portability issues and require solid knife-technique, melons are important in that they are the only members of the fruit family that demand multiple eaters. This social component makes the melon somewhat of a polarizing fruit: they are great for families, but depressing for singles. There is no consensus melon-predicting technique, although shaking and smelling are widely used to mixed results. Regardless, they are excellent performers in fruit salads and score high on the summer sentimentality factor. We probably all could use a little more melon in our lives.

fruit: grapefruit
risk: moderately low
reward: high
analysis: Do not let the grapefruit’s similarity to the orange fool you – you cannot simply peel and eat this fruit. That said, the grapefruit-half turned bowl is an innovation on par with the steam engine and iPhone. A good grapefruit balances the sweet and sour, making for a highly rewarding fruit experience. Even the worst (too sour) grapefruit is nowhere near as painful as your standard bad apple or peach. In fact, the only valid grapefruit complaint is that it has brought down many a fruit salad with sourness. If you have the time to slice and scoop, the grapefruit will consistently pay out well.

fruit: pineapple
risk: high
reward: moderately high
analysis: The most dangerous member of the fruit family, you could actually kill someone with a pineapple. Although its fantastic packaging presents a myriad of options for presentation if you’re entertaining, the pineapple is a very high-maintenance fruit. Its name is also confusing – the pineapple looks to ride the coattails of the apple (a questionable choice), but bears no resemblance whatsoever. Nevertheless, its consistent performance (never great but never terrible) should not be overlooked. Much like the mango, unless you’re ready for a major time commitment, buy it sliced.

fruit: the orange imposters (tangerine, tangelo, clementine, etc.)
risk: see orange
reward: see orange
analysis: The orange imposters perform identically to the orange because, well, they are shameless knockoffs. Fortunately the orange has taken the highroad (imitation as flattery), because there is some serious copyright infringement/intellectual property abuse here. Kudos to whatever clever marketer thought that making smaller oranges, putting them in a box and giving them a cute name like Clementine would pull the wool over peoples’ eyes. But why buy an imitation when you can still find the original?


Blogger Octopus Grigori said...

Fantastic. I would note, though, that I have had experiences with grapefruit that I would not hesitate to call religious. I was sorry to see the Queen of Citrus left out of the survey.

3:56 AM  
Blogger Justin said...

Apologies, octopus - that was a glaring omission that has since been corrected.

9:56 AM  
Anonymous Noah Brier said...

Very good analysis, maybe we can get the fruit industry to add risk/reward stickers to all fruit. Wouldn't it be easier if it had a red risk and a green reward sticker right on it? Then you'd know what you're getting into with even the most exotic of fruit (think starfruit).

Three quick things: One, I think the payoff of the mango is the highest in the fruit family . . . Two, have you factored in frozen grapes? They are absolutely delicious . . . And three, persimmon. One of the worst food experiences of my life was a bad persimmon. It did this weird thing where it dried out my entire mouth instantly so it tasted like I just ate a handful of chalk. But a good persimmon . . . what a reward.

10:14 AM  
Blogger Justin said...

The risk/reward sticker is a fantastic idea. It could also be applied to restaurants, potential acquaintances, methods of exercise, wardrobe choices, etc.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Ari Cohen said...

now i'm fully convinced that you have definitly lost your mind, and I love it!!!!!!
I full disagree with your grapefruit description, it's disgusting and I do not understand why anyone would enjoy it, kinda like Dr. Browns Cel-Ray Soda.
And the plum is much more of an enigma than you let on. Is it red inside? Is it yellow? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD HOW CAN YOU TELL.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Octopus Grigori said...

Wow. Such dedication to your readership. I am amazed.

1:06 PM  
Anonymous julia said...

how about papaya? your thoughts? an unusual taste.

the pomegranate? which has had a recent comeback thanks to POM. when i was in junior high, my friend (lena) and i begged our parents to buy us this labyrinthine fruit. perfect for obsessive-compulsive picking. my dad called it a "rich person's fruit" b/c it was never on sale.
and justin loves his pomegranate margaritas.

and pineapple? so good after chinese food - although it is nearly masochistic, that stinging on dry lips during winter.

as a pregnant woman, my only true craving is for oranges. nothing tastes like what it should, except for oranges, which taste even better.
and then i tried grapefruit - wow. especially the pink kind.
they saved me from hating food entirely.
i have three a day.

lastly, i think you've underrated the plum. a perfect plum on a hot summer day is magic. and, yes, ari, you must study the various types, because they do come in assorted colors (external and internal).
they are so lovely, they've even inspired poetry.

This Is Just to Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

1:44 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

Pineapple is now up, but pomegranate does not make the cut. And I'd trust my palate over a thousand poems.

2:12 PM  
Blogger Ari Cohen said...

My brother is convinced our mom told him when he was a kid that the yellow-colored middle of Kiwi is actually banana. He believed this up until a few years ago when he mistakenly told us of the "banana center theory of kiwi" Suffice it to say it has been the butt of many jokes over the last few years. My brother is special.

I think there is nothing worse on earth than a bad piece of honey dew.

by the way HI JULIA, congrats on the little one. I'm so happy for you guys!!!

2:18 PM  
Blogger MWS said...

While I deeply appreciate your logic concerning the orange as a true gamer, I wonder if you could address its hotshot cousins, the Tangerine, Tangelo, Clementine, Minneola Posse? Too much glitz, perhaps? Sort of the Boy Band of orange clan? Or perhaps they can walk the walk?

6:22 PM  
Blogger Caeli said...

goddammit I want some canteloupe right now. I have nothing to add to the deservedly extensive array of comments this post provoked, except to say it was hecka funny. Nice work, Jeff. You really oughta submit this for pub somewhere.

12:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can wear a pineapple as a hat, see Carmen Miranda. That ought to have boosted it's ratings.

2:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You and this guy need to meet,

10:11 AM  
Blogger Onika said...

The average pineapple apparently holds the richest source of vitamins and antioxidants in the fruit world. So the prickles are like the ravens at the Tower of London, protecting the Crown Jewels so to speak. Good stuff.

11:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have two words:
rainier cherry

Perhaps it falls under the berry category, but it really shouldn't. This is definitely a low risk high reward fruit!

12:34 PM  
Blogger Joel said...

I think the key here is: don't buy your fruit from Safeway.

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Shawnda said...

The .290 hitter of fruit - that's absolutely classic :)

12:18 PM  
Blogger Claire said...

But what about the blood orange? Where does it fall? I wouldn't consider it an imposter as it is far more than a miniature orange. Really, it deserves its own category. Thoughts?

And I think I have actually exclaimed over the fabulosity of plums past.

6:16 PM  
Anonymous Annie said...

Hold on, hoss. Clementines are an entirely different proposition from oranges, which may be sweet but frequently are sour. Your clementine is an easy-peeler--no risk of jamming peel under your fingernails where the rind juices will burn and sting. (yes, it happens.) Clementines gladly throw off their skin like happy nudists, revealing cute little sections with no seeds. Yes. No seeds. Can you say, "perfect for toddlers?" Indeed they are, and they are always sweet, and even when they're soft they're soft and sweet. Just never buy them from an outside display in below-freezing weather. Once frozen they are ruined.

7:03 PM  
Blogger christine said...

I loved this! "melons are the SUV of fruit" - who says that? A genius, that's who. This has to be one of the most interesting articles I've read in a LONG time. :) Oh and mangoes are not messy! They're actually very simple to slice and eat.

9:38 PM  
Blogger Emma C said...

My family and I are fruit FANATICS! I think the only point at which my husband truly thought about jumping ship was at his first dinner with my family where he witnessed (but did not take part in) the consumption of an entire bowl of cut fruit in one sitting--this was at least...oh...three to four cups of fruit per person. Fantastic. Give me a cornucopia of fruit and I'll be happy on my desert island.

10:58 PM  
Blogger Miss Tenacity said...

I agree that melons are the SUV of fruit, but that still has never stopped me from eating them whole, all by myself. :-)

Great post, thanks.

9:46 AM  
Anonymous TexanNewYorker said...

Well done! This is hilarious AND useful.
What about pommelos? Or tomatoes? I'd love to hear your thoughts as to why the tomato is/isn't fruit . . . and why doesn't pomegranate make the cut? It's so tasty! You've also overlooked nectarines and apricots (unless you're lumping them in with peaches, which is unfair to the peach). And of course someone already brought up persimmons and starfruit, and papaya.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Dromeda said...

I will never understand why on earth people insist on eating grapefruit with a SPOON. I've tried it- you barely get any pulp, and squirt juice all over yourself and your surroundings. I've never had a problem with treating a grapefruit like an oversized orange- peel then eat wedge by wedge. It might be because I only eat the ruby red ones, but still.

I'm echoing Noah's comment above- a good mango is the closest thing to sheer ambrosia I've discovered and the mess factor only makes it more fun. There's nothing quite like picking off individual squares of yellow goodness (if you're eating it hedgehog style) and then gnawing on the "bone" after you're done picking off as much meat as possible.

And BTW Texan- Nectarines are just a different, smooth kind of peach.

11:22 AM  
Anonymous krystina said...

Re: pears

Leave the guessing up to Harry & David, and though you may wind up paying $6 a pear, they are huge enough for two people and are absolutely freaking delicious.

1:12 PM  
Blogger brook said...

i am new to this blog. Your article give valuable information about fruits.Thanks for giving useful information.


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12:49 PM  

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