Strawberry's taster, a rather original job
Ten days ago, during a quiet Sunday lunch here in London, I met a girl who does a work a bit ... unusual. I know..there are many weird jobs around the world: the man who turns pages of the musical scores, the food dog's taster, the knife thrower's assistant and also .... the strawberry's taster.
- Friday, 11 July 2014
Yes, this is Alessandra's job, class 1980 and "citizen of the world", because of her work she has to travel very often. By the way, let's start from the beginning.
A master's degree in Agro-Industrial Biotechnology, vegetable address, obtained at the University of Verona and a doctorate in molecular biology at one of the world's top universities in agricultural field in Holland: the Wageningen University.
During his doctorate Alessandra spent much of her time doing basic researches, none of them applied to the real world. But the theory soon wasn't enough anymore and therefore she decided that she would work with anything but at least something that was a bit understandable and tangible. Something "eatable". So she decided to send some cv's to some of the most important agrarian industries all around the world. And when she got the opportunity to work with strawberries ....she took it right away.
She told me very interesting things that I absolutely didn't know about this fruit that we all use to eat, especially in this season of the year. For example, I didn't know that some varieties of strawberries can be so bitter to cover any other flavors for hours. One bite is enough and there is no need to swallowing to feel that their taste is extremely bad. Obviously this varieties won't go for sale in markets but they represent one of the many examples of biodiversity: the most common variety of strawberries we know it's the beautiful and delicious red one. But in reality there are so many varieties, all different from one another. For example, did you know that exist one variety of strawberry that is....completely white? And not because it's not mature enough but because white colour is just its natural colour.
Alessandra told me that she tried them once when she was studing in Holland. She told me that for a basket of five strawberries sickly and albino looking she spent about 8 euro. She was ready to experience a terrible taste...but she was pleasantly denial. Their flavor was delicious.
Her work consists essentially in finding, keeping and breeding varieties of strawberries with interesting features (from an agronomic point of view) and not currently present in strawberry varieties you can currently find on the global market. But be careful: this has nothing to do with GMOs. This is traditional breeding or intentional modification of process characteristics of cultivated plants (most abundant crop, disease resistance, etc.). A process as old as the world, or at least as agriculture: at least ten thousand years. Any kind of fruit or vegetables that we commonly use to cook ran away in the process. Even onions. Walk among the fruit and vegetable section of the supermarket is like being a bit of an "American tourist in Rome". Any variety of fruit or vegetable is thousands of years away from the wild varieties. About wheat, for example, Alexandra told me that the process of genetic improvement in upper Mesopotamia began many years before Roman Empire's birth.
With this work, this hit girl has visited lot of countries in the world: Messico, California, Florida, Olanda and Inghilterra.
Now the curiousity part: did you know that strawberries produced in America are not for European market? Are you wondering why? Simply because people think they are "monsters" or genetically modified products. In the USA, giants are strawberries and giant are also their packaging.
French have totally different tastes. They don't care about strawberries to be good looking: they just like them to be good to eat.
British instead are making out most of the production of the strawberries during Wimbledon tennis tournament's period, so they grow a special type of Strawberry plants producing a big amount of fruit in just 3-4 weeks, in June.