Fruit mutations may have more of an impact on the world than we once thought

Across the world, different types of fruits are being introduced to the production economy, including many hybrid fruits, which are created by mating two varieties within single or multiple species. In fact, a lot of the fruits we eat today are crossbreeds between multiple staples. 

For example, boysenberries are a combination of raspberries, loganberries and blackberries. The grapefruit, first discovered in the 1750s in Barbados, is a cross between pomelos and oranges. In addition to natural hybrid fruits, geneticists are working to create different and unique fruit combos with the help of certain genetic mutations. A rare breed that was genetically engineered is the Rajput: a cross between a lemon and an orange, and peacotums, which include multiple fruit crosses. These fruits predominantly include peach, apricot, and plum. The peacotumes taste like a melon but have the luscious texture of a peach!

Senior and BITE club co-president Saanvi Mantripragada shared her thoughts on her the matter as well as her club that talks about it. “[BITE Club] explores the biochemistry of how foods are made and looks at the science behind alternative, healthier food options,” said  Mantripragada. “We aim to promote these options and show how eating healthy is beneficial.” 

Some of the labs they’ve conducted include the marshmallow lab, the boba lab, and the kale chips lab. The boba lab is by far the biggest lab they’ve conducted; they put together a kahoot on the scientific facts behind boba and the winners are awarded free boba!

Senior Abirami Kathiresan, the second president of the club agrees.

“I am definitely open to adding food crossing labs to the BITE club syllabus to make this idea more well-known,” she said. “Though this idea is relatively new, I think it’ll make an impact.”

There has been extensive research done on produce cross-breeding; as mentioned in the Oxford Academic Magazine, scientists have found genome sequencing of up to 6,000-year-old Citrullus Seeds that were part of a bitter-fleshed species before watermelon domestication. In the vast depths of Egypt, watermelon pulp was consumed as early as 4360 BC. These watermelon species ended up cross-breeding with others to develop the modernized watermelons we now consume today. 

“Concerning cross-sectioning foods, I think it’s a relatively new concept and will take some time to adjust to the produce market,” Kathiresan said. “Although it might take time, new fruits will impact how people choose their foods and lifestyles.”

Archaeologist and Botanist Darian Fuller at the University College of London tells Nature Genetics Magazine that “watermelons are among the earliest cultivated plants in various parts of the world.” She goes on to state that different watermelon cousins within the Citrullus family have been identified. Scientists have discovered genetic mutations in Citrullus lanatus, explaining how the extreme wild species of watermelon exist.

One such mutation completely shuts off the plant’s ability to make bitter components. These mutations created a fruit more appealing to human and worldly senses. However, geneticists are not sure if the mutations arose before or after farmers began the cultivation of these watermelons. 

Freshman biology teacher Jaime Vasquez has some of his own opinions fruit cross-sectioning. Vazquez believes that it is a good idea and that people will definitely go for it once it has been a tried and tested product.

“It might be a bit too early to tell how [fruit cross-sectioning] will impact the market.” Vazquez said. “But one thing for sure is that it will affect purchases based on organic quality.” 

Jaime Vazquez

This idea has even spread to Washington University. A decadent new apple variety has been developed and perfected over the years and the locals have responded quite well. A report from Discover Magazine states that a crossbreed between certain apple varieties created the perfect fruit. The apple’s delicious flavor and texture were achieved by 20 years of horticultural work. 

At Washington University, where more than 60% of the U.S. apple supply is grown, a tree fruit breeding program has working to develop Cosmic Crisp. They say it’s for “growers’ bank accounts and consumers’ taste buds.” 

They’ve created a recipe for the decadent and ever-lasting sweetening taste of this apple. Before the apple blossom petals fully open, breeders extract male flower anthers. They then dust that pollen onto the female flower and remove its petals after to discourage pests from interfering with the different pollen types. Kate Evans, a Washington University professor is one of the four tasters of the apples in the program. On a busy day, she tastes up to 100 apples!

As seedlings develop, only a certain few are deemed fit to move to the next stage of the process, clonal propagation. This asexual reproduction method is responsible for a lot of commercial nursery trees. Growers make exact copies of a tree by cutting the bud from another and manually inserting it in the rootstock. This new bud grows to become the trunk of the tree as it undergoes development. As evaluators only take a few of the trees, the variety decreases but the number of trees produced increases significantly.

Cross-sectioning food types is certainly intriguing, as Mantripragada explains it’s importance to the produce industry. “It is certainly an interesting idea to mix different food types, and if it tastes good, I think people will eat it,” she said. “However, on the ethical side, I’ve grown up eating organic fruits, so I’m not sure if it will be as appealing to our communities. But I think it has the potential to grow.”

Ultimately, fruit cross breeding is an interesting addition to the produce market and brings a whole new world of different fruits we never thought imaginable. Different cross-sections have created the perfect delicacies across the United States, and scientists will continue to uncover exciting aspects of the food world we have yet to discover. 

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