Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Freaky Fruit

While trolling the internet recently I came across photographer Uli Westphal, whose work "deal[s] with the way humans perceive, depict and transform the natural world." My favorite photographs are the series dealing with food, specifically fruits and vegetables.
The first one that caught my eye is the "Mutatoes," or mutant food series.  In the artist's words,
"The complete absence of botanical anomalies in our supermarkets has caused us to regard the consistency of produce presented there as natural. Produce has become a highly designed, monotonous product. We have forgotten, and in many cases never experienced, the way fruits, roots, and vegetables can actually look (and taste)."

Because of my deep love of tomatoes, I really like the Lycopersicum series. These photographs show the many different varieties of tomatoes that exist. The artist writes that industrialization has led to a focus on high-yielding, uniform crops and livestock. This, in turn, has resulted in many varieties of fruit, vegetables, and even livestock becoming extinct or on the brink of extinction. He writes that the tomato pictures are the first in a series of photographs that will show different varieties and breeds of food and animals that we may not be aware of.

I like the photographs, but I'm also interested in the message. I recently read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and the author touched on the subject of endangered varieties of farm animals and vegetables. Until I got interested in gardening and growing my own food, the thought of a dark reddish-purple tomato, or a tomato with ridges and ripples, seemed too weird to me. This wasn't what I was used to seeing in the store, i.e. perfectly red, round tomatoes. Now I understand and appreciate the many different varieties of tomatoes I can get and grow. Nothing beats the taste of a freshly-picked tomato from your own backyard. I like experimenting with different varieties too. Three years ago I had not heard of Black Krim tomatoes, or chocolate peppers, and now I'm growing both!  One of my new favorites sites is Seed Savers Exchange, a non-profit dedicated to preserving heirloom seeds. I've spent time looking through the online catalog and wishing I had the space to grow more crops. While on the farm over the weekend, I drooled over the kitchen garden. Oh to have room to grow melons and potatoes!

p.s. I plan to put pictures up of my Oklahoma farm visit as soon as I organize them. Although they lied to me about the watermelon and getting to ride a combine, I did thoroughly enjoy our BBQ and loved spending time in the middle of nowhere. It was so peaceful out there.


  1. i love this! those charts of photographs are amazing. i want them hanging on my wall. thank you for sharing them.

    i recognize about a third of the varieties in that "lycopersicum" shot...i'm growing a lot of them, too, like the reisetomate (lumpy one in the center), green zebra (four left from that), lemon plum (two up and one to the right from green zebra), etc... i think the homogenization of grocery produce is overall very unfortunate, but the silver lining is that it makes all these crazy varieties so unusual and adds to their appeal, enhancing the excitement of growing your own.

    i'm sad they lied about the watermelon :( i was looking forward to hearing what sort of black magic went into ripening a watermelon in june.

  2. Thanks for sharing! I just read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle as well! Great book.

  3. Great post! I love homegrown vegetables. Quirky veggies that one would never find in the store are a delight.

  4. @Emily--yeah, the prints are cool! I'd love to have something like this. You're growing so many tomatoes, I can't wait to see what they look like.

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  6. I use to see these odd shaped fruits in garden magazines, the tomatoes in particular. It's nice that you have the opportunity to experiment with different varieties. It's a lot of fun I'm sure.

    I'd like to try a few in my future gardens. I like the Tomato grouping as well.

  7. What a great idea for a photo essay--very beautiful too. Thanks for introducing me to it.

  8. Hi! Such a cool photograph of tomatoes! I recently wrote an article for a local magazine about tomatoes and definitely tried to promote heirloom varieties! I just recently really got into food-gardening as well. This is my second "big" year with it and I LOVE it. It takes more time cause I have all of my ornamental gardening going too but the reward of food gardening is unsurpassed! I love eating food from my garden. I harvested broccoli for tonight's dinner and it was such a brilliant green when steamed I told my kids if we could have this quality of stuff year-round we might be super-heroes! :)

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