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Mon, Oct. 14

Around the Bluhmin’ Town: Gender of fruit makes a big difference

Judy Bluhm, Courier Columnist

Judy Bluhm, Courier Columnist

Have you given much thought as to the sex of papayas lately? I recently read a Science Digest article and scientists have finally been able to determine the gender of papayas — only to discover that the most delicious of all are actually hermaphrodites!

I’m not sure that I’m ready to consider whether I’m eating a male or female fruit. It’s almost too weird and surreal to discuss. Why can’t some things be left a mystery? For the sake of science, I suppose, the “papaya breakthrough” was huge. Now growers are running through the fields and “disposing” of most of the male papayas (bitter tasting) and “limiting” the female papayas (less juicy) and “selecting” the big, sweet hermaphrodites. Hey, I’m not making this up!

I asked our produce workers at a local grocery store if they could tell the difference between female, male and hermaphrodite fruit. They each looked at me like I had a screw loose. When I told them that I only want to purchase hermaphrodite papayas, I think they went to get their store managers or security. (I decided to move on to the meat department, where gender issues seemed a bit clearer).

Do you like bell peppers? Well, if you flip over a pepper, you can determine its gender. The ones with four bumps are female and those with three bumps are male. The female peppers are full of seeds, but sweeter and better for eating raw. The males are better for cooking. Who knew?

An instructor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, claims that fruit and vegetables have “feelings.” They are “aware” of being picked and give off some sort of vibrations (like screaming) when they are being chopped or sliced. Ouch! So now I hesitate to slice a tomato. Is it female, male, a little of both? Worse, is it letting out a silent shriek?

If a team of scientists want to spend years of time and money on figuring out how to recognize the gender of fruits and vegetables, then it must be a big deal. Science reveals truths we could never imagine. Perhaps I have not been curious enough about what I’m bringing home in those little bags from the grocery store.

Oh, did I mention that the best coconuts are females? Tomatoes are really fruits and male tomatoes are tougher to slice. The sweetest mangos are females. Male nuts are a little bit chewier than female nuts. Vegetables grown in the ground are dense and thick skinned and tend to have fewer “feelings.” Seek out the hermaphrodites — I mean papayas (and don’t ask too many questions while in the produce department).

And salad greens? They are loaded with “screaming” vegetables. Dear Readers, wine might be the only safe and reliable item to keep in the kitchen. Drink up and do not worry

When it comes to fruit and veggies, just chop, dice, slice and enjoy.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local realtor. Have a question or a comment? Email Judy at

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