Food and Drink 

One good thing added to another

We have Gorillaz, the amazing virtual band that hybridizes great animation and pop culture narratives with great music, siphoning from pop, alt rock, dub and hip hop veins, to name a few.

We have cars and SUVs that are hybrids, running on gasoline and batteries; plug-in electricity, gas and batteries; fuel cells and batteries. And we have vehicles that are crosses of cars and SUVs themselves.

We have part-mechanical and part-human hyper cyborgs in fiction and real life, and humanoid robots, or are those robotic humans? The latest, the geminoid DK out of Denmark, is so realistic it's tough to pick one out in a crowd.

We have all kinds of hybridized plants and crops, bred to resist all kinds of plagues, including herbicides like Monsanto's Roundup. There's hybrid corn, hybrid wheat and hybrid tomatoes that resist heat, drought and viruses, as well as one variety that even resists frost, thanks to what might be called the ultimate plant hybridization, which has turned it into a kind of horror-movie poster child for the non-GMO movement: gene-splicing with a white flounder native to the Arctic.

With the busy minds and hands of humanity forever at work, it seems we live in an eternally hybridizing and homogenizing world, some of the results more successful than others, especially when it comes to food.

Citrus plants are near the top of the hybrid list, mainly because citrus seldom grows true from seed (meaning it's the same as the mother plant). So horticulturalists are forever grafting this specimen to that, coming up with some interesting, delicious, even classic results.

The citrus parent species only numbers three, says food expert Harold McGee: citron, mandarin/tangerine, and pummelo, the big yellow fruit you often see in Asian food markets that looks like a giant grapefruit. As for the citrus offspring, they range from sweet oranges, the offshoots of pummelo crossed most likely with mandarin; to grapefruit, the cross of sweet oranges and pummelo; lemons, from crossing citron with sour lime and pummelo; and tangelos, from tangerines and grapefruit.

One of my all-time favourites has to be the bergamot orange, primarily known to most of us, in North America at least, as the wonderfully fragrant flavouring in Earl Grey tea.

Bergamot oranges - not to be confused with the mint-family herb known as bergamot, also called bee balm or Oswego tea - come from a hybrid citrus native to Calabria in southern Italy. The first bergamot orange tree likely resulted from crossing the sweet lime (confusingly, also know as sweet lemon) and the sour or bitter orange, also called Seville oranges, used in Seville marmalade, of course, as well as orange water.


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