From the ABC 7 Weather team

Summer Heat, Drought Bringing Out Flavor in Produce

August 15, 2012 - 06:42 PM
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Even though the excruciating triple-digit heat and widespread drought has taken a toll on many crops, the sweetness and spiciness of certain produce is a bit zestier.

Even though the excruciating triple-digit heat and widespread drought has taken a toll on many crops, the sweetness and spiciness of certain produce is a bit zestier.

Farmers across the Central U.S. have been praying for rain to help the corn and soybean crops withering in the heat but have you noticed a change in taste to produce you have served at your dinner table this summer?

drought impact

Corn plants struggle to survive in a drought-stricken farm field near Evansville, Indiana, July 18, 2012. Photo courtesy of John Sommers, Reuters.

Take jalapeño poppers for instance. Normally in mid-summer they are rather tame, not too spicy. However, the warm weather and lack of rain is causing them to have a real kick!

Do you enjoy peppers? Well, this type of produce likes the heat. In dry, hot weather like we’ve seen this summer, peppers produce a high concentration of capsaicin, a specific alkaloid, making them pretty spicy as well. Onions and garlic are the same way; the heat and drought brings out more of a potent taste to them.

In general, the drier the weather during crop season, the more flavorful your favorite fruit and vegetable will be because it’ll be diluted less with water. So, this is the case for corn, beets, cucumbers and other vegetables. The same can be said for melons and cantaloupes that benefit from higher rates of photosynthesis, which cause higher concentration in the fruits’ sugar.

Cantelope

A popular summer fruit, this is a cantaloupe sliced in half.

Now, if the heat wave tames a bit and more rain helps to relieve the ongoing severe drought, then just the opposite will happen. The fruit and vegetables will be able to absorb the moisture and the water content will increase, diluting the flavor a bit. In the long run though, the rain is much needed to keep produce prices from skyrocketing beyond what is already expected from this summer's drought.

What is the drought picture  like in the Washington area? Check out this blog by Meteorologist Alex Liggitt.

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