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The development this week of the self-peeling orange is only the tip of a food mountain of research into fruit and related comestibles. A Harvard University study published last December, for example, investigated the protective effects of 46 fruits and vegetables against prostate cancer. Only tomato-based foods and strawberries were found to be beneficial. In June 1995, however, researchers in Florida found that grapefruit juice may give a boost to the effect of anti-rejection drugs taken by transplant patients.

Such findings may explain why a 1995 survey found that while curries are now the favourite lunchtime meal of British workers, they still stick to fruit crumbles for dessert. Even those who expressed a preference for "anything with chocolate" show an astute grasp of modern scientific findings. Dark chocolate and red wine - particularly when taken together - have been found to be most effective in countering heart disease.

A recent study in Chicago, however, found that the link between solid fruit consumption and stroke risk was statistically insignificant. On the other hand, "men who drank 4.7 cups of tea per day had a 69 per cent reduced risk of stroke compared with men who drank 2.6 cups per day." Preliminary studies in Chicago have suggested that cranberries may help prevent the growth of tumours.

In the Philippines, they have an enlightened view of fruit.Last year, the Bureau of Food and Drugs threatened to ban fruit-flavoured condoms. "You only put a flavour when it is something to eat," said an administrator.

Little of this is much recommendation for the self-peeling orange. Neither, it must be admitted, was a paper in the journal Zoo Biology in 1985 entitled: "Orang-utans' colour preference for food items." Three adult and three juvenile experimental animals were offered the choice of food items artificially coloured red, green, blue or orange. Young orang-utans like coloured food more than adults, but adults eat it more quickly. One of the juveniles showed a distinct liking for red food.

Finally, we must mention Antonio Bussi, the former Argentine army general who is now Governor of the city of Tucuman. In May this year, he had all the oranges picked from the trees in Independence Square outside his office to avoid a repeat of a demonstration in which protesting workers had hurled oranges through his windows. If they ever develop a self-picking orange, there will be a ready market in Argentina.

In Spanish, incidentally, anaranjear means "to kill a cock by throwing oranges at it."