The New Yorker‘s double Food Issue for August 19 and 26, 2002 is a standout issue of the magazine, for me, in many ways – every piece in the mag was fascinating, and one, “The Fruit Detective”, was a nearly perfect reading experience. Others apparently feel the same: MeFi poster semmi highlights the short one-page anecdotes that appeared throughout the book.

“The Fruit Detective” is a profile of a character’s character: David Karp, an ex-junkie ex-Wall Streeter who once produced a Lydia Lunch record and now spends his days in pith helmet, hot on the trail of both the world’s rarest fruit and the deeply sensual, rare experience of eating said fruit.

Simple, straightforward reportage on this eccentric person would have been enough to hold my attention; in the event, John Seabrook’s amusing, carefully crafted prose deepened my reading pleasure by echoing the manic qualities of his subject and by casting reported events in the mold of, among other things, hard-boiled detective fiction:

…Thomas Antel, the landowner, would let us view the plants only from across the road. Karp, clad in his pith helmet, attempted to extract information from Antel about the consortium’s intentions.

“So how are the plants doing?” Karp asked, taking out his notebook.

“It’s a learning experience, David, a learning experience,” Antel said, looking nervously at the notes Karp was taking. “What can I tell you? I wish I could show you the plants, but there’s too much money involved to screw this up.” He rubbed his face hard with both hands, and his mood seemed to darken. “People feel a sense of entitlement, like they can just come down here and see what we’re doing.”

Karp was undaunted. “Where did the breeder get his breeding stock from?” he demanded. “Because they say there are some varieties that taste better than others.”

“They may be right, David, they may be right. Look, I can’t talk about this. There’s some very big players involved in this thing, and they don’t care who gets hurt – that’s just the way it is.”

I loved this piece, giggling my way through it; and when it was over, I wanted MORE!

Lucky for me, Karp’s careful cultivation of his own quirkiness has made him an attractive media target. Here are some Google-found links:

On the Trail of the Fruit Detective, from the Santa Monica Mirror.

The Fruit Detective, apparently a supporting page for a radio show, California Heartland.

the Splendid Table is a Minnesota Public Radio food show, no longer broadcast in Seattle, which I recall enjoying. This link points to transcripts of Karp’s appearances on the show.

15 thoughts on “The Fruit Detective

  1. Hi,

    How does one email “The Fruit Detective” with an invitation? If he’s ever up in the Portland, OR area, we have some interesting fruit-bearing trees, bushes and vines all planted in the ’40’s and ’50’s by my husband’s grandfather. We’re not farmers, we don’t sell the stuff. And I’d be really interested to find out what the heck type of blueberries we have.

  2. I want to get a contact for David Karp
    I was a fruitarian in Hawaii for over 4 years
    and have a plethora of information on tropical fruits and varieties

    please forward to david

  3. Same as above… I’d love to have contact info for the Fruit Detective to share a little important fruit info! What a great article that was.

  4. i’m a fruit fanic at heart and have traveled around looking for fruit. while visit a friend in nyc, she insisted that i read an article in the new yorker about the fruit detective. i’m glad that i read the article because i’m very much like mr. karp myself. i love all the fruits mentioned in the article and others not mentioned. i’m writting in order to get in contact with mr. karp. i’ll being graduating from college this december and wanted to know if he was in need of an apprenetice.

  5. I am from Colombia (even though I am now in the US) and I wanted to contact David Karp to tell him a little about the fruit we have down there–I can guarantee that no one can beat the mamoncillo in terms of taste and exotic nature. Can you forward me his contact info?

  6. All right, I’m not too smart but i was wonderin’, what is the rarest fruit in the world?Or do you just not know? Any ways i’ll be pondering this while I listen to I.C.P. and Tupack and thinking realy hard whith those two in your mind isn’t exactly healthy ya’ know?Any ways im gabbin’ like a rich [cencored} valey chick so just don’t keep me hanging, alright? LATES

  7. Candy Man:

    I don’t know. Maybe David Karp knows, but you can’t reach him thru this site unless he finds it via google.

    ICP! Have some soda.

  8. The dialogue reminds me astonishingly of a delightfully twisted survey of the orchid growing busines. What a perverse bunch of people!

    “Orchid Fever: A Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust, and Lunacy” (!), by Eric Hansen

    Swallowed the book in a night; it goes very quickly. Mostly fascinating. Orchid people are really, really weird…

  9. My husband and I vacationed in Bali in 1998. We ate a wonderful fruit. I could not pronounce the name the local’s called it. I have done some research, and I think it is called salak. It tasted like a cross between a pair and a nut. It was wonderful. I have looked everywhere and can not find it in the states.

    Have you ever tried it? Do you know where I can purchase some in the States?

    Jo Dell

  10. My husband is under the impression that there is a book out there called The Fruit Detective that he saw in CBS Sunday Morning. I can’t find it.
    Is there a book?

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