Sunday, October 25, 2009

An Oregon Diversity of Apples, Grapes, Pears, and More

On the way to Bandon, OR, to visit friends, we stopped at the orchard of 82-year-old Nick Botner and his wife, Clara, where more than 4,000 apple tree varieties share the land with hundreds of kinds of pears, grapes, plums, and exotic fruits such as these pawpaws. Nick is a firm believer in the importance of saving rare and unusual fruit varieties and grows many that have yet to acquire names beyond their numbered titles given to them by the various state agricultural programs that developed them.
My father grew up on an apple ranch in Idaho, and my husband Greg and I wrote a cookbook called "A Is for Apple" years ago, which encouraged cooks to try different apple varieties in their cooking and had writeups of the histories of about a dozen different varieties. We're both fans of preserving genetic diversity in both food plants and animals; there could be genes in these less familiar organisms that could be disease resistant, could impart long-term storage capabilities, or could possess other trits we don't know would become useful in the future. Besides, variety is interesting and fun for its own sake!

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