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Yes, I'm a fructivist. My mission is to show you what you're missing

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  • Richard Morris
    George Monbiot The Guardian, Tuesday September 2 2008 http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/02/food.foodanddrink Yes, I m a fructivist. My mission
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 5, 2008
      George Monbiot
      The Guardian,
      Tuesday September 2 2008
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/02/food.foodanddrink


      Yes, I'm a fructivist. My mission is to show you what you're missing
      We have lost the sweetest of our native fruit: the only way to get it
      back is to grow it - even if that means guerrilla grafting
      All comments (132)

      o Article history

      I feel almost shy about writing this column. It contains no
      revelations, no call to arms. No one gets savaged - well, only mildly.
      The subject is almost inconsequential. Yet it has become an obsession
      which, at this time of year, forbids me to concentrate for long on
      anything else.

      Though we still subsist largely on junk, even bilious old gits like me
      are forced to admit that the quality and variety of most types of food
      sold in Britain has greatly improved. But one kind has deteriorated.
      You can buy mangoes, papayas, custard apples, persimmons,
      pomegranates, mangosteens, lychees, rambutans and god knows what else.
      But almost all the fruit sold here now seems to taste the same: either
      rock-hard and dry, or wet and bland. A mango may be ambrosia in India;
      it tastes like soggy toilet paper in the UK. And the variety of native
      fruits on sale is smaller than it has been for 200 years.

      Why? Most people believe it's because the supermarkets select for
      appearance, not taste. This might be true for vegetables, but for
      fruit it's evidently wrong. Green mangoes, Conference pears, unripe
      Bramley, Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apples look about as
      appealing as a shrink-wrapped stool. Appearance has nothing to do with
      it. What counts to the retailer is how well the variety travels.

      Take the Egremont Russet, for example. It's a small apple that looks
      like a conker wrapped in sandpaper. But it has one inestimable
      quality. It can be dropped from the top of Canary Wharf, smash a
      kerbstone and come to no harm. This means it can be trucked from an
      orchard at Land's End to a packing plant in John O'Groats, via Sydney,
      Washington and Vladivostock, then back to a superstore in Penzance
      (this is the preferred route for most of the fruit sold in the UK) and
      remain fit for sale. The supermarkets must have had some trouble
      shifting it because of its strange appearance, so they promoted it as
      a connoisseur's apple. Such is our suggestibility that almost everyone
      believes this, even though a dispassionate tasting would show you that
      it's as sweet and juicy as a box of Kleenex.

      For the same reason, we are assaulted with Conference pears, most of
      which resemble some kind of heavy ordnance, rather than any one of a
      hundred exquisite varieties such as the Durondeau, Belle Julie,
      Urbaniste, Glou Morceau, Ambrosia, Professeur du Breuil or Althorp
      Crasanne. It is because these pears are so delicious that they cannot
      be marketed. They melt in the mouth, which means they would also melt
      in the truck before it left the farm gate. As the best pears, plums,
      peaches and cherries are those which go soft and juicy when ripe, the
      grocers ensure that we never eat them.

      To compound the problem, the supermarkets demand that fruit is picked
      long before it ripens: it doesn't soften until it rots. This makes
      great commercial sense. It also ensures that no one in his right mind
      would want to eat it. But, happily for the retailers, we have
      forgotten what fruit should taste like. The only way to find out is
      either to travel abroad or - the low-carbon option - to grow your own.
      I find myself becoming a fruit evangelist, a fructivist, whose mission
      is to show people what they are missing.

      When I lived in Oxford, at a time when allotments were underused, I
      spent a week in the Bodleian library reading Hogg and Bull's
      Herefordshire Pomona, a massive book of apples and pears, written in
      the 1870s (you can now buy it on CD from the Marcher Apple Network).
      Then I cleared two and a half plots and planted the best varieties I
      could find. I left just as the trees were ready to fruit. But land
      here in mid-Wales is cheap. I bought half an acre and have started
      planting a second orchard.

      When I first tried to place an order, I caused great excitement among
      the nurseries I phoned. Where had I seen these apples? Who recommended
      them? Two of them, I discovered, had been extinct for at least 50
      years. So I have had to settle for second best, by which I mean breeds
      that still exist. I began by planting a Ribston Pippin and an
      Ashmead's Kernel. These apples, both exquisite when fully ripe, can be
      stored from October till May. To spread the fruit as far through the
      year as possible, I have ordered an apple called the Irish Peach,
      which ripens in early August; a St Edmund's Pippin (September) and a
      Wyken Pippin (December to April). After a long search I think I have
      pinned down the apple I once tasted and loved in a friend's garden.
      I'm pretty confident that it was a Forfar, also know as the Dutch
      Mignonne, so I've bought one of those too. If I'd had more space, I
      would also have planted a Catshead, a Boston Russet, a Sturmer Pippin
      and a Reinette Grise.

      I have bought two pears - a Seckle and a Beurré Rance - a green plum
      (the Cambridge Gage), a fig, a medlar, a peach, currants,
      gooseberries, raspberries, loganberries and blueberries. But what
      excites me most are the suggestions made by a man called Ken Fern.
      Once a London bus driver, Fern has spent most of his life cataloguing
      and growing the edible species of fruit and vegetable which can
      survive in this country. His list now extends to 7,000, some of which
      are featured in his book Plants for a Future. I've decided to buy an
      Arnold Thorn (Crataegus arnoldiana), which belongs to the same genus
      as the hawthorn, but grows sweet juicy fruits the size of cherries,
      and to replace my hedge with Elaeagnus x ebbingei, which produces
      sweet red berries with edible seeds, in (uniquely) April and May. This
      means, if it works out, that I can eat fresh fruit all the year round.
      I can store apples and Beurré Rance pears until the Eleagnus fruits,
      then my strawberries should be ready more or less when it stops. One
      day, when I can afford it, I will buy more land and plant a few dozen
      of the weird species Fern has found.

      Most people have less space than I do, but even a tiny garden can
      support half a dozen apple trees, if you grow them as cordons (single
      stems with short spurs) 80cm apart against a wall. If you have room
      for only a couple of pots, you could grow blueberries, strawberries,
      cranberries or some of the little shrubs Fern recommends, such as
      Vaccinium praestans and Gaultheria shallon. Or you could become a
      guerrilla planter or guerrilla grafter, growing fruit on roadsides, on
      commons and in parks and wasteland. Apple twigs of any kind can be
      grafted on to crab trees. Medlars and one breed of pear (a delicious
      variety called Joséphine des Malines) can be grafted on to hawthorn.
      Kiwi fruit, passion fruit and a vine called Schisandra grandiflora
      will climb into trees of any kind.

      It's not just the produce I love. When you start growing fruit, you
      enter a world of recondite knowledge, accumulated over centuries of
      amateur experiments. You must choose the right rootstocks and
      pollinators and learn about bees, birds and caterpillars. But above
      all you must learn patience. Growing fruit forces you to think ahead,
      to imagine a sweeter future and then to wait. Perhaps it is this, as
      much as the forgotten flavours, that I have been missing.

      monbiot.com
    • Jim
      He should have brought the Agroforestry Research Trust into the article I think..this place stands out in this field. http://www.agroforestry.co.uk/ ...
      Message 2 of 2 , Sep 6, 2008
        He should have brought the Agroforestry Research Trust into the
        article I think..this place stands out in this field.

        http://www.agroforestry.co.uk/


        --- In pfaf@yahoogroups.com, "Richard Morris" <mailinglists@...>
        wrote:
        >
        > George Monbiot
        > The Guardian,
        > Tuesday September 2 2008
        >
        http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/02/food.foodanddrink
        >
        >
        > Yes, I'm a fructivist. My mission is to show you what you're missing
        > We have lost the sweetest of our native fruit: the only way to get
        it
        > back is to grow it - even if that means guerrilla grafting
        > All comments (132)
        >
        > o Article history
        >
        > I feel almost shy about writing this column. It contains no
        > revelations, no call to arms. No one gets savaged - well, only
        mildly.
        > The subject is almost inconsequential. Yet it has become an
        obsession
        > which, at this time of year, forbids me to concentrate for long on
        > anything else.
        >
        > Though we still subsist largely on junk, even bilious old gits like
        me
        > are forced to admit that the quality and variety of most types of
        food
        > sold in Britain has greatly improved. But one kind has deteriorated.
        > You can buy mangoes, papayas, custard apples, persimmons,
        > pomegranates, mangosteens, lychees, rambutans and god knows what
        else.
        > But almost all the fruit sold here now seems to taste the same:
        either
        > rock-hard and dry, or wet and bland. A mango may be ambrosia in
        India;
        > it tastes like soggy toilet paper in the UK. And the variety of
        native
        > fruits on sale is smaller than it has been for 200 years.
        >
        > Why? Most people believe it's because the supermarkets select for
        > appearance, not taste. This might be true for vegetables, but for
        > fruit it's evidently wrong. Green mangoes, Conference pears, unripe
        > Bramley, Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apples look about as
        > appealing as a shrink-wrapped stool. Appearance has nothing to do
        with
        > it. What counts to the retailer is how well the variety travels.
        >
        > Take the Egremont Russet, for example. It's a small apple that looks
        > like a conker wrapped in sandpaper. But it has one inestimable
        > quality. It can be dropped from the top of Canary Wharf, smash a
        > kerbstone and come to no harm. This means it can be trucked from an
        > orchard at Land's End to a packing plant in John O'Groats, via
        Sydney,
        > Washington and Vladivostock, then back to a superstore in Penzance
        > (this is the preferred route for most of the fruit sold in the UK)
        and
        > remain fit for sale. The supermarkets must have had some trouble
        > shifting it because of its strange appearance, so they promoted it
        as
        > a connoisseur's apple. Such is our suggestibility that almost
        everyone
        > believes this, even though a dispassionate tasting would show you
        that
        > it's as sweet and juicy as a box of Kleenex.
        >
        > For the same reason, we are assaulted with Conference pears, most of
        > which resemble some kind of heavy ordnance, rather than any one of a
        > hundred exquisite varieties such as the Durondeau, Belle Julie,
        > Urbaniste, Glou Morceau, Ambrosia, Professeur du Breuil or Althorp
        > Crasanne. It is because these pears are so delicious that they
        cannot
        > be marketed. They melt in the mouth, which means they would also
        melt
        > in the truck before it left the farm gate. As the best pears, plums,
        > peaches and cherries are those which go soft and juicy when ripe,
        the
        > grocers ensure that we never eat them.
        >
        > To compound the problem, the supermarkets demand that fruit is
        picked
        > long before it ripens: it doesn't soften until it rots. This makes
        > great commercial sense. It also ensures that no one in his right
        mind
        > would want to eat it. But, happily for the retailers, we have
        > forgotten what fruit should taste like. The only way to find out is
        > either to travel abroad or - the low-carbon option - to grow your
        own.
        > I find myself becoming a fruit evangelist, a fructivist, whose
        mission
        > is to show people what they are missing.
        >
        > When I lived in Oxford, at a time when allotments were underused, I
        > spent a week in the Bodleian library reading Hogg and Bull's
        > Herefordshire Pomona, a massive book of apples and pears, written in
        > the 1870s (you can now buy it on CD from the Marcher Apple Network).
        > Then I cleared two and a half plots and planted the best varieties I
        > could find. I left just as the trees were ready to fruit. But land
        > here in mid-Wales is cheap. I bought half an acre and have started
        > planting a second orchard.
        >
        > When I first tried to place an order, I caused great excitement
        among
        > the nurseries I phoned. Where had I seen these apples? Who
        recommended
        > them? Two of them, I discovered, had been extinct for at least 50
        > years. So I have had to settle for second best, by which I mean
        breeds
        > that still exist. I began by planting a Ribston Pippin and an
        > Ashmead's Kernel. These apples, both exquisite when fully ripe, can
        be
        > stored from October till May. To spread the fruit as far through the
        > year as possible, I have ordered an apple called the Irish Peach,
        > which ripens in early August; a St Edmund's Pippin (September) and a
        > Wyken Pippin (December to April). After a long search I think I have
        > pinned down the apple I once tasted and loved in a friend's garden.
        > I'm pretty confident that it was a Forfar, also know as the Dutch
        > Mignonne, so I've bought one of those too. If I'd had more space, I
        > would also have planted a Catshead, a Boston Russet, a Sturmer
        Pippin
        > and a Reinette Grise.
        >
        > I have bought two pears - a Seckle and a Beurré Rance - a green plum
        > (the Cambridge Gage), a fig, a medlar, a peach, currants,
        > gooseberries, raspberries, loganberries and blueberries. But what
        > excites me most are the suggestions made by a man called Ken Fern.
        > Once a London bus driver, Fern has spent most of his life
        cataloguing
        > and growing the edible species of fruit and vegetable which can
        > survive in this country. His list now extends to 7,000, some of
        which
        > are featured in his book Plants for a Future. I've decided to buy an
        > Arnold Thorn (Crataegus arnoldiana), which belongs to the same genus
        > as the hawthorn, but grows sweet juicy fruits the size of cherries,
        > and to replace my hedge with Elaeagnus x ebbingei, which produces
        > sweet red berries with edible seeds, in (uniquely) April and May.
        This
        > means, if it works out, that I can eat fresh fruit all the year
        round.
        > I can store apples and Beurré Rance pears until the Eleagnus fruits,
        > then my strawberries should be ready more or less when it stops. One
        > day, when I can afford it, I will buy more land and plant a few
        dozen
        > of the weird species Fern has found.
        >
        > Most people have less space than I do, but even a tiny garden can
        > support half a dozen apple trees, if you grow them as cordons
        (single
        > stems with short spurs) 80cm apart against a wall. If you have room
        > for only a couple of pots, you could grow blueberries, strawberries,
        > cranberries or some of the little shrubs Fern recommends, such as
        > Vaccinium praestans and Gaultheria shallon. Or you could become a
        > guerrilla planter or guerrilla grafter, growing fruit on roadsides,
        on
        > commons and in parks and wasteland. Apple twigs of any kind can be
        > grafted on to crab trees. Medlars and one breed of pear (a delicious
        > variety called Joséphine des Malines) can be grafted on to hawthorn.
        > Kiwi fruit, passion fruit and a vine called Schisandra grandiflora
        > will climb into trees of any kind.
        >
        > It's not just the produce I love. When you start growing fruit, you
        > enter a world of recondite knowledge, accumulated over centuries of
        > amateur experiments. You must choose the right rootstocks and
        > pollinators and learn about bees, birds and caterpillars. But above
        > all you must learn patience. Growing fruit forces you to think
        ahead,
        > to imagine a sweeter future and then to wait. Perhaps it is this, as
        > much as the forgotten flavours, that I have been missing.
        >
        > monbiot.com
        >
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