(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘fruit

“The avocado is a food without rival among the fruits, the veritable fruit of paradise”*…

The story of a fabulous fruit and of the Californian who made it widely available…

The most nutritious known fruit, the avocado — a mostly evergreen member of the laurel family — is a ghost of evolution that should have grown extinct when the animals that fed on it and disseminated its enormous seeds did. Mercifully, it did not. Ample in Europe and North American during the Ice Age, it somehow managed to survive in Mexico and spread from there. But even more impressively, it managed to survive its own self-defeating sexual relations — the botanical equivalent of the human wire-crossing Eric Berne described in his revelatory 1964 classic Games People Play.

Bald of petals though the tree’s small greenish blossoms may be, they are an example of “perfect flowers” — the botanical term for bisexual blooming plants, which can typically self-pollinate. The avocado, however, is far from reproductively self-sufficient due to an astonishing internal clock, which comes in two mirror-image varieties.

In some cultivars — like the Hass, Pinkerton, and Reed avocados — the blossoms open up into reproductive receptivity in their female guise each morning, then close by that afternoon; the following afternoon, they open in their male guise. Other cultivars — the Fuerte, Zutano, and Bacon avocado among them — bloom on the opposite schedule: female in the afternoon, male by morning.

This presents a Pyramus and Thisbe problem across the wall of time — while both partners inhabit the space of a single tree, they can’t reach each other across the day-parts and need to be pollinated by trees on the opposite schedule…

Ever since humans have cultivated Earth’s most nutritious fruit, they have tried to help the helpless romancer with various intervention strategies — grafting, planting trees with opposite blooming schedules near each other, even manually pollinating blossoms of the same tree.

The world’s most beloved avocado — the Hass — is the consequence of human interference consecrated by happenstance in the hands of a California mailman in the 1920s.

[There follows the remarkable tale of Rudolph Hass, whose avocados bring in more than a billion dollars a year for growers, accounting for four fifths of the American avocado industry.]

Today, every single Hass avocado in every neighborhood market that ever was and ever will be can be traced to a single mother tree grown by a destitute California mailman in 1926 — tender evidence that every tree is in some sense immortal, and a living testament to how chance and choice converge to shape our lives

Rudolph and Elizabeth Hass in front of the mother tree

Chance, Choice, and the Avocado: The Strange Evolutionary and Creative History of Earth’s Most Nutritious Fruit,” from @brainpicker in @brainpickings.

See also: “Here too it’s masquerade.”

David Fairchild

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As we peel and pit, we might recall that it was on this date in 1837 that John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, a pair of successful Worcester chemists, began manufacturing Worcestershire sauce, a savory flavoring that capitalizes on umami. Their condiment, which was broadly available to the public the following year, faced down scores of imitators to become the dominant brand, which it remains.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 28, 2022 at 1:00 am

“The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams”*…

Loading bees for transport

And moving those bees…

About 75% of crops and one-third of the global food supply rely on pollinators such as honeybees, according to Our World in Data. But farmers have to rely on commercially managed honeybees trucked in from other states to help pollinate certain crops, such as almonds, because there aren’t enough wild bees to do the job. And trucking bees hundreds or thousands of miles is not simple…

Honeybees are disappearing due to shrinking habitats and the growing use of pesticides. When there aren’t enough bees to pollinate fields of crops, companies pay beekeepers to transport their colonies of bees for pollination season. 

“The great pollination migration” happens every year in February when the almonds bloom in California.

Pollinating the seemingly endless fields of almond trees in California requires 85% to 90% of all honeybees available to pollinate in the U.S… Bees are trucked into California from across the country…

Earl and Merle Warren are brothers, truck drivers and co-owners of Star’s Ferry Transport, based in Burley, Idaho. They started hauling bees for a local beekeeper in 1990 and moved about 50 loads of approximately 22 million bees each last year for companies such as Browning’s Honey Co.

“This is not like a load of steel or lumber. These are live creatures. This is those beekeepers’ livelihoods, so we do everything possible to keep them alive,” Earl Warren said.

Some beekeepers estimate that every time you move a truck of bees, up to 5% of the queens die… Minimizing stress for bees is critical, so beekeepers rely on experienced truck drivers to navigate difficult situations such as warm weather, few opportunities to stop during the day and inspections…

A fascinating link in the modern food chain: “A day in the life of a honeybee trucker,” from Alyssa Sporrer (@SporrerAlyssa).

* Henry David Thoreau

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As we ponder pollination, we might spare a thought for a scientist whose very field of study was (and is) made possible by bees, Anders (Andreas) Dahl; he died on this date in 1789.  A botanist and student of Carl Linnaeus, he is the inspiration for, the namesake of, the dahlia flower.

220px-Double_dahlia
Dahlia, the flower named after Anders Dahl [source]

“Remember kids: brush your greens, eat your teeth, stay in milk, drink your school, don’t do sleep, and get your eight hours of drugs!”*…

Nearly-lost collard green varieties are being preserved and propagated across the country

On the preservation of a Southern staple…

In the American South, many people have fond memories of a pot of collard greens simmering on the stove for hours, seasoned with a ham hock and stirred by a parent or grandparent. Cousins to cauliflower and broccoli, collards are a hearty green known for their robust, slightly bitter taste and the rich, nutritious “pot liquor” they produce when cooked. These greens and their liquor have been lauded for generations, but few in the South know that there’s more than one kind of collard green. Even fewer know that there are dozens of different varieties, and that many are now on the verge of disappearing forever.

That’s where the Heirloom Collard Project comes in. By distributing and growing rare and unique collards, this massive collaboration has created ties between chefs, gardeners, farmers, and seedsmen who hope to preserve the plant’s genetic diversity.

Collards are not native to the United States. Instead, they’re Eurasian in origin, and ancient Romans and Greeks feasted on them thousands of years ago. As for how they became prevalent in the American South, scholars have a number of theories. Collard seeds may have been brought over from Portugal in the 18th century, or from the British Isles to the early colonies. However, the most prevalent theory is that enslaved Africans introduced them to the region, since collard greens were a staple crop in many parts of Africa. Historian John Egerton, in his 1987 book Southern Food, declared that “from Africa with the people in bondage came new foods,” such as okra, black-eyed peas, yams, and collard greens…

Seed savers are preserving and celebrating the enormous genetic diversity of collard greens: “The Farmers and Gardeners Saving the South’s Signature Green,” by Debra Freeman (@audiophilegirl) in @atlasobscura.

Robert Smigel

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As we dig in, we might recall that it was on this date in 1804 that John Wedgwood, son of industrialist potter Josiah Wedgwood (and so uncle of Charles Darwin), chaired the inaugural meeting of the Royal Horticultural Society, a group that he proposed and co-founded.

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We might also send hearty, healthy birthday greetings to Luther Burbank; he was born on this date in 1849. A botanist, horticulturist and pioneer in agricultural science, he developed more than 800 strains and varieties of plants– fruits, flowers, grains, grasses, and vegetables– over his 55-year career.

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“Give me juicy autumnal fruit, ripe and red from the orchard”*…

American fruit and nuts…

Pascale Georgiev, editorial director at Atelier Éditions, was researching botanical artwork a few years ago when she came across the US Department of Agriculture’s pomological watercolour collection, an archive of 7,500 watercolours of fruit and nuts grown in the US between 1886 and 1942, mostly created before photography was widespread. The discovery led to a new book, An Illustrated Catalog of American Fruits & Nuts (Atelier, £44), full of images that Georgiev describes as irresistible. “The belle angevine pear… makes my heart sing and I’m partial to a plum named tragedy.” She’s also proud that the book showcases women working in science: “Nine of this US department’s 21 artists were women. A rare thing at the time.” Most of all she’d like readers to think about biodiversity. “I hope they share my delight in discovering the history of the fruit we consume, alongside beautiful artworks.”

A glorious collection: “Get fruity: vintage botanical watercolors,” from @guardian.

* Walt Whitman

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As we ruminate on ripeness, we might recall that it was on this date in 1950 that the daily comic strip Peanuts premiered in eight newspapers: The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Minneapolis Tribune, The Allentown Call-Chronicle, The Bethlehem Globe-Times, The Denver Post, The Seattle Times, and The Boston Globe.  Its creator, Charles Schulz had developed the concept as a strip (L’il Folks) in his hometown paper, The St. Paul Pioneer Press, from 1947 to 1950.  At its peak, Peanuts ran in over 2,600 newspapers, with a readership of 355 million in 75 countries, and was translated into 21 languages.

First Peanuts strip

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 2, 2021 at 1:00 am

“If You Can’t Fix It, You Don’t Own It”*…

A just-issued report by the US Federal Trade Commission confirms that anti-repair actions by large companies are hurting small businesses, undermining your ownership rights, and hurting the planet. Of course, these are the very problems that we’ve been fighting for the past fifteen years—but it’s validating to see US government confirmation of the market imbalance.

The unanimous report, nearly two years in the making, follows public hearings and testimony from the FTC’s “Nixing the Fix” workshop in July 2019, and a demand from Congress in 2020 to report back. iFixit and other repair advocates told the Commission then how manufacturers design products that frustrate repair and force owners to use the manufacturers’ branded repair services, hurting consumers and stifling competition. Manufacturers claimed the market was working fine, and that opening up repair access would undermine the safety and security of their products. Today’s report is a rebuke to their arguments.

The FTC’s long-awaited report provides a thorough analysis of broad market failures, and recommendations for government action to address those failures. Some major findings included in the report:

– Warranties are being routinely voided, in violation of the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act. “The Commission takes these allegations seriously and will continue to address illegal practices in the marketplace.”

– “[T]he burden of repair restrictions may fall more heavily on communities of color and lower-income communities.”

– “The pandemic has exacerbated the effects of repair restrictions on consumers.”

The report summarizes the problems that consumers are facing from a variety of monopoly strategies. “Many manufacturers restrict independent repair and repair by consumers through:

– Product designs that complicate or prevent repair;

– Unavailability of parts and repair information;

– Designs that make independent repairs less safe;

– Policies or statements that steer consumers to manufacturer repair networks;

– Application of patent rights and enforcement of trademarks;

– Disparagement of non-OEM parts and independent repair;

– Software locks and firmware updates; or

– End User License Agreements.”

A rebuke of Apple, John Deere, and other manufacturers whose practices frustrate repair by “owners”: “FTC Report Finds Manufacturers’ Repair Restrictions Unwarranted.” Via @kwiens and @stewartbrand

ifixit.com

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As we resist rentiers, we might recall that it was on this date in 1893 that the U.S. Supreme court unanimously ruled that a tomato is a vegetable. In reaching their decision in Nix v. Hedden, a dispute over the appropriate duties to be levied pursuant to the Tarriff Act of 1883, the justices found that the “ordinary” understanding of a tomato as a vegetable should take precedence over the scientific fact that it is a fruit.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 10, 2021 at 1:01 am

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