Friday, June 22, 2012

Our menu is changing fast. This week we saw more apples disappear, organic granny smith and red delicious. Minimally treated local golden delicious and stayman winesap ended. The first new apples of the year will come late in the summer. Florida valencia oranges ended, but California valencia finally tastes good. The heat wave may have ended the local strawberries, but local raspberries are in stronger supply. Local black raspberries are trickling in.

Organic shallot supplies of last year's harvest are finally exhausted and freshly dug, not yet cured (outer skin allowed to dry), beautiful new shallots are available. Find them next to spring onions, below the cabbages. This Monday we may get our last of the season NYS asparagus, as the North American harvest is ending. 

The biggest changes to our menu this week involve the items that are now all locally sourced. They include all blueberries, red and white minimally treated cherries, green and purple basil, fava and green beans, red, chioggia and bunched beets, nappa, green and savoy cabbage. Also bunched carrots, purple cauliflower, fresh garlic stalks, flower power local salad, purple scallions, squash blossoms and all of the summer squashes are local. They include cousa or magda, patty pans, roly poly, green, yellow and striped zucchini, yellow straightneck and crookneck squash. We have our earliest arrival of local tomatoes, red and heirloom, all hothouse grown. Coming soon are local pluots, sour cherries and starting on Monday are the first local corn of the year. Next week we will try sugar baby watermelons with seeds from Lady Moon Farms in Georgia. This week we had very good seedless watermelons from the southern desert climate of California, which prompted members to ask once again. "What's up with seedless fruit?"

There is a very big difference between traditional breeding and genetic modification. Natural reproduction or traditional cultivation occur within the boundaries of nature between very closely related species. Dogs may mate with dogs, but not with cats. Pollen from a zucchini may fertilize a yellow squash, but not a pepper. Genetic engineering crosses genes between unrelated species that would never occur in nature, such as splicing an arctic flounder gene in tomatoes to allow the tomato to withstand cold. Organic fruits and vegetables cannot be raised using genetic modification and we will not buy non-organic produce that might have been genetically modified. Seedlessness and genetic modification have nothing to do with each other. 

There is evidence that Persians 6,00 years ago were very involved in developing seedless grapes. They were not the first, and in fact humans have been carefully breeding plants to get desired results since the dawn of agriculture, long before recorded history. Small seeds or larger fruits were among the traits that they sought to reproduce. Seedless oranges and seedless grapes are the result of cultivating naturally occurring seedless plants. A tree found on a plantation in Brazil in the 19th century spontaneously changed (mutated), and produced seedless oranges. From this single tree, every single navel orange tree has descended. You may well wonder how seedless trees reproduce. or more accurately, are reproduced. 

A branch of a desired fruit is grafted onto a different tree (or in the case of grapes, a vine), and fruits from that branch will produce the desired fruit. Some trees or vines will provide sturdier, healthier roots, but not the most desirable fruits. To this "rootstock" desirable fruits will be grafted.

I will leave you with some facts of life in agriculture and write more about them in coming weeks. An apple seed will not reproduce the apple that it came from. A red delicious seed will not produce a red delicious apple. but rather a random new and previously unknown apple. All apples are grown using splicing and grafting techniques. All citrus seeds may produce citrus fruits, but not necessarily the same fruit that it came from. There has been so much grafting and crossing of varieties, that any of the many fruits that contributed to the makeup of the current tree, may be reproduced from the seeds of that tree.
In weeks to come I will write about more aspects of seedlessness.
This week we have 118 local items

Allen Zimmerman