Monday, November 10, 2008

Apples by Frank Browning

Frank Browning's lifelong fascination with apples began on his parents' orchard in the Appalachian hills of Kentucky. In Apples he charmingly demonstrates why this mysterious fruit continues to tempt and delight us.

Throughout Western memory, the apple has been the fruit of trouble, immortality, and temptation: Paris and the Trojan War; Nordic Loki and the apples of eternal life; and, of course, that infamous couple in the Garden. Browning leads us on a beguiling tour through the primal myths of the world's most popular fruit and then explains that the first apples appeared in Kazakhstan on the slopes of the Heavenly Mountains. He visits the apple germ-plasm repository in Geneva, New York, and describes the powerful effects of genetic engineering on the apples of the future. In Wenatchee, Washington, world capital of apple growing, he meets Mr. Granny Smith and learns about the apple's niche in the global marketplace, before setting off to sample Calvados from the pot stills of Normandy and cider from Somerset.

For the more practically inclined, Browning includes a selective listing of apple varieties, basic instructions for planting a back-yard orchard, and a selection of beloved apple recipes from around the world.

This was actually a really interesting book, and for the most part very easy to read. It had a very good "voice".

There was an obscenely long chapter that just went on and on and on about apples in Russia. Which actually would have been okay, but 80% of it was a political history of the scientific research in the former USSR. Definitely a snoozer!

I did find some informative tidbits though:

"The modern apples we find at fruit stands and supermarkets represent but a tiny slice of all the possible apples that have existed in the world. They are the descendants of thousands of years of selection for color, size, shape, and growth habits."

"Most modern Christians have grown up supposing that it was the apple that Eve snatched for Adam at the serpent's bidding, forever banishing them from Paradise. Although apples may have grown in Palestine at the time the biblical texts were written, no one thought to hang them on the tree of knowledge of good and evil until the fourth or fifth century A.D. ... The Eastern Church favored figs as the forbidden fruit, while others in the Roman Church argued for the grape."

Also, there was a bit about average apple consumption per person per year throughout the world which was really revealing.

Americans - 19 lbs
French - 33 lbs
Germans - 40 lbs
Italians - 57 lbs

The author also mentioned that he is a member of the Dwarf Fruit Tree Association. Who knew there was even such a thing! Very cool!

All in all I'd have to give this one a seven. It was informative, but rather boring in parts.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆


katayoun said...

cool! cool! cool! well not only this review but the whole blog. this is great and i'll be looking forward to all the reviews!!

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