Excerpt from “Apples, Apples, Apples,” by Verlyn Klinkenborg, New York Times, November 5, 2009:
One good way to think about modern agriculture is to think about apples. For part of our history, culminating around the end of the 19th century, there was something about us — about our appetite, our farms, our economy — that loved diversity in apples. One standard reference, from 1905, lists more than 6,500 distinct varieties. There are apples for keeping, cooking, eating and the making of ciders, with names as colorful as they are various: Scollop Gillyflower, Red Winter Pearmain, Kansas Keeper.
Modern agriculture, as well as our carefully created preference for processed over fresh food, has pushed us in the opposite direction, toward uniformity...According to one estimate, only 11 varieties make up 90 percent of all the apples sold in this country, and Red Delicious alone counts for nearly half of that...
We live now in the world of the generic apple, in large part because our taste buds have gone generic. Cultivating ourselves is the first step toward rediversifying the fields and orchards around us.