Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Kazakhstan's Ancestral Apples In Trouble

We haven't had a post on fruit in a VERY long time.

National Geographic has a long article on apples and their birthplace in northeastern Kazakhstan. They are ancestral to all the apples we know, and they are endangered. A few excerpts:

One of these threatened species, Malus sieversii—a wild apple that Newton describes as "small but highly colored with a very nice sweet flavor"—is one of the key ancestors of all cultivated apples grown and eaten around the world. So rich and unique is this species, Newton says, that on one wild apple tree, "you can see more variation in apple form than you see in the entire cultivated apple crop in Britain. You can get variation in fruit size, shape, color, flavor, even within the tree, and certainly from tree to tree."

The Latin noun malus can mean either "apple" or "evil," which is probably why the "tree of knowledge of good and evil" in the Garden of Eden is often depicted as an apple tree, even though the biblical book of Genesis does not say what sort of fruit tree it is.

"All of the apples that we're eating today and cultivating originate from this area," Newton says. "So if we want to add genetic variation to our crops to cope with new pests or climate change, then the genetic resource is these forests. It's true for apples, apricots, peaches, walnuts, pears. In terms of a wild genetic resource for cultivated fruit trees, there's nothing like it on the planet."

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