Like the snowy owl and the snail darter, foods can be endangered too.
If farmers stop growing your favorite variety of tomato because it’s too hard to ship or too prone to pests, we come that much closer to a bland, unified way of eating. In the case of the loss of fruit and vegetable varieties, a shrinking of biodiversity that can have a wide-ranging impact on the environment and our food supply.
Slow Food USA, the U.S. arm of the global grassroots organization, champions local foods, traditional food cultures, heritage foods, and heirloom crops through its Foundation for Biodiversity and Presidia program, which support production and marketing of artisan food products.
Apples on the Ark
Slow Food’s “Ark of Taste” promotes culturally important foods in danger of extinction. One of those foods is the Sebastopol Gravenstein apple, a tart green and red-striped apple prized especially for baking. Once dominant in Sonoma County, according to Paula Shatkin, co-leader of Slow Food Russian River, and the coordinator of the Gravenstein Apple Presidium, the number of acres grown of the apple has dwindled to 467. Slow Food notes that part of the reason is that the Grav is tough to harvest (short stems), but also area land once covered with apple orchards has been given over to more profitable vineyards, as well as real estate development.
Volunteers from the local Slow Food Russian River chapter and farmers have banded together to promote the Gravenstein as an exemplar of biodiversity and regional food security. Since 2006, The FruitGuys has supported these efforts by offering a special Gravenstein box for sale each August with 16 percent of the proceeds going back to Gravenstein farmers to help keep this heirloom apple thriving. Get details on how to order your box of these rare heritage apples.
A symbol of Sonoma County’s agricultural heritage, the Gravenstein apple features a complex mix of sweet and sharp flavors that is fabulous for eating out of hand, baking into a great pie, making fresh, delicious apple sauce, or squeezing into a glass of refreshing apple juice. The Gravenstein’s hometown of Sebastopol has taken on the mission of saving this heirloom apple from obscurity. There is an annual Gravenstein Apple Fair that is a family fair that features live music, agricultural demos, and the legendary Gravenstein Apple Pie baking and eating contest.
“Slow Food Russian River, and it’s Apple Corps group of volunteers participates in and promotes the Gravenstein Fair each year to help spread awareness of the goodness and usefulness and cultural and agricultural heritage of this amazing and versatile apple. This year, we will be pressing fresh Gravenstein juice at the fair and serving free samples. We will be handing out informational materials about who grows them and where to buy them, and displaying locally made products using Gravensteins,” Shatkin told The FruitGuys Almanac.
Buy a Box; Save the Gravs!
Support the Slow Food Gravenstein Apple Presidium by ordering The Gravenstein Apple Box, a project of Slow Food Russian River and The FruitGuys. Available for Tuesday–Thursday delivery the weeks of August 11 and 18 only.
Miriam Wolf is a Portland-based health coach and the editor of The FruitGuys Almanac newsletter.