Gary Paul Nabhan Speaks the Good Word

Busy work day, but just saw this beautiful interview (video with transcripts) with ethnobotanist, bioregionalist, and personal hero of mine Gary Paul Nabhan:

90% of the apples eaten in North America are from just 12 varieties and most kids can only name two or three different apples if that. And so a Red Delicious becomes all that a child thinks an apple can be, and it would be like thinking that all dogs are like Lassie and not knowing that dogs range from Chihuahuas to Saint Bernards, except in this case we’re missing out on incredible flavors and textures.91% of the 3,500 apples that we have left in nursery commerce in the United States are threatened and endangered. They are being offered by just a couple nurseries, and the average age of a nurseryman is older than the average age of a farmer. So, we’re at risk of losing many of the 3,500 apples that we have left on this continent unless we do something about it soon.

And through the Renewing American’s Food Traditions Alliance, we’re training hundreds if not thousands of more people to go out and collect cuttings from apple trees called scion wood, learn how to graft them and grow those apples out in abandoned orchards.

Southern Indiana and Southern Illinois, because of a character known as Jonny Appleseed, are in the seed shadow of one of the great areas of apple diversity on the North American continent. Johnny Appleseed propagated apples by seed rather than by cuttings, and so a great range of varieties emerged out of these pippins, or seedling apples.

Since I spent my birthday party a few days ago pruning and caretaking wild apple trees with some friends (no pictures got taken, unfortunately!), I loved reading this.  The whole interview is very good and has some nice clear definitions and distinctions for an audience less familiar with local food systems thinking.

GPN’s early book Enduring Seeds is still my favorite, and I love the bioregional understanding in Renewing America’s Food Traditions even if plenty of reasonable people could disagree about the boundaries and archetypes of the “food nations” concept.  Gary’s home page here is also very worth checking out.  I want this kind of eco-cultural restoration work to be happening in every bioregion on the planet.

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