Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Apple Blossom Time

Sebastopol is the home of the Gravenstein apple and the 64th Apple Blossom Parade and Fair is on April 24th. This is the ultimate small town parade: including our Veteran's group, local dancers and musicians, horses and llamas, school bands, marching dog brigades, wacky floats and general silliness, antique tractors, vintage cars, fire engines, and anything that can be motorized by a Zap electric engine; from a wheelbarrow to a skateboard. What more could you ask for on a sunny Saturday morning?  


Apple Blossom on our oldest Gravenstein tree

A little background on the Gravenstein apple from http://www.slowfoodusa.org/

The heirloom Gravenstein is widely regarded as one of the best eating and baking apples. A fine balance of sweet and tart, its flavor intensifies when made into sauce, juice, cider or vinegar and it holds its shape beautifully in pies and tarts. Aficionados flock to Sebastopol during the Spring Festival and again at the Gravenstein Harvest Festival in August.

German migrants brought the apple to North America in 1790 and Russian fur traders planted the first West Coast Gravenstein orchards at their outpost in Fort Ross in 1820. It is likely that cuttings from these trees were used to start the orchards in Sebastopol. By the early 1900s thousands of Gravenstein orchards were established and the apple had become the heart of a major industry in Sonoma County. During World War II American troops were provided with applesauce and dried apples from Sebastopol Gravensteins, and this made the apple into an icon for the town.

Unfortunately suburban development and the popularity of wine production have reduced the number of apple orchards. During the past six decades, Sonoma County’s Gravenstein orchards have declined by almost 7,000 acres to about 900 acres. Most of the Sebastopol growers farm land has been in apple production for over a century.

The International Slow Food organization based in Italy designated the Gravenstein apple as one of a handful of heritage foods to be preserved in the United States and the only one in California. The Presidia program, created by the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, organizes and funds projects to protect our heritage of agricultural biodiversity and assist groups of artisan producers, to promote and protect farmers who nurture their apples from tree to table.  

No matter where you live, support your health and local farmers by shopping locally and visit the farmers' markets.