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Thread: Can't wait for these

  1. #1
    Malcom \Mal\ Reynolds Guest

    Default Can't wait for these


    By Anne Gonzales
    Bee Correspondent
    Published: Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1D
    Last Modified: Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011 - 11:15 am

    The makeshift tram came to a halt in the orchard, the visitors jumped off and
    scurried to the tree, picked yellow-tinged plums and sank their teeth into them.
    They munched thoughtfully, some taking note of hints of cinnamon or level of
    acids, others silently marking evaluation sheets.

    "This is the Disneyland of fruits," said Robert Mizuno as he eased back onto the
    padded plywood benches pulled by a souped-up golf cart and bound for the next
    tree.

    Mizuno, a Reedley fruit grower who runs a fruit stand in Clovis, was at Zaiger's
    Genetics test orchard in Modesto recently for a taste evaluation of hybrid stone
    fruits. Led by patriarch and pioneer of modern fruit crosses Floyd Zaiger, the
    company has been turning out fruit for a half-century, including the occasional
    novelty mashup, such as the pluot, a cross of plum and apricot.

    Zaiger, 85, is one of the world's leading commercial fruit breeders, working to
    produce not only attention-grabbing interspecies crosses, but varietal hybrids
    that yield improved taste, color, texture and marketability.

    Zaiger is one of a handful of private and university breeders painstakingly
    creating better and new fruits and nuts for the worldwide growing, packing,
    shipping and processing industry over at least half a century.

    Picking up where Luther Burbank left off, the business is different from gene
    splicing, relying on hand-pollination for controlled production of hybrids.
    "Breeding fruit is like playing cards," said Tom Gradziel, a UC Davis geneticist
    and plant breeder. "You keep reshuffling the deck, and looking at how they come
    out. There are about 100,000 genes to play with."

    Zaiger has been in the card game longer than almost anyone. A 1952 graduate of
    UC Davis, he planted his first hybrids in the moonlight with his wife, Betty,
    about 51 years ago at their farm in Modesto. A high school ag teacher at the
    time, Zaiger had to pursue his hobby of hybridizing azaleas, rhododendrons and
    fruit trees at night.

    "I caught the dreaded disease," said Zaiger of his passion for crossbreeding.
    His addiction has brought more than 100 fruit and nut varieties to market, a
    process that typically takes anywhere from seven to 15 years of
    cross-pollination and tweaking.

    Zaiger works with his daughter, two sons and a few grandkids in the orchard.
    They basically find plants that are genetically compatible, emasculating one and
    pollinating it with the other and waiting to see if desirable traits of both are
    expressed.

    "We pray a lot," Zaiger said. He said the process is different from the more
    controversial technique of genetic engineering, where genes are directly
    inserted into plant cells by humans. "We do it the hard way, because of public
    acceptance. The consumer is the dictator."

    Hybridization occurs in nature when fruit trees are pollinated by a flower of
    another tree, typically when honeybees carry the pollen from flower to flower.
    Most of the time the progeny of these mixes are not productive or useful.
    But Zaiger's Genetics takes the process further, re-crossing the hybrid back to
    one of the parents or with another tree, adding years to a process that *
    sometimes * produces a tastier, juicier or otherwise improved fruit.

    "We grow about 50,000 seedlings and may have five that become commercial
    varieties every year," said Leith Gardner, Zaiger's daughter. "It becomes a
    numbers game. The more seedlings you can grow, the better chance at potential of
    something that can become a variety."

    Zaiger's Genetics in 1990 introduced the pluot, which combined the texture of
    the apricot with the juiciness and sweetness of the plum. Since then, Zaiger's
    has released 22 trademarked varieties of the pluot and continues to tinker with
    it.

    Zaiger is currently excited about his "pluerry," a cross between a plum and a
    cherry, which is being test-marketed in Taiwan and England.
    "I think people will like it," he said like a proud parent.

    The company also has produced varieties of peaches and nectarines, and
    experiments with many other stone fruits, creating cross-species hybrids such as
    the "peapluerry," a combo of peaches, plums and cherries, and a "peacotum,"
    which combines peaches, apricots and plums.

    Zaiger's recently introduced the Independence almond, a variety that could
    revolutionize the industry because the trees self-fertilize, saving money for
    growers who don't have to hire honeybees.

    "The Independence almond deal is huge, and it's getting real traction from
    growers," said Robert Woolley, president of Dave Wilson Nursery in Hickman. The
    nursery is the private propagator and exclusive licensor of Zaiger's Genetics
    products in the United States.

    The nursery has test plots in Hickman and Reedley to tend to Zaiger's trees and
    sell to growers. Between the two sites, about 400 acres are 99 percent dedicated
    to testing and marketing Zaiger's varieties.

    Like the Independence almond, there are other successes from hybridization that
    are hidden to the average shopper, such as fruit that's easier to grow in
    different places in the world, fruit with just the right tang or color, and
    fruit that can be shipped without damage.

    Improving fruits and nuts is part of a big business both in California and
    globally. In California, fruit crops were an $11.8 billion industry in 2009,
    while almonds alone were worth $2.3 billion.

    Dennis Tarry, general manager and chief executive officer for Dave Wilson
    Nursery, said the bottom line in hybrids is consumer appeal.

    "We are competing with candy bars and potato chips at the supermarket level," he
    said. "Our challenge is to make fruit more exciting and appealing and getting a
    lot better fruit to the customer in the grocery store."

    Tarry said the fresh fruit industry was jolted several years ago by the success
    of farmers markets and fruit stands, and even grocery stores wanted better
    quality fruit displayed in a produce stand setting. Nowadays, the nursery sees
    the fruit stand market as a good place between the home orchard and supermarket
    segments, making it ideal to test hybrid fruits.

    Zaiger's markets to other countries, learning the tastes of each culture. The
    company sells trees to growers in Australia, France, China, Spain, Israel and
    South Africa, among others.

    Zaiger's is one of the few private breeders operating on a large commercial and
    worldwide scale, said UC Davis' Gradziel. U.S. universities and the U.S.
    Department of Agriculture are typically the powerhouses behind finding
    successful hybrids, because the process is laborious and time-consuming,
    exposing a small business to financial risk.

    Gradziel works mainly crossing peach varieties with almonds, which surprisingly
    are from the same family, with the goal of giving processing peaches the
    disease-resistance of almonds.

    Every Wednesday morning in summer, Zaiger's Genetics hosts a fruit tasting,
    inviting researchers and growers from all over the state and world to try some
    of the company's products, many of which are years away from market, if they
    ever make it to the final cut.

    Grant Zaiger, Floyd's son, picks fruit off the trees, cuts a slice and offers it
    to his guests, who try to decide if it will be a winner and whether to place
    orders for the trees.

    Eric Wuhl, director of research and development at Family Tree Farms in Reedley,
    comes to virtually every tasting. As a grower, packer and shipper of stone
    fruits and blueberries, his company can't afford to miss what Zaiger is coming
    out with next.

    "We couldn't live without him," Wuhl said. "Our mission is to consistently
    produce, pack and market the most flavorful fruit, and Floyd Zaiger is
    responsible for most of it."


    Read more:
    http://www.sacbee.com/2011/10/09/396...tml#ixzz1aJckc
    W9W

  2. #2
    notbob Guest

    Default Re: Can't wait for these

    On 2011-10-09, Malcom "Mal" Reynolds <[email protected]> wrote:

    > novelty mashup, such as the pluot, a cross of plum and apricot.
    >
    > Zaiger, 85, is one of the world's leading commercial fruit breeders, working to
    > produce not only attention-grabbing interspecies crosses, but varietal hybrids
    > that yield improved taste, color, texture and marketability.


    Apparently, it's easier to con the consumer with gimmicky new fruits
    than grow an old fashioned fruit that is actually both juicy and
    flavorful. I've had apricots that were so rich and flavorful you
    could only eat a few. Washington apples the size of softballs so
    juicy you had to lean over to avoid soaking your shirt while eating.
    Yellow peaches both tart AND sweet AND juicy, despite more surface
    fuzz than Grizzly Adams. Fifteen yrs ago I had some homegrown
    tomatoes so flavorful, we ate a whole flat like they were apples. Too
    tasty to ruin with any additional foodstuff or dresssing. Now that I
    think on it, fifteen yrs ago was about the last time I had anything
    worth a damn from farm.

    BTW, I grew up in Stanislaus County, Modesto being the county seat,
    which once produced the best fruit in all of CA. Now, only "white"
    peaches, nectarines, corn. GMO frankenfood, where white equals
    SUGAR. No need for flavor, jes keep upping the sugar content.

    nb

  3. #3
    Malcom \Mal\ Reynolds Guest

    Default Re: Can't wait for these

    In article <[email protected]>, notbob <[email protected]>
    wrote:

    > On 2011-10-09, Malcom "Mal" Reynolds <[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    > > novelty mashup, such as the pluot, a cross of plum and apricot.
    > >
    > > Zaiger, 85, is one of the world's leading commercial fruit breeders,
    > > working to
    > > produce not only attention-grabbing interspecies crosses, but varietal
    > > hybrids
    > > that yield improved taste, color, texture and marketability.

    >
    > Apparently, it's easier to con the consumer with gimmicky new fruits
    > than grow an old fashioned fruit that is actually both juicy and
    > flavorful. I've had apricots that were so rich and flavorful you
    > could only eat a few. Washington apples the size of softballs so
    > juicy you had to lean over to avoid soaking your shirt while eating.
    > Yellow peaches both tart AND sweet AND juicy, despite more surface
    > fuzz than Grizzly Adams. Fifteen yrs ago I had some homegrown
    > tomatoes so flavorful, we ate a whole flat like they were apples. Too
    > tasty to ruin with any additional foodstuff or dresssing. Now that I
    > think on it, fifteen yrs ago was about the last time I had anything
    > worth a damn from farm.
    >
    > BTW, I grew up in Stanislaus County, Modesto being the county seat,
    > which once produced the best fruit in all of CA. Now, only "white"
    > peaches, nectarines, corn. GMO frankenfood, where white equals
    > SUGAR. No need for flavor, jes keep upping the sugar content.
    >
    > nb


    aw, but who could pass up a bing cherry flavored apricot, peach or plum?

  4. #4
    Ema Nymton Guest

    Default Re: Can't wait for these

    On 10/9/2011 2:46 PM, Malcom "Mal" Reynolds wrote:
    > "This is the Disneyland of fruits," said Robert Mizuno as he eased back onto the
    > padded plywood benches pulled by a souped-up golf cart and bound for the next
    > tree.
    >
    > Mizuno, a Reedley fruit grower who runs a fruit stand in Clovis, was at Zaiger's
    > Genetics test orchard in Modesto recently for a taste evaluation of hybrid stone
    > fruits. Led by patriarch and pioneer of modern fruit crosses Floyd Zaiger, the
    > company has been turning out fruit for a half-century, including the occasional
    > novelty mashup, such as the pluot, a cross of plum and apricot.

    snip
    > Read more:
    > http://www.sacbee.com/2011/10/09/396...tml#ixzz1aJckc
    > W9W


    There was a similar article in the Wall Street Journal last week, it
    showed pictures of three hybrid fruits. The pluot is the only one I
    have tried, but I would enjoy trying the others. This would change
    recipes that we have been using for generations. My grandmother never
    made a pluot pie.

    Becca

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