Perfect Fruit: Good Breeding, Bad Seeds, and the Hunt for the Elusive Pluot

Perfect Fruit: Good Breeding, Bad Seeds, and the Hunt for the Elusive Pluot

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by Chip Brantley
     
 

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The creation story of the "perfect fruit," delving into the world of the demanding farmers, brilliant obsessives, and food fanatics who create the fruits we love.

Is it possible to create the perfect piece of fruit—a fruit that cannot be improved upon? Since the dawn of agriculture, people have been obsessively tinkering to develop

Overview

The creation story of the "perfect fruit," delving into the world of the demanding farmers, brilliant obsessives, and food fanatics who create the fruits we love.

Is it possible to create the perfect piece of fruit—a fruit that cannot be improved upon? Since the dawn of agriculture, people have been obsessively tinkering to develop fruits that are hardier, prettier, and better tasting. Today, consumers have sophisticated palates and unparalleled access to the best fruits from around the world, and many of them believe that in California's San Joaquin Valley, a fruit breeder may have developed the perfect fruit: a sweet, juicy, luscious plum-apricot hybrid known as a pluot.

In The Perfect Fruit, Chip Brantley goes in search of what it takes to trick nature into producing gustatory greatness—and to bring it to a market near you. The story begins with Floyd Zaiger, a humble and wily octogenarian who is arguably the greatest fruit breeder in the world. From there, it stretches both back and forward: back through a long line of visionaries, fruit smugglers, and mad geniuses, many of whom have been driven to dazzling extremes in the pursuit of exotic flavors; and forward through the ranks of farmers, scientists, and salesmen who make it their life's work to coax deliciousness out of stubborn and unpredictable plants. The result is part biography, part cultural history, and part horticultural inquest—a meditation on the surprising power of food to change the way we live.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“After a conversion experience at the Los Angeles farmers' market where he first tasted the sweet, succulent plum-apricot hybrid known as a pluot... Brantley embarked on this tasty exploration of the stone-fruit industry... Brantley's engaging mixture of agronomy, reportage and food porn... goes down easy.” —Publishers Weekly

“Chip Brantley has written a classic account of a modern fruit. The telling is sharp-eyed and droll, and like all great books about food, The Perfect Fruit has as much to do with the people behind the food as it does with the food itself. Brantley's love for his subject is so infectious that even if you've never experienced the pleasure of a perfectly ripe pluot before, you'll get plenty of pleasure from this book.” —Julian Rubinstein, author of Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

“Not interested in fruit breeding? I thought I wasn't. But Chip Brantley brings such passionate curiosity to the subject--and to the machinations of the growers, the technicalities of pollination, even the politics of marketing blocs--that the world of the pluot becomes a whole world, replete with heroes, villains, tragedies, and triumphs.” —Thomas McNamee, author of Alice Waters and Chez Panisse

“Do I dare to eat a peach? Chip Brantley answers Prufrock's existential question with a belly-satisfying yes. And dare to eat a pluot called Dinosaur Egg or Dapple Dandy, too. Bite into The Perfect Fruit and savor the sweetness and the bitterness, the love and the rivalry, that flows through the food that sustains us.” —D. J. Waldie, author of Holy Land

“This book is a love affair, or rather two: with pluots and the author's wife. Chock full of wonderful, besotted information on plums and other stone fruits, it is an invaluable reference and pleasure.” —Barbara Kafka, author of Vegetable Love and Roasting: A Simple Art, winner of the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award

“At the core of The Perfect Fruit is a ‘flavor revolution,' a shift in American tastes toward quality and flavor and away from plentiful, but tasteless commodities. Chasing the story of these luscious new fruit hybrids, Brantley comes face to face with a fundamental change in the way we eat.” —Robb Walsh, author of Sex, Death, and Oysters

Dan Kois
Brantley portrays an unruly industry that fights consumer apathy by breeding more and more flavorful fruit—but can't find a way to convince the consumer to buy it. If Brantley occasionally gets too wrapped up in long, tedious fruit genealogies, he makes up for it in his descriptions of the otherworldly flavors of fruits he's tasting in the orchards
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

After a conversion experience at the Los Angeles farmers' market where he first tasted the sweet, succulent plum-apricot hybrid known as a pluot, freelance food writer Brantley embarked on this tasty exploration of the stone-fruit industry. In his telling, it is that rare acre of American agriculture that still has room for independents, like legendary fruit breeder Fred Zaiger, whose epic labors-he waits years to learn whether a new hybrid will be edible or growable-sparked an industry shift toward fruit that actually tastes good. Brantley delves into the complicated, sometimes cut-throat world of the San Joaquin Valley's family fruit growers and marketers, squeezed by rising costs and ever more powerful and demanding retailers, always angling for the "Summer Passionate" consumer segment of lifestyle epicureans. In his chronicle of the 2007 growing season, their livelihoods hang on the unpredictable whims of nature and marketplace; perfect weather yields a delicious crop, yet the fickle Summer Passionates refuse to buy. The light-handed tome is more of a snack than a banquet, but Brantley's engaging mixture of agronomy, reportage and food porn-"When I bit into it, it felt almost liquid, like plum jelly"-goes down easy. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781596913813
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
07/21/2009
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Chip Brantley is the cofounder of Cookthink, a cooking and recipe Web site. A former food writer for the San Francisco Examiner, he has contributed to Slate, the Boston Globe, the Oxford American, and Gastronomica, among others. Brantley was also the head cheesemaker at Westfield Farm, an awardwinning cheese company. A native of Alabama, he lives with his wife and son in western Massachusetts.

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Perfect Fruit: Good Breeding, Bad Seeds, and the Hunt for the Elusive Pluot 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
NoLeotards More than 1 year ago
Brantley's book is really quite fascinating. He provides an excellent, smart, easy-to-understand explanation of how the California fruit industry works, and how the pluot (a combination of a plum and an apricot) ever came to exist in the first place. My favorite parts were learning about all the local breeders and farmers who've placed their livelihoods on the line to grow such a strange little creation. Even if you're not a real foodie (which I'm not...at all), the book is fun, funny, and, at times, sad.