WTF Fun Fact 13422 – Tom Brown Apple Hunter

Meet Tom Brown, Apple Hunter. He tracks down ancient apple varieties that most people have forgotten.

Why is Tom Brown hunting apples?

Brown’s journey is a love letter to the diversity and richness of apples. He got his start in Clemmons, North Carolina, where a legendary apple called the “Old Fashioned Winesap” sparked his interest. This apple, filled with an intensity of flavor unlike the common supermarket varieties, set Brown on his lifelong quest.

In this pursuit of forgotten flavors, Brown encounters more than just apples. He stumbles upon stories, history, and a myriad of people who are tied to these varieties in one way or another. He also discovers why these varieties are significant and what they tell us about the changing landscape of agriculture.

Brown’s approach to apple hunting is both scientific and adventurous. He frequents old farmsteads, graveyards, and homesites across the southeast. Each location brims with the potential for a forgotten apple treasure.

Brown uses DNA testing to confirm the identity of each apple, but also relies heavily on the tales and memories of the locals to uncover the stories behind the fruit.

The diversity of heritage apples is astonishing. In his travels, Brown has found apples of every conceivable color, taste, and size. There are apples for pies, for cider, for eating fresh off the tree. There are even apples that taste like a banana or a pineapple.

Why is apple hunting important?

This work is about more than just fruit. It’s about biodiversity. Our reliance on a few commercial apple varieties contributes to a lack of genetic diversity, which can have consequences for disease and pest resistance. By resurrecting these heritage varieties, Brown helps maintain the genetic diversity essential for the health of apple orchards worldwide.

But it’s also about a shared heritage. These heritage apples are remnants of a bygone era, a time when every family had an apple tree in their yard, and each apple variety had a story to tell. Saving these apples means preserving a piece of our shared cultural history.

In essence, Brown’s quest is a celebration of apples in all their wonderful variety. It’s a reminder that there is more to this humble fruit than meets the eye. Through his work, Brown tells the stories of these heritage apples, each one a window into our past, a testament to nature’s diversity, and a beacon for the future of sustainable agriculture.

Just like the apples he collects, Tom Brown is unique in his passion and dedication. His journey illustrates the importance of maintaining biodiversity and preserving our shared history, one apple at a time. Through his efforts, we’re reminded of the rich tapestry of apple varieties that exist beyond the few types stocked on supermarket shelves.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “The Heritage Apple Hunter: The story of Tom Brown” — The Organic Magazine

WTF Fun Fact 13105 – The Banana Curve

Have you ever looked at the way a specific food grows and been totally surprised? We’ve certainly felt that way – especially about asparagus and pineapples. Now the banana curve is blowing our minds (with how little we know about our food).

How the banana gets its curve

The reason bananas don’t grow straight and instead have a curve is so that they can retrieve sunlight. It makes sense, we just couldn’t quite picture it at first.

According to Chiquita, “Bananas go through a process called ‘negative geotropism’…What it means is that bananas grow away from the ground, instead of growing towards it, hence the ‘negative’ geotropism.”

Despite bananas being ubiquitous on grocery store shelves, they come from the rainforest (or at least places that can simulate that environment). In a place with so much foliage, bananas had to find a way to claim some sunlight for themselves since they hang downward.

Bananas evolved not to grow straight up but rather to curve in order to get around the foliage and soak up some rays.

More about banana growth

You might think that if it’s looking for the sun, a banana would evolve to grow upwards. But they’re simply too heavy to do that. Because gravity pulls them down, they develop a slight curve rather than a new growth pattern.

Not only is banana growth a fun new fact for us, but we also didn’t know they were considered a berry. Bananas may have actually been one of the first fruits. They date back about 10,000 years, although they taste much different now.

And it turns out the world loves them – we consume about 100 billion bananas globally every year.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Bananas. Not only one of the healthiest fruits but most recognizable!” — Chiquita

WTF Fun Fact 12794 – Pineapples As Luxury Items

Pineapples were once luxury items in Europe and America. In fact, the fact that they were so exotic-looking and hard to grow made them worth hundreds or thousands of dollars (in today’s currency). Pineapple luxury seems absurd, but they were only grown in South America and the Caribbean in the 1800s. Even hothouses throughout Europe had a hard time producing proper pineapples.

Pineapple luxury centerpieces

According to Mental Floss, When the fruity fad made its way to America, “one pineapple could cost as much as $8000 (in today’s dollars). This high cost was due to the perishability, novelty, exoticism, and scarcity of the fruit. Affluent colonists would throw dinner parties and display a pineapple as the centerpiece, a symbol of their wealth, hospitality, and status, instantly recognizable by a party’s guests. Pineapples, however, were mainly used for decoration at this time, and only eaten once they started going rotten.

To underscore just how lavish and extravagant pineapples were, consider the pineapple rental market. The fruit evoked such jealousy among the poor, pineapple-less plebs that people could, if they wished, pay to rent a pineapple for the night. Before selling them for consumption, pineapple merchants rented pineapples to people who couldn’t afford to purchase them. Those who rented would take the pineapple to parties, not to give as a gift to the host, but to carry around and show off their apparent ability to afford such an expensive fruit!”

Pineapple pictures

In the 18th and 19th centuries, artists often depicted pineapples in paintings of elites, and you could also find them emblazoned on napkins, china, and more. Pineapples graced finials, bed posts, fountains, teapots, and other high-class decor.

Pineapples go from luxury to mass production

In 1900, James Dole started a pineapple plantation called the Hawaiian Pineapple Company in Hawaii, which later become the Dole Food Company. Eventually, he produced 75% of the world’s pineapples, and they went from being luxury items to food for the masses.

In the UK, importing pineapples from the colonies became common enough that nearly anyone could get their hands on one, ending their time as a status symbol.

According to the BBC (cited below): “Steamships started to import pineapples to Britain regularly from the colonies and the prices consequently dropped. And it wasn’t just the middle classes who could afford a pineapple, but – horror of horrors – the working classes could too.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “The rise, fall, and rise of the status pineapple” — BBC News

WTF Fun Fact – Ruby Roman Grapes

WTF Fun Fact - Ruby Roman Grapes

Ruby Roman grapes are one of the most expensive fruits in the world. The first Ruby Roman grapes went on sale in August 2008 for 100,000 Japanese yen per 700-gram bunch, or ~$26 per grape. In order to be sold, each grape must be over 20g or about the size of a ping pong ball and be over 18% sugar. – WTF Fun Facts

Source: Ruby Roman – Wikipedia