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

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9781596913813: The Perfect Fruit: Good Breeding, Bad Seeds, and the Hunt for the Elusive Pluot
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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 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.

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About 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.

Review:

“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

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