Today I downloaded my first book onto my new Kindle. It was recommended to me by a stranger I met at a restaurant last week, and it is called The Botany of Desire. The first chapter, which I finished tonight, is on the very eccentric John Chapman, who became known as Johnny Appleseed.
Some interesting tidbits:
•Chapman hated grafted trees. In other words, most of the millions of seeds he distributed grew into trees which had no worth as edible fruit. But what those millions of seeds did do was send out the apple's genetics into a new climate. Of those trees, it is estimated that one-in-eighty thousand bore worthwhile fruit.
•However, people did not eat the fruit back then! It was all used to make cider, all of which, at the time, was mildly alcoholic. Cider was virtually the only drink on the frontier. Most farmers made thousands of gallons each fall to get them through to the next season. It was more commonly drunk than water, milk, or any other beverage.
•It is true that our apple genetic pool is greatly reduced. I blamed refrigeration, which eliminated the need for every little micro-climate to have its own variety of apple tree. The author has an additional culprit: The prohibition activists led by Carrie Nation. Her axe, which today is thought to have symbolized her desire to break every barrel which held distilled spirits, actually was meant to cut down all apple orchards! To the 19th century person, apple orchards were synonomous with strong drink. Very few people actually ate apples until the introduction of the Red Delicious, which is another story entirely.
•Apples originate in Kazakastan where there are apparently massive forests of 300-year-old apples that represent a huge gene pool of malus, a much larger gene pool than we have here in the United States.
•Chapman was a preacher, a proponent of of Swedenborgian theology, which was not orthodox in any sense of the word.
I enjoyed the experience of reading on the Kindle. I think it will encourage me to read.