Treasure hunt for trees from the Gold Rush era

apples-felixgillet.jpgFelix Gillet Institute

I love the California history behind this story from KQED's The California Report. A man outside Nevada City in Northern California hunts around the lower Sierra Nevada and the Mother Lode country for trees that were planted during the Gold Rush era. He checks old stagecoach stops and homesteads, and he specifically wants nut and fruit trees that are the original varieties that grew before farmers messed with nature to narrow our produce to just a few kinds of apples, pears and other crops. From the story:

Driving through Gold Rush country, [Amigo Bob] Cantisano points out a 120-year-old pear tree standing tall between a community hall and a gas station.

"It's thrown huge crops every year in the drought. It doesn't get diseases, it doesn't get insects. Nobody prunes it, nobody waters it, nobody fertilizes it, and it is just prolific as heck. I've picked over 500 pounds of pears off of it," he says.

He says these resilient heirloom trees have lessons for today's California growers, where highly tended crops face drought, pests and disease.

"If we can figure out how to take those characteristics and meld them into modern agriculture, we're going to have a more sustainable agriculture," he says.

Cantisano helps run the Felix Gillet Institute, named after a 19th Century French nurseryman in California and "dedicated to the appreciation, preservation and propagation of edible and ornamental perennials from the Sierra."

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