[NAFEX] Treasure of the Sierra Foothills: Heritage Fruit and Nut Trees Discovered and Preserved

Betty Mayfield bmayfield at opusnet.com
Sat Apr 30 21:03:02 EDT 2011

To the list,

So good to hear of preservation in contrast to the reminder from 
David Maxwell of NAFEX of the loss of Fred Jansen's collection.

Late last summer there was concern that historic fruit and berries in 
the Pavlovsk station in Russia might be destroyed to build expensive 
homes. A report in February from the Global Crop Diversity Trust said 
that the trust is still fighting plans to bulldoze the collection.

The trust also reported the arrival of seeds for rare lima beans, 
blight-resistant cantaloupe, and progenitors of antioxidant-rich red 
tomatoes from Peru and the Galapagos Islands to be stored at Norway's 
Svalbard underground frozen seed vault.

On the minus side the trust said political unrest in Egypt at the end 
of January led to the looting of the Egyptian Desert Gene Bank in 
North Sinai, repository for a prized collection of fruit and 
medicinal plants. Looters stole equipment and ruined data, although 
the seeds were not destroyed.

And a report from Australia said the three of that country's six seed 
banks are no longer being maintained.

Betty Mayfield

At 11:21 AM 4/26/2011, mIEKAL aND wrote:
>Treasure of the Sierra Foothills: Heritage Fruit and Nut Trees
>Discovered and Preserved
>Organic farming pioneer, Amigo Cantisano, is carrying on the work of
>Felix Gillet, the father of perennial agriculture in the West. The
>discovery of 100-year-old orchards has saved a wealth of fruit and nut
>ARTY: Who is Felix Gillet and why is he important?
>AMIGO: Felix Gillet was an early settler of the gold country in Nevada
>City, California. He was a Frenchman who migrated back and forth to
>the United States numerous times as a sailor from northern France. He
>settled in Nevada City around 1859, where he opened the first
>barbershop. During the early 1860s, he spent a year in France making
>contacts and learning about the nursery trade, and then came back and
>used his earnings from his barbershop to purchase a piece of property
>and start importing plants originally from France and eventually from
>about 40 countries. He would bring things in that were already well
>known and popular to some degree in their home country, and he would
>test them here. The best of them he would release to farmers and
>  From 1871 until his death in 1908, he ran one of the first nurseries
>in the West, and was extremely active at propagating, breeding and
>importing hundreds of varieties. From our research, he can be justly
>described as the father of the West Coast perennial agriculture. He
>brought most of the nuts, fruits, grapes, berries, etc., that are now
>commonly grown in the United States.
>His main introductions are walnuts, almonds, chestnuts, filberts,
>prune plums, the European culinary plum, cherries, pears, apples,
>figs, strawberries, raspberries, Bing cherry, French prunes and
>In one of his catalogs, he had 241 varieties of grapes. He brought in
>wine grapes, table grapes, and raisin grapes, all of which formed the
>industries. Felix brought in almost all the common varieties that we
>grow and use today. When you drink Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon or
>Petite Syrah or Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, those are French
>varieties, or when you eat what's now called a Thompson seedless grape
>or raisin, that is a French variety that came originally from
>Gillet kept researching and inventing and developing and hybridizing
>his own things, and some became very successful. So, pretty much
>everything that we eat in the perennial crops, except for citrus and
>olives, we can thank Gillet for. He did asparagus and artichokes and
>hops and raspberry and rhubarb, the whole nine yards.
>  He was really focused on edibles, but he also did a fair amount of
>ornamentals as well. We were working with the Rose Society and a whole
>bunch of the heirloom roses turned out to have come from him.  He
>brought about 40 to 50 different varieties of heirloom roses into the
>United States. He was interested in pretty much anything that would
>grow well in the Gold Country of the Sierra foothills.
>He'd also send plants to other parts of the country to see how well
>they grew. He provided information to USDA regularly about how these
>different plants grew. He is credited with starting the
>filbert/hazelnut industry of Oregon.
>A now retired chief horticulturalist for the state of Oregon at Oregon
>State University came here in the '60s, tracing back the history of
>the nut industry and such in Oregon and the Northwest, and he traced
>the entire nut, prune, chestnut industries, walnuts, filberts, and
>wine grapes, all those crops right back to Nevada City, to Gillet's
>Gillet sent plants all over. We have receipts for stuff he shipped to
>Russia and Michigan and the Southeast and all over California and all
>over the Northwest. He was very active. He brought in Nonpareil almond
>that is still the standard of the almond business a hundred plus years
>(more online)
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