Overlapping the Slow Food North Bay region is the California Rare Fruit Growers (CRFG) garden club, many members of which are also Slow Food members. CRFG is in 35 countries, but kept the “California” name as its where it started. A recent club meeting had 105 varieties of fruit to taste!
Founded in 1968, CRFG is the largest amateur fruit-growing organization in the world. Its membership includes nationally recognized botanical gardens and noted international horticultural researchers, as well as hobbyists, commercial growers and representatives from institutions of higher learning. The members of twenty-one chapters and individual members reside in 48 states and territories of the United States, but the membership encompasses over 35 countries worldwide.
Although oriented toward the environmentally sound culture of any and all edible plants in the home landscape, CRFG is focused on species not native to nor grown commercially in any given area. Its mission is to share knowledge acquired from its activities with home growers in particular and with anyone else in the world having an interest in edible plant cultivation
In December & January, the Northern CA CRFG chapters have a moving “scion swap meet” where many hundreds of kinds of rare and endangered plants are given away free and traded. Many are too fragile or strange for commercial use, and so are perfect for backyard and patio gardeners. Free grafting, pruning, and orchard management classes too. Details at http://crfg-redwood.org/events/scion-exchanges/
The CRFG discussion-group archive is open to the public for read-only, discussing many fruit growing issues at https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/recrfg
Here are just some of the things you can easily grow at home in the wine country, plants available at the Exchange and sometimes at local nurseries:
• Persian Mulberry
• White Mulberry
• White figs
• Pineapple Guava
• Orange Quince
• Japanese Raisin Tree
• Chocolate Persimmon
• Kazakstan Pomegranate
• Sour Cherry
• Korean Cherry
• Doyenne du Comice pear (Thomas Jefferson’s favorite)
• Finger Lime
Luther Burbank developed 60-or-so varieties of spineless cactus to feed cattle in the desert, without commercial success. Most are now growing wild around Sonoma County CA. The prickly-pear cactus-pads (“nopales”) when used in Mexican dishes are called “nopalitos”, with or without thorns. The “cactus pear” fruit are delicious too.
Source of Featured Image: Tangential Journey, On a spiral with the California Rare Fruit Growers, by Jillian Steinberger, Illustrations by Elizabeth Hubbell. Edible East Bay on September 15, 2013 in Winter 2012.
Keith Borglum is a former Co-Chair of the California Rare Fruit Growers and a member of the Apple Core of Slow Food Russian River.