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Save the Quails

Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste preserves endangered foods

Author Sarah L. Stewart

Selling Gravenstein apples at a market in San Francisco

Selling Gravenstein apples at a market in San Francisco

When Sonoma County’s wine industry boomed in the late 20th century, another crop in this famed California agricultural region took a turn for the worse: the Gravenstein apple. Beloved since the early 1800s for its crisp, juicy flesh and sweet-tart flavor, this pudgy, red-striped fruit was squeezed out when thousands of orchard acres were converted to more profitable vineyards.

A decade ago, the Gravenstein’s plight earned it a berth in the Ark of Taste, a catalog compiled by the advocacy group Slow Food USA that lists more than 200 American foods facing extinction due to industrialization and other modern pressures. The plan is to save these historically significant edibles by reintroducing them to modern diners.

Today the Ark includes seriously imperiled foods like white kiawe honey, which is harvested from a single 1,000-acre grove in Hawaii, and the Hatcher mango, a sweet variety grown exclusively in South Florida. But thanks in part to the higher profile provided by the Ark, other foods are undergoing a renaissance—including, yes, the Gravenstein. In fact, Slow Food USA managing director Kate Krauss calls it the Ark’s greatest success story: Once mired in obscurity, the Gravenstein is now in demand for its tangy juice, sold at specialty grocers nationwide.

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