Açaí plantations?

The juice and pulp of the fruits of the Amazonian palm Euterpe oleracea (açaí­) have long been consumed locally but are increasingly used in juices and nutraceutical beverages aimed at the North American market. They are harvested from the wild, but some people are now thinking plantations too. But speaking of wild harvesting of fruits/nuts, this article suggests that this can be sustainable only where it is not accompanied by hunting of key seed dispersers.

An apple a day

Anthocyanins make apples red, and make people healthy, through their antioxidant action. Now we know where the gene which controls anthocyanin production in apples is located, because scientists at CSIRO in Australia measured how much different genes were expressed as differently coloured fruits ripened. This opens the way for marker-assisted selection, as colour can now be predicted even in seedlings. It seems that apple sales have been pretty flat lately, but that launching a new variety can sometimes give them a boost. That could now be easier. Now if only the same sort of intensity of effort could be directed at the marula, say.

Bananas at school

The Rainforest Alliance is tooting its own horn about the value of bananas as a teaching tool, in an item about its ideas for using the banana as a basis for several school activities. Intended for young children in non-tropical countries, the ideas struck me as pretty entertaining, and infinitely expandable. Bananas as the basis of surveys and measurement, geography, history, even a bit of botany. There are other possibilities too, only hinted at or completely ignored. But wouldn’t it be cool if other crops were used this way, not as object lessons in themselves, but as the basis for studying all sorts of things?

That, by the way, is Gros Michel, which I had the pleasure of tasting for the first time earlier this year. Just the shift from Gros Michel to Cavendish opens up all sorts of pedagocic possibilities.

Thanking the cranberry

Cultivating cranberries (Vaccinium spp) is pretty weird, involving as it does constructing beds by scraping off the topsoil and replacing it with sand, building dykes around them, and then flooding them at harvest time to collect the floating berries after threshing the vines. The crop is always in the news around this time of year because it is an important item on the menu of the Thanksgiving meal in the US, as a tangy accompaniment to roast turkey. Which is why the National Geographic website has posted this great video about the harvesting process.