The state of Minnesota experiences some of the most prolonged periods of extreme cold in the continental United States. The famously frigid winters make Minnesota about the last place one would expect to find fruit trees, which is the reality settlers faced when they began arriving in the mid 1800s. The determination of a handful of fruit growers who vowed to change this fate helped establish the University of Minnesota fruit breeding programme in 1878. Since then, the programme has developed over 100 hardy fruit varieties, including apples, grapes, plums, cherries, apricots, pears, and berries. In this Upper Midwest state where early settlers lamented the lack of fresh fruit, commercial orchards are now abundant and home owners include fruit trees in their gardens.
In recent years, the University of Minnesota fruit breeding programme has focused on apples and grapes, yet the programme’s early work on plums effectively changed the food landscape for people in northern regions. For almost 140 years, these plum varieties have played an important role in the story of cold climate fruit production: from early settlers seeking food to survive, to today’s consumers seeking a return to locally produced food.
Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery;
2017 Food and Landscape
A paper presented at the 2017 Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery.
Tepe, Emily S..
Minnesota’s Hardy Plums: The Story of a Fruit and its Ties to Rural and Urban Landscapes.
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