Food & Drink June 08, 2010
The Art of Food

{ bosc pear: Pyrus communis }

The Bosc is a Belgian import, and like all European pears, it requires a period of winter chill. Many varieties have found good homes in Idaho orchards. The Bosc is a particularly large pear and was developed around 1807. It is long-necked and handsome, with cinnamon-russet mottled over a green or yellow skin. The trees are also large and require a mate for cross pollination. To fully enjoy the Bosc’s perfumed flesh, pick when firm and ripen indoors. For recipe, click here




{ yellow pear tomatoes: Lycopersicon lycopersicum }

Is any garden fruit prized more than a sun-ripened heirloom tomato? Year after year, tomatoes are the nation’s number one home garden crop. Native to western South America and Mexico, yellow pears date back to the 1600s and are among the world’s oldest cultivated tomatoes. They require about seventy days to bear prolific yields of sweet and mild one-ounce fruits. Over 1,000 cultivated tomato varieties have been lost since the mid-1800s; growing heirlooms like these helps preserve a rich and flavorful history.




{ potatoes: Solanum tuberosum }

A staple food of the Incas, these humble tubers originated in western South America and have since spread to every corner of the world. Potatoes arrived in Idaho with Presbyterian missionary Henry Spalding, who settled near Lapwai in 1836. Within two years, Spalding and the Nez Perce tribe were raising over 1,000 bushels of spuds per season. The Russet Burbank, also known as a Netted Gem, was bred by Luther Burbank in 1874, and the rest is Idaho history. Potatoes exhibit an incredible proclivity for genetic diversity, and in recent years, some of the world’s more unusual and colorful cultivars have attracted the interest of home and market gardeners. Potatoes grow in all parts of Idaho and perform especially well in the rich, irrigated volcanic soils along the Snake River Plain.




{ chiogga beets: Beta vulgaris }

Beets, along with their cousins spinach, Swiss chard and sugar beets, belong to the goosefoot family, so named because of their hardy webbed leaves. Beet roots were first referenced as a garden vegetable in the sixteenth century, but before then were grown primarily for their edible green tops. Chiogga is an Italian heirloom notable for its alternating pink and white concentric rings and its sweet flavor, especially after a light fall frost. This cultivar is suited for growing in all regions of Idaho and matures in about fifty-five days from seed.



{ damson plums: Prunus insititia }

Small, blue and prolific, damsons are an Old World European plum principally used in the making of tart jams and jellies. Hardier and more adaptable than the fussy peach or apricot, damsons were brought to the New World by American colonists who valued their versatile qualities. Damson trees are tolerant of many soil types and bear heavy, reliable yields even in climates that reach winter lows of twenty below zero.



{ heirloom apples: Malus domestica }

Since at least 6500 B.C., people have been eating apples. The trees originated in the mountains of central Asia, were cultivated in the Middle East and then traced the paths of human history. In Idaho, the story is the same. Turn-of-the-century railroads and water projects dramatically increased the state’s agriculture, and what is now the Treasure Valley became notable for fruit, sugar beets and potatoes. Today, commercial apples are still grown in a hospitable microclimate between the Snake and Payette rivers. Meanwhile, a renewed interest in heritage fruit has increased the availability of heirloom varieties throughout the state. Their names range from the curious to the mouth-watering: Arkansas Black, D’Arcy Spice, Dorsett Golden . . . Foxwhelp, Maiden Blush, Nonesuch . . . Pink Sparkle, Winter Banana . . .





This article appears in the Summer 2010 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.