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Horticulture

Winter 2013

The Pear

Perhaps the most venerable of tree fruits, the pear is luscious, but can be difficult.

Maybe, say some, the Washington pear needs some new blood.

Ray Schmitten ’85 and I stand on a grassy bench above the Wenatchee River Valley, a forest of Anjou pears at our back, as he points and talks about the interplay between his family and the landscape of the valley.

In 1897, his great-grandfather had a sawmill up Brender Canyon. He started out taking the mill to the timber.

“He moved up to that ridge and logged it out. Finally in 1921, he moved the mill and everything down here … » More …

Winter 2013

Beans

“I was determined to know beans.”

—Thoreau, Walden

Having abandoned journalism and returned to her family’s farm on Whidbey Island, Georgie Smith ’93 started gardening, and one thing led to another. Smith had at least two things going for her, family land and a knack for farming. Farmer’s markets sales led to supplying restaurants, and ten years later, she’s still in business, farming 20 acres on Whidbey’s Ebey Prairie outside of Coupeville with four full-time employees and the same number of three-quarter time workers.

Even though Smith grows multifarious crops—greens, alliums, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, whatever—at the heart of her enterprise right now is a lovely … » More …

Old Clarkston apple orchard
Spring 2013

Fruitful history

Apple production was initially spread more evenly across eastern Washington. The planned agricultural community of Vineland (see “The perfect city,” WSM Fall 2012) included more than 900 acres of continuous apple orchards. According to Lyman’s History of Old Walla Walla County (including Asotin County), Vineland and adjacent Clarkston had “every conceivable advantage of soil, climate, scenery, water supply…”

Apples grown there included Winesap, Yellow Newtowns, Spitzenberg, Jonathan, Rome Beauty, and “assorted varieties.”

The September 12, 1916, edition of the Spokesman-Review reported that 60 carloads of choice apples were about to be packed in Vineland, Clarkston, and Lewiston, Idaho, for export trade: “The first carload … » More …

Spring 2013

How Washington tastes: The Apple meets Cougar Gold

Much of Carolyn Ross’s work involves training people to quantify their taste. The sensory evaluation panels that she and her graduate students organize assess taste attributes in fruit and other foods and beverages such as sweetness, acidity, bitterness, and astringency. And “mouth feel,” which contributes enormously to the taste experience.

But for these panels to arrive at a consensus of, say, how sweet a given apple is, or how tart, or how much it crunches in relation to other apples, everyone must agree on the intensity of those attributes.

Before the panel members can evaluate a given food, they will train for a number of … » More …