..... Stumper Index
Stumper #12.
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How Good Is Your Science KQ?

[i.e. your Knowledge Quotient]

- This grows in my garden - what is it? -

Collected from the wild for thousands of years as evidenced by archeological remains found in European Neolithic sites, but not domesticated until fairly recent historical times, this edible item is grown in most temperate areas of the world. A wide range of soils are hospitable environments but the plant does not grow well in poor acid or heavy clay soils.

Seed propagation gives very variable results and cultivation probably dates from the technique of grafting developed by the ancient Greeks.

The main characters used for identification of cultivars are those of the fruit and include season, size, shape, color and flavor as well as appearance in cross-section.

Flavor depends upon the balance of acidity, sweetness, bitterness and scent. The acidity is provided mostly by malic acid. The sugars present at harvest are sucrose and fructose, and the bitterness comes from the presence of tannins. The main mineral element is potassium and the various characteristic scents result from blends of volatile esters, alcohols and aldehydes.

As a final clue, here are a some names of the hundreds of cultivars for you to consider. The richly flavored 'Court Pendu Plat' was described in 1613 and had been known since Roman times. The more recent 'Blenheim' is a rather acid, winter variety prized for more than a hundred years. My personal favorite is the 'Cox's Orange' developed in the 1850's with a modern offspring named 'Fiesta' that I have not yet had an opportunity to taste.

Large numbers of new cultivars have been developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with a remarkable variety of characteristics and growing seasons to provide a constant year-round supply.

So, what edible, gardeners' delight have we described?



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