The Gift Of Graft: New York Artist’s Tree To Grow 40 Kinds Of Fruit
August 03, 2014
It sounds like something out of Dr. Seuss, but artist Sam Van Aken is developing a tree that blooms in pink, fuchsia, purple and red in the spring — and that is capable of bearing 40 different kinds of fruit.
No, it’s not genetic engineering. Van Aken, an associate professor in Syracuse University’s art department, used an age-old technique called grafting to attach branches from 40 different kinds of stone fruit onto a single tree. It’s called the “Tree of 40 Fruit.”
“I’m an artist. So the whole project really began with this idea of creating a tree that would blossom in these different colors and would bear this multitude of fruit,” he says.
But he soon discovered that it was actually pretty hard to find so many distinct varieties of stone fruit in New York, he explains in his presentation at TEDx Manhattan. “I realized the extent to which we’ve created these massive monoculture.” Most grocery stores and markets only stock a few varieties — and most of them are grown in California.
But then Van Aken came across the New York State Agricultural Experimentation Station. “It was the largest orchard of its kind in the Northeast, perhaps even east of the Rockies,” he says.