The Glamorous World of Research

For the past 12 months, Jody and I, (Sierra), have been excited about a project to bring the fascinating history of local food to the community. The plan is research, followed by interviews, followed by a call for recipes, followed by fun food and history centered events. We are so excited about it, and the research makes us more so. But the research is slow and we thought it might be dull to write about, so thus far we haven’t. It doesn’t mean we’re not working though, it’s time to change all that!

I enjoy sitting in the library, the Ag History Project, and working at home looking through online newspaper clippings. I love finding the facts that make the history seem real, the stories of the individual people, the things that are funny, charming, unbelievable….and forgotten. I’m hoarding these little gems in my notes thinking “one day I will share this and people will be glad I did.” So why not start now?

Apples were the first crop I looked into. And how amazing they are! I grew up in Santa Cruz County and never gave a second though to apples, I didn’t know they had ever been grown here, and I thought they came in about two varieties: red and green. Well it turns out, apples were the lifeblood of the Pajaro Valley for decades starting in the late 19th century. Watsonville held an apple show for several years before World War 1, which was intended to have, and I quote, “Something doing every minute.”

I was also struck, and a little horrified, to find detailed instructions to make the pesticide “lead arsenic.” It was used in the early 1900’s as a way to kill the Codlin moth, a devastating predator to the apple. The instructions are simple: mix aresenate of soda (arsenic) with lead nitrate, and add water to make a spray. Then spray on the trees and the fruit. Then pick and enjoy? Yikes.


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