Idaho already has a reputation for its potatoes, but it’s also becoming famous for its fruit. And next week you have a chance to sample it all.
It’s the annual Fruit Field Day at the University of Idaho Fruit Research Center in Parma. You get to taste-test the many varieties of fruit being developed specifically for growing in Idaho.
Today, in the first of a two-part series on “You Can Grow It”, our garden master Jim Duthie gives us a preview of Fruit Field Day, and what you can expect when you go.
What’s your taste in fruit? Every September, new varieties of apples, plums, peaches, nectarines, table grapes, and other fruit that are grown here, are put on display for the public to check out.
You’ll also get a taste of the important pomology research being done here.
“Pomology is the science of fruit,” said Dr. Essie Fallahi.
Dr. Essie Fallahi directs the fruit-growing research, looking for ways to help Idaho fruit growers stay competitive with the rest of the world. And it’s making a difference.
“For example, some of the white flesh peaches that we produce here, it will be shipped, produced in Idaho, it will be shipped to Taiwan overnight, and then each peach is sold for more than four dollars. And that I call a success.”
“We have buyers from Europe that prefer our plums and apples to anything from anywhere. And they come back here. Even if it takes paying more per pound, or per ton, they buy from Idaho.”
So what factors make Idaho fruit so special?
“One of them is we have excellent climate conditions,” said Fallahi. “We have warm days and cool nights.”
That has a big effect on the sweetness, flavor, and color of the fruit.
“We are growing grapes here, table grapes, and the same varieties in California, they spray chemicals on them to force them to color," said Fallahi. "But we don’t need to spray because we naturally have cool nights and they stimulate color production in the fruit.”
Grapes are becoming a huge industry in Idaho, both for table use and for making wine.
These Alborz grapes are the most widely planted grapes in the Gem State.
“This is table grapes. One of the grapes that’s very popular in Idaho.”
“This is absolutely great as far as berry size and the cluster and everything, and this is ready to harvest now.”
“This is Persian Gulf. It’s an amazing variety. Amazing. So far it has been more cold tolerant than Alborz.”
Jupiter is a good variety for beginning gardeners, and it tolerates slightly cooler locations.
The Parma orchards also grow some record-sized peaches, like this coral star variety. some of them weigh in at nearly two pounds.
And all of these varieties are available for you to grow at home.
“We have a saying that the real peach is the one you eat in the orchard, and juice runs out of your hand when you eat them,” said Fallahi. “That’s the way that the home gardener can grow their peaches and nectarines.”
Next week on “You Can Grow It,” Jim will spotlight some of the important fruit research projects underway at the Parma center.
Fruit Field Day is coming up next week on Friday, September 16, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and it’s free to the public.
The Parma Research Center is located four miles north of Parma on U of I Road.