"Just as wild plants and animals have their environmental champions, so foodies are seeking to preserve the biodiversity of cultivated species and rescue rare delicacies such as California's Sebastopol Gravenstein apple. The big difference? With endangered foods, you save them by eating them.
A century ago, 1,600 varieties of apples were cultivated in the U.S. Today, grocery shoppers are lucky to find 11 in their local stores. Slow Food Russian River, a Northern California chapter of Slow Food USA, has launched a campaign to promote the crunchy Gravenstein, brought to California about 1790 by Russian settlers. In the early 1900s, thousands of Gravenstein orchards made Sonoma County the world capital of that tasty variety. Streets and schools were named after the apple and annual Gravenstein festivals celebrated its delights in pies, juice, vinegar, sauces and brandy.
Today fewer than 10 Sonoma farmers make a living selling apples, according to the group. 'It is part of our local agricultural heritage, and yet it is disappearing so fast that it could become commercially extinct.'"