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Old 11-09-2008, 11:48 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Pomegranate variety collection at Wolfskill

Just returned from a fabulous trip to the Wolfskill Experimental Orchards near UC Davis, California. There are many, many types of crops grown and preserved there, among them about 185 different varieties of Pomegranates. These are in two blocks, one small block near the farm house and another large block of about 160 varieties in the rear acres. In most cases there are two plants of each variety growing next to each other in a row, so that large block of 160 varieties actually contains 320 plants.

I arrived on Friday morning, and thanks to some excellent directions from HarveyC, drove straight to the larger block and began taking field notes on plant health, vigor, growth characteristics, and of course tasting the fruits as I went. On Saturday morning I continued, then went to the tasting at 10am.

I would guess that about 40 people were present for the tasting event. There I saw Harvey and had the pleasure of meeting Joe Real. The curator of the Pomegranate orchards Jeff Moersfelder along with several staff and volunteers had arranged for tasting of 18 varieties. Also present was Jenny Smith, curator of Persimmons, Olives, Kiwi, and Mulberries. She had put out tasting samples of some remarkably good persimmons and kiwis. It was great to meet Jenny, because I have been in pursuit of a fruit-worthy Diospyros lotus for quite some time now, and she is just the person to help.

After I had finished tasting the mere 18 varieties at the visitor center, I went back to the fields to finish tasting the rest and taking field notes. After a while, the staff brought folks from the tasting out in vans and I had a chance to pick Jeff's brain for awhile. Among other things, we discussed the variability of taste in some varieties due to the growing climate and especially weather variations between years. For example, the variety "Parfianka" will take on a range of flavors and quality depending upon the winter, summer, and fall conditions.

Based discussions with the staff and my own experiences, I believe that the flavors of pomegranates will fall roughly into one of four categories:
  1. sweet and non-acidic, like a ripe Thompson grape with no tartness
  2. watermelon
  3. an apple-citrus delicious fruit flavor (near ideal acid-sugar balance)
  4. berry, as in youngberry or boysenberry
Another dimension you should be aware of is that pomegranates have seeds. In some varieties the seeds are small, soft, and do not interfere with the enjoyment of the fruit. However in many of them the seeds are not small and whether small or large, can be very hard -- almost too hard to crunch through. As an example, variety 104 "Hotuni Zigar" has a fantastic, intense berry flavor but the only way to enjoy it without wearing out your jaw is to juice the fruit. Its juice by the way is as dark as Concord grape and makes an excellent fabric dye.

Here are a few of the photos I took. The first here shows two shrubs of "Ovadan" on the outer row of the large block. At the tips, they are about 8 feet (~2.5 meters) high. In the background you see some mulberry trees.



Here is a close-up of Kukurchinskii. As you see, the fruit is fully developed but small -- not quite the size of a golf ball. I was told it has a gorgeous bloom and makes a beautiful ornamental plant.

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Old 11-10-2008, 02:37 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pomegranate variety collection at Wolfskill

Richard, it was great that you were able to make it up to NorCal and mix a variety of things into your trip. I'm sorry my schedule was so hectic and didn't have time for a visit other than a bit at Wolfskill. A week later and I would have been much more able to show you around, etc.

Did you have any personal favorites. I was pleased that you had found Al-sirin-nar to be of good taste (despite big hard seeds) as it is one of my favorites also. It was originally going to be in my test plot but Jeff had to substitute another cultivar since he had inadequate materail for Al-sirin-nar.

As I think I may have mentioned, I started a pomegranate discussion group last year and Joe and I have both posted some tasting scores there. You're welcome to join the group if you'd like, but you can browse the comments without being a member. The recent tasting results begin at Yahoo! Groups. It's not a very active group but the moderator is nice.

Also, the Golden Gate CRFG chapter has a blog and a couple of photos there at CRFG Golden Gate.

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Old 11-10-2008, 02:39 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pomegranate variety collection at Wolfskill

One more thing, Richard, the trees behind the pomegranates in your top photo are mulberry, in case you had not noticed. I've never been there at a time to try the fruit.
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Old 11-11-2008, 01:59 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pomegranate variety collection at Wolfskill

Quote:
Originally Posted by harveyc View Post
...
Did you have any personal favorites? ...
Well, about 16 out of the 180 varieties. Here's 4 that I think are under-rated:
DPUN-0109 "Medovyi Vahsha", a juicy and sweet fruit with soft seeds.
DPUN-0093 "Palermo", sort of flame-grape flavor with mostly soft seeds.
DPUN-0125 "Arianna", has an excellent fruit flavor and soft seeds.
DPUN-0064 "Sejanec", a boysenberry flavor and hard seeds.

I'll write an article about the trip and the 16 recommended varieties. It should be out the beginning of 2009.
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Old 11-11-2008, 03:08 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pomegranate variety collection at Wolfskill

'Medovyi Vahsha' is fairly widely reported favorably by tasters, though I personally think it has a strong "straw" aftertaste.

I also like 'Palermo' and 'Ariana' but have not tried 'Sejanec'.

I think 'Kazake' would be more popular, as well as 'Balegal', if the fruit were larger.

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Old 11-11-2008, 07:30 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pomegranate variety collection at Wolfskill

Quote:
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'Medovyi Vahsha' is fairly widely reported favorably by tasters, though I personally think it has a strong "straw" aftertaste.
Tannins.
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Old 11-11-2008, 10:58 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pomegranate variety collection at Wolfskill

Tannins are usually something that taste bitter to me. This taste off-taste isn't bitter, just like wheat straw.
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Old 11-12-2008, 12:03 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pomegranate variety collection at Wolfskill

Next time I should bring a molecular spectrometer?
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Old 11-12-2008, 09:47 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pomegranate variety collection at Wolfskill

Sure, that would be a big hit at the tasting!

The repository staff will be conducting tests and taking various readings from fruits sampled from my test plot when I am producing fruit in a couple of years. Tannins might be something they'll be testing for and 'Medovyi Vahsha' is one of the accessions in my test plot.
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Old 11-12-2008, 11:04 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pomegranate variety collection at Wolfskill

Quote:
Originally Posted by harveyc View Post
The repository staff will be conducting tests and taking various readings from fruits sampled from my test plot when I am producing fruit in a couple of years. Tannins might be something they'll be testing for and 'Medovyi Vahsha' is one of the accessions in my test plot.
It will be interesting to compare data between our two sites, esp. with the different range of climate and soil conditions.
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Old 11-15-2008, 06:28 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pomegranate variety collection at Wolfskill

In this photo, Wolfskill Experimental Orchard is the tall, narrow rectangular property with many crops that is bisected by a canal running left to right.

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Old 11-15-2008, 07:21 PM   #12 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Pomegranate variety collection at Wolfskill

Wonderful posts Richard and Harvey. In my opinion pomegranates are very under-rated. About 30 years ago (showing my age) we had wonderful pomegranates in Iran, large dark-red fruit with soft pips. Of course now I have no idea of the variety, and it is years since I tasted mulberries - we had big spreading trees in Africa that the hornbills used to pillage early in the morning. It's a pity that the variety of fruits commercially available seem to be shrinking - so please keep publicising the different varieties.
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