Thursday, August 30, 2007

Why does some fruit grow ugly?

Want a great inquiry-based lesson idea? Well apple harvest time here in Maine is right around the corner and anyone who has ever been to an orchard can tell you that there are quite a few variances in apples even from the same tree. This year seems to be a very good year for apples, at least up in my neck of the woods in the county. What helps to determining a good apple year from a bad year? Is there a cycle these trees go through? If so can we alter that at all to get better apples every year? Speaking of better apples, why is it that some apples look like they started doing yoga and got stuck? These "ugly" apples look so mutated that one can wonder if some little alien may pop out of it at any moment. Yet, right next to this freak of nature will be a perfectly symmetrical specimen that gets you drooling before you pick it. Same tree, same branch, but completely different product.

Well this is a selfish request. I have trees all over the back woods where I live. Some of these trees were planted as far back as colonial times, and from what I hear, there are some unique varieties running around out here. I have started learning a bit more about these trees and how to care for them. Last year I learned that you can prune too much from a tree in one year. Well, think about it, branches look like hair and we can trim those pesky hairs right down to a bald spot, right? Evidently, the same does not apply to trimming trees. So I need some class of students to help set me straight on this ugly apple dilemma. I am not biased against ugly apples. In fact some may even taste great if I can ever figure out how to eat the darn things. But if there is something I can do to prevent these mutants from gracing my trees, or if there is some way to naturally encourage bumper crop apples each year, I would love to know.

If you do have students take on this challenge, and the students can post their results online somewhere, could you please plop a post here? In the meantime those ugly apples will feed the deer well as I look forward to another great fruit season in Maine.

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