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The Perfect Fruit: Good Breeding, Bad Seeds, and the Hunt for the Elusive Pluot Hardcover – July 21, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (July 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596913819
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596913813
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,898,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After a conversion experience at the Los Angeles farmers' market where he first tasted the sweet, succulent plum-apricot hybrid known as a pluot, freelance food writer Brantley embarked on this tasty exploration of the stone-fruit industry. In his telling, it is that rare acre of American agriculture that still has room for independents, like legendary fruit breeder Fred Zaiger, whose epic labors—he waits years to learn whether a new hybrid will be edible or growable—sparked an industry shift toward fruit that actually tastes good. Brantley delves into the complicated, sometimes cut-throat world of the San Joaquin Valley's family fruit growers and marketers, squeezed by rising costs and ever more powerful and demanding retailers, always angling for the Summer Passionate consumer segment of lifestyle epicureans. In his chronicle of the 2007 growing season, their livelihoods hang on the unpredictable whims of nature and marketplace; perfect weather yields a delicious crop, yet the fickle Summer Passionates refuse to buy. The light-handed tome is more of a snack than a banquet, but Brantley's engaging mixture of agronomy, reportage and food porn—When I bit into it, it felt almost liquid, like plum jelly—goes down easy. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“After a conversion experience at the Los Angeles farmers’ market where he first tasted the sweet, succulent plum-apricot hybrid known as a pluot... Brantley embarked on this tasty exploration of the stone-fruit industry... Brantley’s engaging mixture of agronomy, reportage and food porn... goes down easy.”  —Publishers Weekly

“Chip Brantley has written a classic account of a modern fruit. The telling is sharp-eyed and droll, and like all great books about food, The Perfect Fruit has as much to do with the people behind the food as it does with the food itself. Brantley's love for his subject is so infectious that even if you've never experienced the pleasure of a perfectly ripe pluot before, you'll get plenty of pleasure from this book.” —Julian Rubinstein, author of Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

"Not interested in fruit breeding? I thought I wasn't. But Chip Brantley brings such passionate curiosity to the subject--and to the machinations of the growers, the technicalities of pollination, even the politics of marketing blocs—that the world of the pluot becomes a whole world, replete with heroes, villains, tragedies, and triumphs."Thomas McNamee, author of Alice Waters and Chez Panisse

"Do I dare to eat a peach? Chip Brantley answers Prufrock’s existential question with a belly-satisfying yes. And dare to eat a pluot called Dinosaur Egg or Dapple Dandy, too. Bite into The Perfect Fruit and savor the sweetness and the bitterness, the love and the rivalry, that flows through the food that sustains us.” —D. J. Waldie, author of Holy Land

"This book is a love affair, or rather two: with pluots and the author's wife. Chock full of wonderful, besotted information on plums and other stone fruits, it is an invaluable reference and pleasure.”—Barbara Kafka, author of Vegetable Love and Roasting: A Simple Art, winner of the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award

“At the core of The Perfect Fruit is a ‘flavor revolution,’ a shift in American tastes toward quality and flavor and away from plentiful, but tasteless commodities. Chasing the story of these luscious new fruit hybrids, Brantley comes face to face with a fundamental change in the way we eat.” —Robb Walsh, author of Sex, Death, and Oysters


More About the Author

Chip Brantley wrote The Perfect Fruit: Good Breeding, Bad Seeds and the Hunt for the Elusive Pluot (Bloomsbury USA, 2009) and is at work on a second book, The Pistachio Wars. A founder of the Desert Island Supply Co. and Cookthink.com, Brantley has contributed to many publications, including Slate, Gourmet, Gastronomica and the Oxford American. Brantley works as the senior lecturer in emerging media in the department of journalism at the University of Alabama. He lives in Birmingham and is married to the poet Elizabeth Hughey.

Customer Reviews

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What a surprisingly delightful read!
Stymo99
The Perfect Fruit: Good Breeding, Bad Seeds and the Hunt for the Elusive Pluot by Chip Brantley is a quick, easy and enjoyable read.
J. Canestrino
Mr.Brantley is passionate about flavorful fruits, and makes you feel the same way.
Michael Hatcher

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Elton B. Stephens III on August 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps written in the tradition of Michael Pollan and Mark Kurlansky's seemingly single subject books (though refreshingly differently), Brantley's book is an excellent read. He manages to take a subject and a fruit that might not even come to mind in the produce section of the grocery store, and give it its due in a personal, even alluring way. I highly recommend The Perfect Fruit, and plan on picking up several copies as gifts this holiday season myself.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robin Seale on August 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I was curious to find out about how an entire book dedicated to one somewhat rare fruit would turn out. WOW! The book not only makes you want to go directly to the supermarket and buy a basket of this interesting and delicious fruit, but it makes you appreciate just about ANYTHING you might have passion for. Chip Brantley uses humor, unbelievable insight and a great deal of research to make a seemingly ordinary subject come to life. The real success of this book is that I wasn't sure I was even interested in the subject and then was brought into this wonderful world that the author gladly let me into.

His love of life, his love of food and the deep love he has for his wife make this book not just an "expert's view' of a pluot. It makes it a wonderful story that is a must for anyone who appreciates beauty...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Stymo99 on August 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
What a surprisingly delightful read! Whether you consider yourself a "foodie" (or perhaps, in this case, a "fruity") or not, Mr. Brantley's unbridled curiosity, humorous insight, and unabashed dedication to the pursuit of that which he does not yet know will truly inspire you to think differently; not only about fruit, but also, in a very comforting and whimsical manner, about life... I really enjoyed this gem of a book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Joel on August 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"The Perfect Fruit" is a really fantastic book. It manages to do what so many nonfiction books often fail to do: to be both exceptionally informative AND page-turningly entertaining. Brantley introduces us to the strange/wonderful/genius cast of characters who comprise California's Central Valley fruit breeders, growers, and sellers as they try to make their way through the 2007 growing season. Along the way, we end up learning a ton about California's agricultural history, as well as the way the agricultural industry is changing today and forcing these farmers--those who actually can--to adapt to a world in which an exquisitely (and expensively) designed fruit often ends up in bin at a Wal-Mart Supercenter marked at a bargain-basement price that diminishes the intense creative and physical labor that went into producing it.

Even more impressive about the "The Perfect Fruit" is Brantley's own love for the subject. It's clear from the first page that he's passionate about the whole endeavor. His keen eye for detail and facility with language really bring to life a bizarre and complicated world most of us probably don't think about as we cruise the produce section of our local chain grocery stores. He makes this world accessible and, somehow, beautiful. Consider his description of the legendary "tule" fog that often hovers in the Central Valley: "Named for a type of sedge that once grew all over the wetlands of the Central Valley, the tule fog is a high-inversion fog, a bottoms-up weather event that usually starts after a rain when the wet earth cools the air just above ground level. That air condenses, and because the Valley is boxed in by mountains, the lower store of cool air is pushed down by warmer air and has nowhere to go. So it just sits there, like a bored ghost.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Alabama Attorney on August 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Some books make you want to hug your wife, or buy a dog, or go hike the Appalachian Trail (or not). Chip's book, for its part, makes you want to go to the nearest Piggly Wiggly and try to find a pluot -- and that's no mean feat. The Perfect Fruit is an entertaining read and, if you're not careful, you'll learn something about the elusive pluot -- and the author -- in the process.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By eatyourgreens on August 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
My son gave this to me to read, and I really didn't know what to expect. I wasn't sure how someone could write a whole book about pluots. But I was hooked from the start! It's really beautifully written, funny, informative (who knew fruit breeding could make for a page-turner?), and filled with fascinating fruit-growing characters who really come alive. I highly recommend this book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Canestrino on May 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Perfect Fruit: Good Breeding, Bad Seeds and the Hunt for the Elusive Pluot by Chip Brantley is a quick, easy and enjoyable read. The author, while casting about in his life trying different jobs and exploring different passions discovered two at once; his future wife and the perfect fruit--The PLUOT. Fortunately for all of us, the author pursued his new passion for interspecific, hybrid stone fruit obsessively and wrote a book about the stone fruit industry in California as well as a brief history of cultivar development in peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots. At the center of the story is Floyd Zaiger, a plant breeder who now specializes in hybrid crosses between plums, apricots and peaches (occasionally almonds and nectarines slip in there a bit). Zaiger was not the first to hybridize plums and apricots, that distinction falls to the great plant breeder Luther Burbank (at least in so far as intentional crosses to make hybrids, natural hybrids may have occurred in the wild), but Zaiger is certainly the most prolific and he popularized the word pluot (plew-ott) for the fruit. There is a wide range of cultivated varieties of pluots (or plumcots) in a rainbow hue of flesh and skin colors. The newest varieties are very sweet, over twenty brix in sugar; as sweet as wine grapes when they are harvested.
We should all be grateful someone has told the story of Floyd Zaiger and his life's work. Plant breeders are passionate about their work, fanatical sometimes. They are often experts not only on the breeding and genetics of their crops, but also the physiology, production, marketing and culinary uses. Plant breeding, tree breeding in particular, requires long-term vision and commitment.
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