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The Fruit Hunters - a book review

The Fruit Hunters - a book review

Adam Gollner's "The Fruit Hunters" is a must read for anyone who frequents the Cloudforest. This is one of the few books that I've managed to devour in a very short time, and every bit of it was a delight to read.

Adam does a nice job of giving a very thorough exploration of the fruit world, all the way from the lives of fanatic collectors to the depths of the mafia-infested fruit warehouses in the NY Bronx. What is even better is that Adam took the time to experience these worlds for himself while at the same time tirelessly researching the facts by scouring literally hundreds of library volumes.

As a result, Adam's vivid and colorful descriptions of his experiences do a wonderful job of keeping the reader fully entertained while also navigating a world of endless scientific and historical facts and trivia about fruits and people's relationship to them.

I was able to relate to many parts of the book. Adam describes his experiences of devouring a multitude of fruits at their peak of ripeness, an experience that unfortunately very few souls in our times have anymore because commercial fruit has been homogenized into bland cardboard. It's this experience of "oh wow" that drives many of us fruit fanatics. To me, growing my own fruit trees is like living by my favorite surf spot. Many days of the year the surf is marginal. But there will be those few days when the surf is absolutely perfect, and only those who live next to the surf spot get to experience those days. Waiting for my apples or peaches to give me that peak experience requires visiting the trees every day during ripening time, and let me tell you, even one single bite of such divine bliss is worth the arduous labor of tending my own orchard.

It's clear from Adam's writing that he deeply understands this experience of biting into delight, and there is no doubt in my mind that this experience drives his relentless journey through the joys and perils of the world of fruit fanatics.

Adam also does a very good expose on the evils of today's fruit industry and how large-scale industrial greed has robbed the consumer of the experience of eating a sumptuous fruit. Those of us who understand what a good fruit taste like have no choice but to grow our own, and wait for that perfect day when the fruit is ripe.

Obviously eating that perfect fruit can trigger a real spiritual experience, and Adam doesn't hesitate to explore that angle in depth. I had no idea of the sheer multitudes of fruit and fruitarian centered religious cults that roam the planet, everything from hippie naked orchardists to fruitarians convinced they would live for eternity if they nourished themselves primarily on dates. Of course, of the 60 members, only 3 are left after 40 odd years.

One of the highlights of the book is how Adam plunges the reader into the mysterious world of durians and miracle fruits. No leaves are left unturned: we learn everything from the existence of the much coveted red durian to the industrial spies and political lobbyists that shut down the miracle fruit industry in the 70's.

Perhaps the most fascinating and yet disturbing element found in Adam's book is a vivid description of his encounters with fruit fanatics, and the encounters are often not all that pleasant. There is the old nasty crabby man at the San Diego CRFG chapter that refuses to share a piece of egg fruit with the author. Then there is the author's encounter with Todd Kennedy - need I say anymore here? Now I know Todd and I am sure he means well, but Todd does have a way of rubbing some people the wrong way.

One of the themes in the book that Adam really doesn't touch upon but still manages to describe in vivid detail is a reoccurring theme in the book. What most of the fruit fanatics he encounters have in common is that they are so driven by their quests for fruit that they completely ignore their fellow man. It's as if greed has taken over to such an extent that these people are literally oblivious to the existence and needs of other human beings around them besides themselves.

It's this last theme that made the book sometimes a difficult read for me. It didn't make me feel very proud to be a CRFGer. I know what it's like to catch a plant fever that's fueled by an intense passion, but in the end, when the fever drives one to ignore their fellow man, that's when a passion transforms into greed.

But people driven by such deep passion also provide an incredible service to humanity even if they don't intend to do so out of love for their fellow man. In many ways it makes them fascinating and interesting people to be around. Part of being a member of any fruit club is about learning to love and cherish these people even if they might not be the most friendly on the surface.

Now I know from personal experience that for every single one of these curious characters there are many multiples of fabulous and friendly CRFG members, and I hope that someday, Adam gets to meet some of them and experience the wonders of exotic fruits alongside generous and loving people that aren't so absorbed by their obsessions.

I doubt this is the end of Adam's journey, so I am sure we will eventually get a second installment. But he has a tough job ahead of him if he wants to top what he has just written. All in all it's a great read, and I look forward to his next book.

The following thread was started by Axel on January 22, 2009 at 8:49 am PST

Truly amazing book

It truly captivated me. I had no idea of the world of fruit out there prior to reading it. I assumed that there was only a little beyond what I had seen at the grocery store and in the Sunset guide. In part, its a truly great adventure. To be able to spend a year or two traveling, eating and talking fruit. It is what helped me find this site while looking for which of these amazing fruits I could grow at my own home, lo and behold this site has members practically in my backyard.
He did wax on a bit long about some of the fruits, the butt nut and grapple chapters were a bit overdrawn. Also, it would have been very nice to provide more details about obtaining / growing some of these fruits, a bit of a reference guide including scientific names. Like, where can I find the exploding pomegranates? My biggest pet peeve of all is that the book didn't include any pictures or sketches. Yes, he can wonderfully describe them but I had to go online to see how much the bran muffin fruit looks like a bran muffin (link didn't work:

All in all, the negatives detract but I still couldn't pull my eyes from the book. Every page had something that made me say "Wow!" Everyone interested even marginally in fruit must read this book.

The above followup was added by Jason (z17, Palo Alto) on January 22, 2009 at 9:30 am PST.

Good read

As Axel has said, it is a very good read. His critique of the book should leave many book critics envious.

I found the portions describing all of the rotting fruit in the warehouses very disturbing. To think of the number of people that could benefit from their waste but do not. It truly is criminal.

I would love to taste many of the fruits he such detail. Wouldn't it be great to have resources and ability to take time away from work to go fruit hunting?

There are some odd ducks out there but I'm quite sure they also reside outside of the rare fruit world. I have yet to meet a rare fruiter that has forsaken his humanity. Then again...I've not met any that have been in this strictly for profit.

The above followup was added by Jay on January 22, 2009 at 11:52 am PST.

The Grapple

The other parts of the book were so good I forgot about the tedious chapter on the grapple. Being an apple purist I find it simply appalling that someone would dunk apples in artificial grape flavoring and then sell them at a premium. Who would buy such a horror? The grapple deserved no more than maybe two paragraphs.

There are good pictures on his website. I have a hunch it would have been too expensive to invest in a book that has pictures in it.

I do feel the book is too partial to tropical fruits. Given wonders such as the lychee flavored viking apple and the banana flavored my jewell, I don't think he's given our fruits at home enough coverage.

But these are all rather small negatives that don't deter too much from the rest. Kudos to Adam.

The above followup was added by Axel on January 22, 2009 at 12:17 am PST.

I met that guy

when he came to Powell's bookstore in Portland for a reading/discussion. He was really interesting. Kind of introverted and delicate, I'd even say. Maybe it is his Eastern Canadian culture. He had an amusing wit. He is quite young, like 28 or so. It's a fantastic book. He brought the muffin fruit with him. It was cool to look at. He also gave us a miracle fruit if we bought the book. Afterwards, we ate limes that tasted sweet! He is not that knowledgeable about temperate fruit, so he'd have to do a lot of research before writing a book about that. The whole book is great. I loved the other aspects of fruit, like the industry, etc, but I agree, the chapter on the grapple was merely good, rather than fascinating. I dare you to read it.
John S

The above followup was added by John S on January 22, 2009 at 6:56 pm PST.

Perhaps we have the beginnings of a Fruit Lovers Book Club?

Nice review Axel, I will definitely pick it up.

I would like to hear about other 'must read' fruit books from you all.

I will post my list shortly.

The above followup was added by John Valenzuela Sunset z16-17,Novato,CA on January 22, 2009 at 9:32 pm PST.


I looked thru his pics on the website for the first time this morning. It's too bad that he could not have included them in the book. It would have made it even more entertaining.

I did not realize how young he is. Seems almost criminal that this young guy is bee-bopping all over the world seeing and experiencing exotic pleasures while we are!

The above followup was added by Jay on January 23, 2009 at 4:56 am PST.

More books

I will also pickup "The Fruit Hunters" book shortly.

I thought "Pomegranate Roads" was a good read.

The above followup was added by atc (sunnyvale) on January 23, 2009 at 11:53 am PST.

Book for sale

I'll sell mine for $18 including shipping. Read once.

The above followup was added by mrtexas on January 23, 2009 at 5:30 pm PST.

Sounds great

Looks like I'll have to get this book :). I've meet a few of the extreme raw foodists that are travling the planet before, Most interesting people they are too :)

The above followup was added by Jason on January 23, 2009 at 7:55 pm PST.

good book!

It is a good book.

It reads in a remarkably similar style to Chris Kilham's books, such as "Tales From the Medicine Trail," though with perhaps a bit more comedic imagery.

The author's keen interest becomes very apparent throughout the book. He has a truly omnivorous intensity, in the intellectual sense, encompassing many topics attendant to fruit and fruit growers.

I liked this quote, which I feel applies to many exotic fruits now being almost ruthlessly plundered by MLM and e-commerce (noni, mangosteen, acai, goji, etc.)

"There are no dirty secrets about growing cranberries. It's the marketing of them that has the dirty secrets."

I did find the book sometimes at a lack of focus, written with a colorful, youthful zeal that occasionally obscures the objective of what he is trying to say. But this is minor, as the reader's interest is kept all the way through.

I certainly look forward to reading more from Adam Gollner.

The above followup was added by abyssquick on January 25, 2009 at 10:05 am PST.

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