Sometimes trivia can be impressive: Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world and the 9th largest nation on the planet. Until four years ago, Kazakhstan was just another “stan,” stuck in my mind, somewhere between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. In 2010, Erik Baard, sustainability activist, made me an offer I could not resist: plant the wild apple trees of Kazakstan on Randall’s Island. Baard pronounced the apples of Kazakhstan, the most ancient apples in the world. “These are the apples Adam and Eve ate.”
On Wednesday night at a lecture, Wild Apple Forests of Kazakhstan: Lessons in Sustainable Agriculture, sponsored by New York City Parks, Ethan Roland Solaviev called the wild apple forests of Kazakhstan, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. Solaviev is a permaculture guy: he sees things differently. The wild apple forests, where they still exist, are models of what permaculture is all about. It’s about doing nothing. No intervention results in a kind of natural selection. This non-selection creates one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world.“In the wild, a plant and its pests are continuously coevolving in a dance of resistance and conquest that can have no ultimate victor.” Michael Pollan, Breaking Ground.
Apple trees with hops growing up the trunks, currants, wild apricots , walnut trees, hawthorn, hemp, rose hips, raspberries, etc. etc. are co-mingled in the wild forests of Kazakhstan. Solavievs’ advice “mimic the structure of the wild forests.” It’s hard to argue with Solaviev from a scientific and conceptual point of view, the problem is with those of us who have an aesthetic point of view. This diverse understory is visually a mess. As much as I try to tolerate a mess, even embrace it; it is still a hard sell. I am trying to work on that.