An ap­ple a day keeps the doc­tor away


A pit stop while driv­ing on a back coun­try road a few years ago re­sulted in the sur­prise dis­cov­ery of a huge, gnarled, old ap­ple tree.

Re­search Di­rec­tor of the Heritage Food Crops Trust Mark Chris­tensen was hap­pily bowled over by the tasty, unique and ver­sa­tile ap­ples found grow­ing on it.

Af­ter some ini­tial test­ing, the tree’s ’’Monty’s Sur­prise’’ ap­ples be­came a hit with ev­ery­one who tasted them. The ap­ple is also the sub­ject of ex­ten­sive re­search by the Heritage Food Crops Trust, while col­leagues over­seas have con­ducted re­search us­ing, not just the ap­ples, but cider made from the ap­ples.

Based in Whanganui, the trust con­ducts and co­or­di­nates re­search, which helps in the pre­ven­tion and treat­ment of dis­ease, es­tab­lish­ing the medic­i­nal prop­er­ties of plants and their po­ten­tial to heal and main­tain health.

The trust be­lieves that ‘‘the Monty’s Sur­prise ap­ple va­ri­ety con­tains a com­bi­na­tion of phy­tonu­tri­ents that can work with the body’s im­mune sys­tem to pre­vent can­cer cells in the body from be­com­ing ac­ti­vated and ini­ti­at­ing a dis­ease process’’.

As part of the trust, Chris­tensen has ini­ti­ated the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of Monty’s Sur­prise and now also the dis­tri­bu­tion of the ap­ple trees through­out the Whanganui re­gion and fur­ther afield - even to Aus­tralia and the USA.

The trust was not all about ap­ples either. There was a pro­ject that im­ported an­cient wheat va­ri­eties into the coun­try, es­tab­lish­ing a net­work of seed savers to grow the plants. A hu­man trial will mea­sure com­pa­ra­ble symp­toms of gluten in­tol­er­ance and sim­i­lar.

Heritage beans were be­ing grown and re­searched, as were plums to find su­pe­rior va­ri­eties for hu­man health. Re­search with heritage toma­toes was look­ing at the best open-pol­li­nated tomato va­ri­eties in the world for hu­man health, par­tic­u­larly those high­est in ly­copene for can­cer pre­ven­tion.

Chris­tensen will be speak­ing at a RE­CAP or­gan­ised event in Ash­hurst on Thurs­day, Au­gust 10 at 7pm in St Mary’s Church Hall on Cam­bridge Ave, with en­try by koha.

Vol­un­teers from Pro­ject Mar­ton bag free Monty Sur­prise ap­ple trees.

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