A crunchy, juicy apple slice, exploding with an impossibly perfect balance of sweet-tart flavor.
A 100-percent whole wheat chocolate chip cookie - the best you've ever taken a bite of - that tastes just like it was made with regular all-purpose flour.
Garnet, my stocky, chubby Milking Shorthorn 2-year-old.
What do these three have in common?
Well, other than the fact that they all are (or would be) pretty tasty, they are all involved in a basic process that has defined American agriculture: selective breeding.
My favorite apple, the SweeTango, which was developed by the University of Minnesota, came into my life by chance. When our grocery store didn't have any of the Braeburns I regularly buy, I threw a couple SweeTangos in a bag instead because the sign on their display described them as sweet-tart.
I took my first bite later that day on my way to a meeting. I was so impressed with the flavor, crunch and juiciness, that I called Glen right away to tell him how good they were. He's as picky about his apples as I am.
The only bad part about SweeTangos, which are a cross between the U of M's Honeycrisp and Zestar apples, is that they're only available for a matter of weeks each fall. Believe me when I say, I just about clean out the display of SweeTangos at the grocery store each week they're in season.
After watching an interview with David Bedford, one of the University's pomologists, last week, I have a brand new appreciation for SweeTangos. Mr. Bedford, who helped develop this delicious apple, said that SweeTangos are the result of 19 years of development. Nineteen years! Plus, it was another five years after the variety was released before the apples were available in the market. In today's world of instant results, that seems like forever. The Honeycrisp itself took 30 years to develop and another nine years to bring the fruit to market.
Those whole wheat chocolate chip cookies were decades in the making, as well. White whole wheat flour has been showing up as an ingredient in recipes I've come across for a couple years now. I finally decided to look for some at the grocery store and give it a try. This flour is fantastic. It looks almost like all-purpose flour and has a much milder taste than traditional whole wheat flour, but all of the whole grain nutrition. When Glen couldn't even tell that I made his favorite chocolate chip cookies with the new flour, I knew I was onto something.
I was also curious to learn more, so I turned to the Whole Grains Council. According to the council, white whole wheat flour is made from, logically, white wheat, as opposed to red wheat. The flour's lighter color is possible because white wheat doesn't have any major genes for bran color.
White wheat has been around for ages and grown mostly overseas, but it took several decades of selective breeding to develop white wheat varieties suitable for growing in the United States.
Garnet is also the result of selective breeding, but her story isn't nearly as spectacular - yet.
For many years, the Milking Shorthorns in our herd have been bred back to both Milking Shorthorn sires and Red and White Holstein sires. For a long time, I was less concerned about lineage and more concerned about making sure my red cows had red heifer calves. It basically boiled down to having access to more sexed semen from Red and White Holsteins.
Then, last summer, I saw a beautiful, dark red, Milking Shorthorn at the fair - the kind of deep, dark red that Red and White Holsteins just don't seem to turn - and I decided that it was time to get serious again about developing the Milking Shorthorns in our herd. Plus, we have three kids now, so we might as well have three breeds for them to choose from when they pick their fair calves.
Garnet settled right away to a Milking Shorthorn bull. So did her aunt, Glory. Garnet's sister, Gabby, who I really wanted a Milking Shorthorn calf out of, still hasn't settled. Since Gabby has been put on the list of cows who need to find new homes, that means Garnet gets to stay. Chubby, stocky Garnet.
Several people have asked why Garnet is still here, she's just that type of a cow. Even I have questioned the decision. But Glen assured me that if I gave him seven years, he could turn her offspring into cows we'd be proud to let our kids take to the fair.
And I believe him. In the eight years we've been farming, he's used selective breeding to create some pretty darn good cows.
I just hope that one of Garnet's great-granddaughters turns out to be as well liked as a SweeTango apple or one of Glen's favorite chocolate chip cookies.