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The Ghost Orchard

About the Book

In the vein of H is for Hawk and the work of Mark Kurlansky, The Ghost Orchard takes a fascinating look at the secret history of an iconic food. Delving deep into the history of the apple in North America, Humphreys touches on the role of Native peoples in early North America, the question of agricultural diversity and her own grappling with the terminal illness of her oldest friend.

In the nineteenth century, there were more than seventeen thousand varieties of apples in the United States and Canada. Now there are fewer than one hundred varieties grown commercially; only fifteen varieties accounted for over 90 per cent of production in 1999. The apple was brought to North America from England in the seventeenth century, and Humphreys discovered in her research that it was cultivated by Native peoples throughout Canada and the US, resulting in so-called Indian orchards that thrived for hundreds of years. Indeed, the history of the apple here can be viewed as the history of white settlement during the nineteenth century, as the fruit was often used as a tool of colonialism; those Indian orchards were eventually appropriated by Europeans, becoming battlegrounds when the white settlers were looking for land.

In undertaking her original research into this history, Humphreys has uncovered a fascinating story of North America that places the apple at the centre of some of our most pressing concerns: the treatment of Native peoples, the role of women and artists in early North American society, and the issue of agricultural diversity—what we’ve lost over the centuries and the ghosts of what remains. In telling this hidden history, she also writes about her own experience while researching the subject, which she undertook as her oldest friend was dying of cancer. The book is both personal and universal in Humphreys’s brilliant, inimitable style, combining engaging storytelling, exquisite writing, fascinating historical detail and deep emotional insight. The Frozen Thames, her 2007 work of non-fiction, which this most closely resembles, was a #1 national bestseller.

Educator and Librarian Resources

Critical Praise

Praise for The Frozen Thames: “This is a splendid book, full of memorable and vivid imagery.” —The Globe and Mail

“Each of its episodes has within it the capacity to do what Humphreys did with the entirety of The Lost Garden.” —Quill & Quire

“Humphreys has an impeccable command of imagery, and her prose finds strength in its subtlety.” —Publishers Weekly

“Delicate and incandescent . . . [Humphreys’s] descriptions bristle with nuance, and scenes are pared down to their bare essence.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“A small, beautiful and highly original book . . . one that is both eccentric and exquisite. It’s a lovely gift for thoughtful readers.” —Edmonton Journal

“Most curiously wonderful and splendidly written.” —The Sun Times

“Powerfully poetic.” —NOW Magazine<./em>

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9781443451536
  • ISBN 10: 1443451533
  • Imprint: HarperCollins Publishers
  • On Sale: 09/05/2017
  • Pages: 256
  • List Price: 15.99 CAD
  • BISAC1: HISTORY / Social History
  • BISAC2: SOCIAL SCIENCE / Indigenous Studies
  • BISAC3: COOKING / General

The Ghost Orchard by Helen Humphreys

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