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COP21 apples (Photo: DW/Hannah Fuchs)
Image: DW/H. Fuchs

Protecting the climate with art?

Hannah Fuchs
October 20, 2015

A French fruit and vegetable garden has grown a very special crop of apples for the upcoming climate summit in Paris. We unveil the secret of these mini works of art.


What a day for a visit to Pascal Garbe in his garden! The temperature is just above freezing. There's even a sprinkling of snow. By any measure, mid-October is early for such chilly weather.

Most of the apples in the Les Jardins Fruitiers have already been harvested and nearly all the trees are bare. Which is good luck - the sudden change in weather wouldn't have done the fruit much good.

And these are no ordinary apples, but a very special crop of miniature artworks. More on that later.

Fruit and veg with style

Les Jardins Fruitiers de Laquenexy is more than 100 years old. Garbe, who is a landscape architect, has cared for the garden for the past decade, and transformed the space into a very stylish garden.

Pascal Garbe at Les Jardins Fruitiers. DW/Hannah Fuchs
Garbe points out that apples need just the right climatic conditions to ripenImage: DW/H. Fuchs

Visitors can explore different themed areas populated with fruit and vegetables and other plants, and enjoy the garden's fresh produce at the restaurant.

"We have here the most significant fruit and vegetable garden in France, and one of the most important in the whole of Europe," says Garbe, who is project manager for Gardens Policy with the Moselle Conseil General.

"We grow 711 different varieties of apple here," explains Garbe proudly. But he admits: many of them can't be seen right now. So he takes an apple from his pocket, to neatly make his point.

The apple looks as it if has been tattooed. The logo of the COP21 climate conference in December is clearly picked out on its rosy skin. "We designed it especially as a gift for state guests," Garbe explains. There are 200 of these "illustrated apples" for the 196 participating parties - and perhaps a couple of VIPs.

The cool house at Les Jardins Fruitiers. DW/Hannah Fuchs
Garbe grows numerous apple varietiesImage: DW/H. Fuchs

So simple, so special

These apples are a real rarity. Garbe values them at between 200 and 500 euros, depending on the design. In theory, the apple branding was simple - but it takes time.

"It began when the apples had grown to the size of a cherry," Garbe explains. "Then, at the end of June, the apples were packed in little bags. They continued to grow, but kept their yellow-white color."

At the beginning of September came the next step. The bags were removed, and stickers applied to the apples. Any design is possible: portraits, cartoons, logos, buildings. The masked areas are protected from the sun, while the rest continues to ripen. "Around six days later we harvest the apples," Garbe says.

That all sounds logical, but it is not easy. Around the world, few growers have mastered the technique.

"Of course there are a few other companies, but they mainly use lasers," Garbe says. "Our method, on the other hand, is completely natural - the apples ripen with the light, the sun, the weather."

All in all, it takes six months for each tiny masterpiece to develop. The method is also feasible with other types of fruit - peaches, for instance, or pears. But the latter is more complicated due to its shape.

Underlying message

The apples are the perfect guest present for the climate conference, says Garbe. Their growth is heavily influenced by the climate.

"If there is a storm at the wrong moment, if snow or frost comes, it can kill the whole crop," he points out. "We must also think about the coming generations. The future is our responsibility!"

With 711 different varieties of apple, what type did Garbe select for the delegates? "Gloster!" he says. "We already used them for COP10 in Nagoya, too." The reason? Their beautiful red color and shape.

Apples with sun stencils
Properly chilled, apples will keep for about a yearImage: DW/H. Fuchs

Flavor was less of a consideration here, says Garbe. "They are not intended for consumption. Who would just eat such a work of art?" Well chilled, their beauty can be enjoyed for a year.

Let's just hope the delegates don't decide to taste their gifts. The Gloster isn't the sweetest of fruit - and a sour taste in their mouths might end up spoiling the summit results.

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