Sam Van Aken, art professor from Syracuse University, has grown a unique tree that produces forty varieties of stone fruit and looks like a beautiful artwork of pink, white, red and purple blossoms. The tree, called Tree of 40 Fruit, is a hybridised fruit tree which he grew from the combination of his knowledge of art and his childhood days in a family farm in Pennsylvania.
In 2008, Van Aken bought an orchid in the New York State Agricultural Station which was about to close due to lack of money. The orchid had a huge number of heirloom, antique and native types of stone fruit, some of which were about 150 to 200 years old. After he bought the orchid, Van Aken took his time to understand how to graft different parts of trees into one fruit tree.
The tree produces a beautiful harvest of plums, peaches, apricots, nectarines and almonds.
Van Aken worked on a timeline which revolved around when each of the 250 varieties of stone fruit would blossom in relation to each other. He, then, worked on grafting a few of the stone fruits into the root structure of the tree. When the tree turned two years old, a technique called chip grafting was adopted by Van Aken, by which he added more varieties of the fruit as separate branches. Five years later, sixteen Tree of 40 Fruit has been grown and planted at museums, community centres and private art collections in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Arkansas and California.
He aims to grow small orchards of the Tree of 40 around the city as well. Van Aken told Epicurous that the fruits ripen at different times of the year, ranging from July to October, hence always giving a different variety of the fruit.
He recently gave an interview for TEDx which can be read at Epicurious.