Fruit Love Letters

By Whetstone Radio Collective

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Fruit Love Letters is a curious dive into the Anthropocene through fruit-colored glasses. Host Jessamine Starr may not be a botanist, historian, farmer or an expert on fruit, but as a chef in Atlanta she's simply had a lifetime love affair with it. So, she began penning love letters to fruit. This podcast pairs those letters with her desires to learn more. From the miraculous survival adventure of the avocado, to the nurturing personality of a fig, we’ll traverse the world of fruit through emotional meanderings and expanding a hunger for more information. Through discussions with farmers, scientists, chefs and enthusiasts, Fruit Love Letters proves that there is so much we didn’t know about fruit, from the blueberries you sprinkle on your cereal or that seemingly mundane apple snack, both in historical fact and mystique.

Episode Date
Food with Mark Bittman: The Glorious, Victorious Asma Khan
Mark talks to the groundbreaking chef, Asma Khan, about the importance of the Anglo-Indian influence, how food and cooking are undervalued, and the beauty of interfamily lessons across generations.
Follow Mark on Twitter at @bittman, and on Facebook and Instagram at @markbittman. Subscribe to Mark's newsletter The Bittman Project at
Jun 28, 2022
Fruit Utopia - The Preston B. Bird and Mary Heinlein Fruit and Spice Park

In this episode @Jessaminestarr visits a real fruit utopia, the @fruitandspice park in Homeland, Fl. It is a county park like no other, full of fruit and spice plants from around the world. She talks with the director, Vanessa Trujillo, about some of the offerings at the park and then chats with horticulturalist Louise King about the history and the future of the park. Finally, she takes listeners on a tour with guide Iva Hegg, who is a wealth of knowledge about everything growing in the park.

Learn more about this episode of Fruit Love Letters at, on IG at @whetstoneradio, Twitter at @whetstone_radio, and YouTube at /WhetstoneRadio.

Mar 15, 2022
The Fig - Mother of all Fruit

"I could label you divine, godly as many have, but you are a fruit of the womb."

The fig is myth, sustenance, and ecological wonder. For this episode, Jessamine Starr explores each of those aspects of the fig and how they intertwine… the stories blending with the fruit’s sugar, shaped by the tree’s strong roots, venerated by wasps and people. She places, in essence, the fig’s mythology and biology on equal footing. Mike Shanahan, author of Gods, Wasps and Stranglers is just the person to answer all her questions.

Learn more about this episode of Fruit Love Letters at, on IG at @whetstoneradio, Twitter at @whetstone_radio, and YouTube at /WhetstoneRadio.


Mar 08, 2022
The Mulberry's Imprint on History

"You are the last tree to flower, and the first to fruit. Both holding on and letting go almost simultaneously, like a secret tattooed upon the hand."

In this episode, Jessamine dives into the rich history of the mulberry with author Peter Coles. She learns that the tree that has become so prevalent around the globe—that some even consider a weed—actually has a lot to offer us. She also chats with farmer and agroforestry advocate Weston Lombard.

Learn more about this episode of Fruit Love Letters at, on IG and Twitter at @whetstoneradio, and YouTube at /WhetstoneRadio.


Mar 01, 2022
The Improbable Path of the Avocado Pit

"I always knew you were special; then I discovered that you are very special - and evolutionary anachronism, a scientific miracle."

In this episode, Jessamine does things a little differently and explores the life of the avocado pit instead of the fruit. She talks with farmer Tom Siddons about the science of growing the avocado from seed and artist Maria Elena Pombo about how she uses the seed to bind us to a past and present community narrative.

Learn more about this episode of Fruit Love Letters at, on IG and Twitter at @whetstoneradio, and YouTube at /WhetstoneRadio.

Feb 22, 2022
The Persimmon - A Sweet Summer Package for Winter Eating

"You taste like a humid August night on my tongue."

Every fruit...and every orchard has a story. Persimmon’s stories are perhaps a little more interesting than other fruits’ least in the U.S., because they’re not a hugely commercial crop here.

In this episode, Jessamine talks to farmers at two very different orchards. The first is Penryn Orchard, an orchard with a rich history, steeped in a love of the fruit. And Jessamine gets to visit a new persimmon farm closer to home, Sweet Georgia Fuyu, where she learns about the potiental of the persimmon market while tasting plenty of persimmons along the way.

Learn more about this episode of Fruit Love Letters at, on IG and Twitter at @whetstoneradio, and YouTube at /WhetstoneRadio.


Feb 15, 2022
The Beautiful Complexities of the Apple

“Writing to you is akin to writing a single letter to all the humans.”

Humans have been tinkering with crossbreeds of apples for thousands of years. Gidon Coll, the owner of Hudson Valley Apple Project, shares some of the types he grows and why so few varieties of apples are available for sale at the store or from your local apple farmer. Luckily for Jessamine, she gets to sample some of the rare breeds Gidon grows on his farm. Then she has a conversation with William Mullan, a New York-based artist who elevated apples to his photographic muse.

Topics covered in this episode:

  • Min 1:55: Jessamine’s letter to apples
  • Min 1:55: Intro and apple description
  • Min 3:30: Meet William Mullan
  • Min 4:00: Odd Apples portrait description & origin
  • Min 6:00: Heterozygous attribute of apples
  • Min 8:00: Apple trees adaptability to environment
  • Min 9:30: Exploring diversity of apples
  • Min 11:00: Meet Gidon Coll
  • Min 12:45: How to graft
  • Min 13:00: USDA Orchards in Geneva, New York and why apples are heterozygous
  • Min 15:00: Apples and the founding fathers
  • Min 16:00: The Golden Age of Pomology
  • Min 17:30: The decline of apple varieties 
  • Min 19:00: Apple tasting and the wide range of apple flavors 

Learn more about this episode of Fruit Love Letters at, on IG and Twitter at @whetstoneradio, and YouTube at /WhetstoneRadio.

Guests: William Mullan (@pomme_queen), Gidon Coll (@hudsonvalleyappleproject)


Feb 08, 2022
The Subtly Essential Ingredient for Equatorial Chefs

“Your tangy earthbound pulp, a portal to biological brilliance.”

Tamarind is a key ingredient to the wheelhouse of many equatorial chefs. This week, Jessamine gathers in conversation Sam Fore of Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites in Lexington, Kentucky; Parnass Savang of Talat Market in Atlanta, Georgia; and Maricela Vega of Chico, also in Atlanta. All three chefs are combining their familiar homeland foods—from Sri Lanka, Thailand and Mexico—with their current surroundings in the American South. Despite using the same fruit, the different ways tamarind manifests in their unique recipes is a fascinating testament to their ingenuity.

Topics covered in this episode:

  • Min 0:00: Tamarind Love Letter & Intro
  • Min 2:26: Description of Tamarind
  • Min 3:37: Meet Sam Fore
  • Min 4:07: Sam discusses her Sri Lankan heritage & introduction to cooking 
  • Min 6:04: Sam shares how she uses tamarind
  • Min 8:14: How to make seeni sambol
  • Min 9:18: Tamarind as a tenderizer 
  • Min 11:09: Meet Parnass Savang
  • Min 12:10: Parnass shares his journey to owning his restaurant
  • Min 13:50: Thai food from scratch
  • Min 15:47: Tamarind in Thai cuisine
  • Min 16:42: Massaman curry recipe
  • Min 18:39: Access to tamarind in Atlanta
  • Min 19:44: Meet Maricela Vega
  • Min 21:17: Chico’s efforts to bridge the gap between Mexico and American South
  • Min 23:00: How Maricela cooks with tamarind
  • Min 24:55: Mangonadas, tamarind straws and ponches
  • Min 26:39: How to make ponches
  • Min 27:47: Tamarind Cayenne Honey

Learn more about this episode of Fruit Love Letters at, on IG and Twitter at @whetstoneradio, and YouTube at /WhetstoneRadio.

Guests: Sam Fore (@tuktuklex), Parnass Savang (@talatmarketatl), Maricela Vega (@chicoooatl)


Feb 01, 2022
Cultivated or Wild the Blueberry Has a Story to Tell

"Even so, I cannot move away from my ‘self’/perpetually residing in a blueberry cave."

Jessamine learns the history of both the cultivated blueberry and the native wild blueberry. For the former, she consults Kiyomi Locker, a historian for the Whitesbog Preservation Trust, birthplace of the cultivated blueberry. Through Kiyomi, Jessamine hears of Elizabeth White, the agricultural specialist who took the blueberry out of the woods and to consumers around the world. But just because most of us enjoy the cultivated blueberry doesn’t mean the wild one is gone. Brian Altvater and Holli Francis introduce Maine’s Passamaquoddy Wild Blueberry Company, the only Native-owned wild blueberry enterprise in the world. Clearly, there is space for both the wild and cultivated blueberry in our homes and our bellies.

Topics covered in this episode:

  • Min 0:00: Jessamine Starr recites her poem to blueberries
  • Min 1:35: Intro and blueberry description
  • Min 3:17: Meet Kiyomi Locker
  • Min 3:30: Whitesbog’s history as a village and cranberry bog
  • Min 4:30: Elizabeth White’s blueberry cultivation endeavors
  • Min 7:00: Blueberry varieties and crossbreeding 
  • Min 9:00: Blueberry plants: errors and successes
  • Min 10:21: More explanations of blueberry varieties
  • Min 12:25: Elizabeth White’s unknown legacy outside of Whitesbog
  • Min 18:00: Meet Holli Francis and Brian Altvater
  • Min 19:11: Health benefits of wild blueberries and how they grow
  • Min 21:01: Passamaquoddy tribe history with wild blueberries and colonizer challenges
  • Min 22:02: The result of The Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act
  • Min 23:00: Altvater recounting the tradition of Passamaquoddy tribe harvesting and transitioning to mechanical methods

Learn more about this episode of Fruit Love Letters at, on IG and Twitter at @whetstoneradio, and YouTube at /WhetstoneRadio.

Guests: Kiyomi Locker of Whitesbog Preservation Trust, Brian Altvater & Holli Francis of Passamaquoddy Wild Blueberry Company

Jan 25, 2022
The Native Fruit Worth Remembering

“A perfume so intense it confuses the senses.”

One of North America’s least-known native fruits, the pawpaw deserves a stage of its own. Jessamine chats with historian, writer and citizen of the Choctaw Nation, Devon Mihesuah. Having grown up eating pawpaws, Devon wants pawpaw fruits to be available to Indigenous communities for years to come. To explore a pathway to pawpaw preservation through cultivation, Jessamine speaks with Neal Peterson, a plant geneticist who has spent the last 45 years creating pawpaws for the future.

Topics covered in this episode:

  • Min 1:00: Jessamine recites her letter to pawpaws
  • Min: 2:50: Jessamine gives a brief introduction to pawpaw
  • Min 3:40: Meet Devon Mihesuah
  • Min 4:40: Devon recounts her pawpaw past and present
  • Min 6:40: Favorite ways to eat pawpaws
  • Min 7:45: Role of pawpaws in Choctaw diet
  • Min 9:15: Cultural knowledge regarding pawpaws
  • Min 11:40: Foraging wild pawpaw challenges
  • Min 13:30: Tribes revitalizing pawpaws and indigenous food sovereignty  
  • Min 15:00: Devon describes growing her own pawpaw plants
  • Min 17:00: Meet Neal Peterson
  • Min 18:00: Neal recounts his first taste of pawpaw
  • Min 19:30: Neal describes his research findings and method of past pawpaw breeding
  • Min 21:30: Neal finds surviving pawpaw trees to begin his cultivation process
  • Min 24:00: Neal explains the metrics evaluated to obtain his successful cultivars
  • Min 27:00: Neal praises the rise of pawpaw excitement and compares its future to be similar to blueberries

Learn more about this episode of Fruit Love Letters at, on IG and Twitter at @whetstoneradio, and YouTube at /WhetstoneRadio.

Guests: Devon Mihesuah, Neal Peterson

Jan 18, 2022
The Fruit the World Can't Help But Love

"Strand me on an island with one food, I always choose you."

This is an impassioned ode to the mango. Host Jessamine Starr talks to mango expert Dr. Noris Ledesma, who fell in love with mangoes as a child in Colombia and has since spent much of her career studying this fruit. While both Jessamine and Noris share a great love for mango, Noris has made it her life's mission to ensure that it continues to thrive and make it to our kitchen tables. She has traveled around the world collecting mango species in an attempt to cultivate mangoes that can withstand everything from climate change and farmers' needs to the picky consumer's eye.

Topics covered in this episode:

  • Min 1:00: Jessamine recites her letter to mangoes
  • Min 3:30: Meet Noris Ledesma
  • Min 5:40: Why mangoes are so special to communities in Florida
  • Min 8:50: Mango import process to the US
  • Min 9:30: Growing mangoes in the US
  • Min 12:00: Environmental and growing climate concerns and solutions for mango farmers
  • Min 16:00: Purple skin mangoes to prevent food loss due to slight imperfections
  • Min 18:00: Ways to eat mangoes from different regions
  • Min 20:30: Limitations of mango varieties in the US
  • Min 22:00: Mild allergic reactions to mangoes
  • Min 24:00: Mango connections around the world

Learn more about this episode of Fruit Love Letters at, on IG and Twitter at @whetstoneradio, and YouTube at /WhetstoneRadio.

Guest: Dr. Noris Ledesma (@norisledesma)

Jan 11, 2022
Trailer - Fruit Love Letters

Curious about what’s to come in WRC’s new podcast, Fruit Love Letters? Listen to host Jessamine Starr (@jessasminestarr) tell you all about it in this trailer!

Mark your calendars for the launch of #FruitLoveLetters on Tuesday, January 11!

Jan 10, 2022