Luther Burbank

Shasta Daisy, created by Luther Burbank

Shasta Daisy, created by Luther Burbank

The Luther Burbank Home and Gardens are a public park and National Historic Landmark dedicated to the horticulturist who brought us the Russet Potato and Shasta Daisy.  It is a 1-2 hour drive north of San Francisco.


Luther Burbank (1849-1926) devoted his life to hybridizing fruits, vegetables and ornamental plants, and he did so primarily at this location, in the town of Santa Rosa.

Luther Burbank House, Santa Rosa, Calif.

Luther Burbank House, Santa Rosa, Calif.


The same house, 1884, with Burbank and wife, Santa Rosa, CA

The same house, 1884, with Burbank and his wife

He moved here from Massachusetts after creating the Burbank potato and selling the rights (for $150).  Here he bought four acres in a climate more conducive to longer growing seasons.  More about Luther Burbank here.


When the potato crops across Europe were devastated by blight, he worked on hybridizing a potato that was blight resistant.  It is the same Russet potato you have on your table today.


Poster of Burbank's creations

Poster of Burbank’s creations

An inventor who lived before the protection of patenting, Luther Burbank managed to get credit for creating 800 strains of plants.  His experiments in cross-breeding were unique for the times.  There is a little shack on the premises where he sold seeds.


A revolutionary in the field of hybridization, Burbank was revered across America during a time when this new science was still considered hocum by many.  Inspired by Darwin and sponsored by Andrew Carnegie, his plant breeding helped increase crop yield and plant quality, insect- and pest-tolerance, and resistance to bacteria and fungi.


Burbank Garden with poppies

Burbank Garden with poppies

While there I walked around the neighborhood, wondering where Luther Burbank  might have walked.  I found old oak trees towering over small houses and SUVs, the driveways littered with crushed acorns.  Maybe the oak trees, I pondered, were there a hundred years ago?  I saw Shasta daisies, one of his masterpieces, and poppies, one of his favorite working specimen.


But it was later, when I got home and prepared dessert that I was rewarded with one of my personal favorite Luther Burbank inventions:  the freestone peach.  Here in California we have two peach strains, depending on the summer month.  Early in the season the cling peach predominates, but the problem with the cling is the stone and the fruit do not cleanly separate.


For those of us who are really into food, we avidly wait for the season to progress when the freestone appears.  The freestone opens up and the two halves break away with ease, exposing the stone without losing any fruit.


That night we set the two tender peach halves on the grill, and enjoyed them with a rum butter sauce.  Ahhh, a delightful blend of golden summer colors and tastes, and a respectful salute to the man who not that long ago bent over a greenhouse table perfecting his results.


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

Burbank Garden featuring Shasta Daisies

Burbank Garden featuring Shasta Daisies


61 thoughts on “Luther Burbank

    • Your comment made me smile, Brick. I’m so happy you enjoyed the post, and here’s how to make the rum butter sauce (for 2). Use one freestone peach with skin on, briefly grill the two buttered halves, cut side down. Melt 1/2 T butter; add to it 1T + 1 tsp rum, 1/4 C brown sugar, pinch of salt. Stir over heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove peach skin, cut peach into pieces, and top with sauce. Good with a scoop of ice cream…yum. Enjoy! 😀

    • Oh how fun that your daughter lived here! It’s a relatively small town, as you know, and the Gardens are not far from downtown, and they are quite modest for a public garden. Maybe you’ll be in Santa Rosa again sometime to enjoy a visit. Thanks so much Cindy! 😀

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the Luther Burbank Gardens post today, Sharon. It’s a very sweet little place in the world. Your words “ready for a road trip now” made me smile. 😀 😀

  1. I admire thinkers very much, Mr. Burbank was well into the hybrid horticulture development. I’ve eaten those peaches before, they are delicious and easy to break in have, rid of the pit and eat the hole thing! Yummy! Thanks Jet, great post! 🙂

    • Thanks so much, HJ, I am delighted to have connected you with Luther Burbank and the marvelous freestone peach. Glad you’ve enjoyed them before too. Life is too short to not know about freestones! 😀

  2. That rum butter sauce over peaches sounds amazing. Surprisingly the best peaches we’ve ever had are Palisade (CO) peaches. Who thought Colorado could grow yummy peaches? Those gardens look lovely.

  3. What a pretty setting, Jet. I enjoyed the walk through the gardens and found the information on Luther very interesting. I hope our Dept. of Agriculture has housed some of his seeds for the future if needed. Also, thinking about heading to the nearest fruit stand to grab a few Georgia peaches…you made me hungry for dessert. 😉

    • I haven’t ever had a Georgia peach, I can imagine they are oh so scrumptious. Thanks so much, Elisa, for stopping by today; I”m glad you enjoyed the Gardens. 😀

    • We don’t often think about how a potato was perfected, I am glad this heightened your (and my) awareness, Iris. Always a delight to exchange words and ideas with you, Iris. 😀

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story. It’s so beautifully written. It is the same Russet potato we have on your table today, Wow! Thank you, Jet! 🙂

  5. Very interesting post, Jet! It was wonderful to learn about Mr. Burbank and his work…and now to be able to taste the fruit of his labor 🙂 I’ll sure be looking for the peaches. The surroundings were beautiful too, great photos!

  6. I so much enjoyed your delightful post with the lovely colourful photos,dear Jet!Lovely tribute to L.Burbank and captivating details throughout your narrative!Amazed at the two species of peach,the word freestone was confusing for me,I thought it was stoneless,but reading further down I realised about the way the stone searates from the fruit.Loved the recipe of the delicacy you and Athena enjoyed!Best wishes for a wonderful week ahead dear friend 🙂 xxx

    • Hello dear Doda! So wonderful to receive your visits, and I very much appreciate your kind comments. I’m glad you enjoyed the Burbank post, and the recipe too. I live quite far from a store so I cook and/or bake almost everything I eat, which I enjoy. I love everything about good, nutritious foods, fruits and vegetables; I just don’t talk about it on my post because it’s not in the parameter of my travel and wildlife theme. I am glad you enjoyed the sidetrack to the peach this time Doda. 😀 😀

      • Oh,apart from being a prolific writer and an avid traveller,you’re a good cook too!Indeed,it was a nice surprise to see your recipe included too,but you had so efficiently incorporated it into your lovely post!You are so close to nature in every way my lovely friend 🙂 xxx

      • Yes, I certainly enjoy nature, Doda! And I so enjoy your attentive and perceptive comments too, I hope your week is going splendidly dear Doda~~ 😀 😀

  7. mmmmm thank for the impromtu peach and rum butter recipe, having only ever eaten peaches as nature intended ..I think this sounds like it’s worth trying..nothing to do the rum of course..ha ha 🙂

    • The end of the peach season is nearing, so today at the farmer’s market I picked up SIX peaches!! And then the vendor gave me an extra “cosmetically challenged” one too. I wish you were here, dear Nan, we’d make our peach coffeecake and peach ginger scones for you. 😀

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