“The apple trees of yesteryear are slowly disappearing. Many apple varieties common in the U.S. a century ago can no longer be found in today’s orchards and nurseries. But some historic apple trees still survive in abandoned farmsteads and historic orchards throughout the U. S.” –ScienceDaily
Interlude: Finding an Apple
One morning this past spring I arrived on the farm and saw a silver tree standing in the field behind the farmhouse. I had to get closer and see what was glowing. As I neared, I realized the brilliance came from a fruit tree covered with apple blossoms.
No one has lived at Mule Springs Farm in over fifty years. The house was built in the 1870s, and it’s possible for apple trees to survive more than one hundred years. In fact many “American horticulturalists and historians often refer to the late 19th century as the “golden years of apple growing” when scores of apple and other fruit trees were planted in farmstead and kitchen orchards.” So the tree and its nearby “barely blooming” neighbor might be pruned and revived to bear fall fruit.
I return to the tree a few weeks later and see lots of little apples, but they are too close together. A friend tells us the best time to prune and thin is in winter or early spring, and we are late, but I’m eager to do something. So, Bruce and I set about picking off every third apple, so each remaining apple is at least a hand’s width away from the other. The added space allows the remaining apple to grow large and juicy.
But what type of apple do we have? Over 14,000 apple cultivars exist, but only eleven varieties are found in our supermarkets. We know them by names such as Red and Golden Delicious, Gala, and Fuji.
Perhaps ours is one of the 6,654 rare apple varieties listed in W.H. Ragan’s 1804-1904 Nomenclature of the Apple. Maybe it’s a Winter Banana, a Rome Beauty, Wolf River, or a Black Gilliflower? Looks a bit like a Fall Pippin to me.
I hope it’s possible to eat the apple right off the tree, but if not, then maybe it can be sliced and layered with cinnamon, lemon, and sugar into a pie, or its fibers juiced into cider. Even apple butter is a possibility. In late September when the apples are ready to twist from the tree we will know: eat, bake, or juice.
Questions for you: If you were marooned on a desert island and the island could grow only one type of fruit- a fruit you would eat every day–what type of fruit would it be?
What is your favorite apple and why?