BITE ME! (YES, IT'S ALL CAPS WITH AN EXCLAMATION MARK! ;) is a seedling apple that I raised from an open pollinated Wickson apple seed. It is the first ever apple that I grew all the way from seed to fruit as a simple experiment before launching my homescale apple breeding project.
Like many people I had read Michael Pollan's Botany of Desire, a popular book which left a strong impression on a lot of American readers. The chapter on apples reiterates many times that it is a fools errand to grow apples from seed because they will almost surely be terrible. In fact, the whole chapter is largely woven around that idea. You can read quotes from the book in my original blog post on this apple.
That idea took root in the public mind. I see conversations on the internet all the time, wherein arm chair experts claim with absolute authority that you can't grow an apple from seed, or that the chances of getting a good apple are one in thousands. That did not make sense to me and I didn't accept it. Instead I planted a few apple seeds from one my favorite apples, determined to see what would happen.
I grew the seedlings, cut off pieces of them and grafted them onto already growing trees. Five years later one of them bore fruit. The fruit is not only not offensive in anyway at all, but rather beautiful and tasty! It has a very nice texture, is not bitter or sour in the least, and tastes very good. Even the skin is so thin as to not require much chewing. In short it is eminently edible and would have to be classed good to very good, depending on taste and experience.
I have only gotten fruit from the tree for two years, and would have probably waited longer to test and release it. But, it seemed like a good poster child for what I hope is a new movement toward growing fruits from seed and the new apple renaissance that is underway already. I'm still testing it myself and while I think it's already worth growing, there is much yet to find out. I'd like to hear back from people all over the country as soon as possible about how it does for them, if it's a good grower?, do their kids like it? Is it susceptible or resistant to diseases? and anything else!
I decided to name the apple BITE ME! for all those naysayers, and release it to the public. So here it is.
I am putting no restrictions whatsoever on growth sale and distribution of BITE ME! If it becomes the next best apple ever, or is sold widely in nurseries and plant catalogues, or is offered for sale or trade as scionwood for grafting, I won't make a cent on any of it. Anyone can grow it, grow as many as they want and sell the fruits, trees or cuttings. I'm doing that because I think it represents the heart of what I envision as the new fruit renaissance, an upwelling of inspired excitement and interest with a basically altruistic core. Plant breeding is a noble profession, but for most amateurs its a labor of love, not a way to make a living. Besides that, BITE ME! isn't likely to be a commercial success, if for no other reason than it's small size.
BITE ME! is a small to medium sized apple. The skin is red streaked over light yellowish when ripe and takes a very high polish with light rubbing. Shape is oval and often smaller at the top than the bottom. The flesh texture is good, sometimes leaning toward crisp and crunchy, but not ultra crisp. The flavors are generally on the mild side, but this year it developed some of the unique flavor of it's parent Wickson. The wickson flavor is hard to describe, but it's great and is really the reason I used Wickson seeds in the first place. The sugar level is probably kind of average. I've seen quite a bit of scab on the apples, so that may prove to be an issue, but it's hard to say with only two year's observation. I only have one branch, but it is very vigorous and tries to take over the whole tree, so I wouldn't be surprised if it makes a high vigor tree.
Other people have described BITE ME! with words like "Awesome" "Amazing" "Delicious" "Excellent" Granted, most of them were probably biased, knowing that I grew it from seed, but it seems to be very well received for the most part. I took it to a tasting with some other apples that were in season and it ranked in the top several, among the likes of Wickson and Margil. I like them a lot and could eat piles. It is a very easy eating apple.
BITE ME! symbolizes a grass roots apple uprising that is already in progress. People all over the country are collecting, grafting, growing, eating and taking to market, old varieties of apples. But there is good reason to take that enthusiasm one step further and continue to actually develop the apple. Much of our apple diversity and heritage has been lost in favor of a few varieties that serve growers, shippers, distributors and retailers more than they do consumers. Developing the apple in directions that serve us as people that eat food, rather than those that grow food for money first, we take a step toward a healthier, more meaningful and more stable food culture. Also, it's super fun! If this idea sparks something in you, you can share the meme below. I have a fair number of scions this year, about 50, which will be available in my web store. At this point the only way to get BITE ME! is if you can graft it onto a rootstock or tree, but that's a good excuse to learn to graft! Hopefully in a few years they will start showing up at scion exchanges or maybe even in plant catalogues. The North American Scion Exchange website would be a good place to check.
In a climate of skepticism, and warnings based on what has become "conventional wisdom", I planted seeds hoping that in 4 or 5 years I'd be biting into something amazing instead of something green, bitter and sour. I had little to base this leap on at the time besides instinct and intuition, but before long I had started finding out more, and by the spring after planting these seeds I was making cross pollinations between certain apples creating seeds for a home apple breeding project which has grown now to about 260 trees and counting. I've made that apple breeding project public on youtube and my blog and response is great. Follow the link below to observe my progress so far and into the future!
THE FULL APPLE BREEDING PLAYLIST
My Apple Breeding Video Playlist: https://youtu.be/SB5-4Nxej2I?list=PL60FnyEY-eJAMOPvU-yyF4JfuW5ocJvC4
North American Scion Exchange (scion trading site): https://scionexchange.us
Growing Fruit: http://growingfruit.org
Ystwyth Apple Breeders Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCku11NupY80z4lI6UPMk-NA
Marcus Lubera, Apple Breeding Videos: https://youtu.be/HMcw9eYdsco?list=PL9tMerHGOnfWfxAcM4GyuROPwaewTBhbU
Skillcult Grafting Pages: http://skillcult.com/grafting/
Skillcult Apple Breeding Blog Posts: http://skillcult.com/plant-breeding