I now have this years apple pollen available in the web store. I was going to wait and sell it in the winter for next year, but I know there must be some of you who can still make the pollination window this spring. Here only one variety isn’t blooming yet and most blossoms are now on the other side of fresh. I’m just making my last pollinations in the next couple of days except for and pineapple flavored Court Pendu Plat.
There is more on the product page, and some instructions and stuff on storage will be sent out with orders, but a few points here and a shortened discussion on the upside of apple diversity and genetic chaos.
This year I have new black paper packets and black cotton swabs for application. This is a much better system and I’m finding that the pollen dries at a nice even, slow rate in the paper, so I can actually ship it before the anthers have even dried and dropped the pollen. It is MUCH easier to see the yellow pollen on these black surfaces.
I have a lot more variety this year. I’ve processed a lot of blossoms of a lot of varieties and have much of the stuff I didn’t have enough of last year. I’m also excited to offer blends this year, which I’m referring to as Medleys. One medley is apples that I have used for breeding, or think are promising. there must be over 20 types in this blend, including a few red fleshed types. The other is a red fleshed medley, which lots of the Etter reds Pink Parfait, Rubaiyat, Grenadine and Christmas Pink, plus a few other odds and ends in small quantities. At first I thought maybe blends don’t offer enough control, but I’m super into the idea now. I think the gambling aspect is a little bit compelling. I also like the idea of wildcard crosses that we might not think of making normally. I tend to think of some apples as not particularly compatible as far as the offspring they might produce. But who really knows? A cross between Golden Russet and Sweet 16 might sound weird, but maybe it could be amazing. The medleys allow people to get just one packet, but still get a lot of diversity. Not only that, but each blossom pollinated will have more than one pollen parent, because there are lots of girl parts in one flower to pollinate. So, it is a given that any blossom pollinated with these blends will produce seeds with many different fathers. I think it’s the best idea since sliced apples. A little chaotic, but I’m kind of in favor of that.
There was an explosion of North American apple diversity which occurred over 200 years or so and resulted in thousands of varieties. If I recall right, some estimates may have been something like 15,000 named varieties. Whatever it was, it was a LOT! Some of those were imported, grafted types from Europe of course, but many were not. My theory is that a large part of this diversity, perhaps the majority, came from planting seeds for root stock. Cloned root stocks, which are genetically identical duplicates of the same plants are a relatively new phenomenon, at least on a broad scale. Previously, random seedlings were generally used. Sometimes crab apples, but often seeds from any apple. Such an orchard might have hundreds or more trees with root stocks growing under them that were genetically unique. if the top broke off, or the tree was neglected or damaged and suckers emerged from the base. These could fruit in a few years, and be propagated and named if it were any good. Between that, growing seedlings just to see if they would be any good, and hedgerow seedlings dropped by birds and people all over the place, many, many new varieties were discovered. I would more or less like to see a return to that frenzy of apple seedling production.
Since we don’t have seedling root stocks anymore and we have been assured by misguided authors and large breeding outfits that it is a fools errand to plant apple seeds hoping for a good fruit, that explosion not only ground to a halt, but we’ve lost most of those thousands of varieties. And to make it much worse, industry began to favor only a very few types, so that limited the diversity of the seedlings that do manage to find a place to root and come to fruition. Even further, the same fruits have been used over and over in breeding, also narrowing the gene pool.
But many of those apples that were found and named were not actually awesome. To an apple connoisseur especially, they could fall pretty flat. Albert Etter said something to the effect that the average of the 500 apples he grew in trials to find both breeding stock and just suitable varieties to grow in his orchards for market fruit, were rather disappointing. I always recommend that that people plant at the very least a seed from a good apple, but if possible, consider controlling both parents. The idea of apple pollen medleys is awesome, because it throws a large gene pool out into the world and creates numerous new genetic lines from any one apple pollination. In the future, I hope to wax further on the potential awesomeness of this genetic upheaval in the new fruit renaissance, but that is the gist of it there.
I envision the potential for more focused pollen medleys, such as blood apples, cider apples, extra flavorful or novel flavored apples, early apples, cooking apples and late hanging apples. Imagine the diversity you would get by for instance applying an early apple pollen blend to an early tree such as Gravenstein or Trailman crab..
P.s. Ive also made a seriously huge number of intentional cross pollinations of apples this year. I actually got around to making most of the ones I wanted to, so look forward to a large and diverse offering of apple seeds in the fall, including some made with pollen from a couple of my seedlings.