Posts filed under Food Trees Fruits and Nuts

Tasting 9 Late Winter Apples, The Good, The Great and The Mushy

Anyone that has followed my apple content for a while knows I'm obsessed with late hanging apples.  In this video I'm tasting 9 late winter apples, mostly off the tree and a few out of storage.  Results below.

Some favorites, roughly in order.

1. Katherine.  Named for early 20th century apple breeder Albert Etter's wife, this is an exceptional apple.  It hangs very late and seems to be at it's best sometime in December.  This late specimen has a rich multi-dimensional flavor.  It was popular at new year dinner last night, one person described it as like wine.  The flavor is not very describable, but it's deep and sophisticated.  Earlier, it is often less complex and just pleasantly flavored.  It has an unbeatable texture when it's at it's best, with a very light crisp flesh and plenty of juice.  This would be in my top 10 apples as grown here.  I have never stored it to speak of.

2. Whitwick Pippin:  This beats out Katherine for intensity and any one person might easily prefer it to that apple.  It is more intensely flavored, complex, quite sweet but also acidic.  The texture at this time of year is better and I suspect it will prove to be a later hanger in the long run.  I only scored Katherine higher because I am more compelled to eat it for whatever reasons and I would never argue with that.

3. Gold Rush:  Even out of storage, this scores 3rd, although Lady Williams would likely go in this spot if it were ripe.  These have held good texture and although they have picked up or developed some off flavors in the fridge, they are quite good, with a forward acidity, plenty of sugar and plenty going on in the flavor department.  Thumbs up for a storage apple.

4:  Pomo Sanel:  Some specimens at this apple at this time will beat some specimens of Gold Rush, but today, gold rush won by a small margin.  This is a very rare apple discovered locally.  It bears some resemblance and eating characteristics to gold rush and it seems quite possible that it is from the same grimes' golden/golden delicious line that Gold rush is part of.  Pomo Sanel is more rubbery in texture and will hold it's shape very well when cooked.  I threw a slice in my coconut milk shrimp soup base the other day and let it boil for a while and it held up very well.  I think you could probably get away with canning it for apple pie filling.

5. Hauer Pippin:  I've not been able to get super excited about this apple, but it has some good characteristics.  It is a rare apple outside of Northern and Central California.  It was originally discovered in Central California and is rare outside of this state, though I hear it was grown commercially at one time.  It is a very beautiful apple and hangs well to the tree through the first half of winter.  The flavor is somewhat odd to me, but this specimen makes me think I should keep a branch of it.

Lady Williams would be higher on this list if it were ripe now, but it is a couple weeks too early.  It may even deserve to be before Hauer Pippin, even now.

More apples could be on this list, those are just the ones I had to taste on this new years day.  Here is a previous video on some of the same apples and others.

A Locally Discovered Rare, Late Hanging Apple, Pomo Sanel

P1030448.jpg

The fable I heard is that someone discovered a late ripening apple on a local homestead, took cuttings, named it Pomo Sanel and it shows up occasionally at scion exchanges.  Like any such apple, it may be an older named variety, but I don't know that anyone has identified it as such.  Although I'm not crazy about the Banana overtones, it's late hanging and richness of flavor have impressed me, and I think it would be found worthy of propagation by some.  If nothing else, the genes that allow it to hang late into the winter are worth preserving.

Very late hanging apples are one of my great apple interests.  Walking out to my trees crunching through the frost to munch on a sugary, juicy, flavorful apple is something I've become attached to.  I recall in previous years that Pomo Sanel is usually my second latest apple, ripening in January, between a group of Christmas apples like pink parfait and Katherine and Lady Williams ripening February 1st.  This year it is earlier.  Apples from storage can be quite good at times, but they can also be less than optimal and may pick up off flavors.  Besides, letting apples hang does not preclude storing them as well, even the same variety.  I think this apple may be better if picked at some point and then stored.  By that I mean that it may be more reliable and I might have fewer losses to rot in the stem wells or the occasional cracked apple, and that ultimately the apples would last later.  Even for a durable apple, hanging through rain and freezing weather an take it's toll.  But I would still let a few hang, because I like having them off the tree.  Another thing to consider is storage space.  I have no root cellar.  I have unheated rooms and a small fridge.  Storage of apples is not convenient for me.  And I was just last night trying to stuff things in the fridge because the crisper drawers are mostly full of apples.  In the end, I think a combination of both hanging late apples and storage, will prove the best strategy to carry fresh eating apples through.  Some varieties will keep long, but will not hang late.  I suspect that most long hangers will store well if picked at the right time.

Pomo Sanel is well above average for winter durability. It will show cracking on some fruits though.  It also frequently shows separation of the skin from the stem down in the stem well.  It also seems to dehydrate naturally on the tree a little bit.

As long storing apples go, I suspect that many others may do better than this one.  Dehydration and resultant shriveling are commonly considered a fault of storage apples and Pomo Sanel is already showing signs of shriveling on the tree.  It is not always a deal killer though.  Sometimes they will retain an acceptable texture as they lose water.  A good example is that some Russet apples will wrinkle up and become rubbery in storage.  Given the tough flesh and somewhat rubbery tooth of some of the specimens on the tree now, I suspect it will have a partial tendency toward that effect.  Other apples will soften in their own ways.  Some become what might be called tender, but without being at all mushy or mealy.  I personally enjoy coarse grained tender apples.  This one also seems to have a tendency in that direction.  Although they were clearly picked too late for best storage life and quality, I do have some put away in the fridge now, and am interested to see how they do.  I must have stored a few in the past, but I don't recall.

My general impression of Pomo Sanel is that it's a gem in the rough.  It is not a highly bred apple, like modern specimens of perfection being created now.  It has some character with it's freckles and somewhat uneven matte colored skin.  The dense flesh requires a little jaw work, something modern people don't get enough of anyway, so that could be a plus. 

The flavor is pretty complex, with maybe something like a fruit smoothie effect.  The most prominent flavor is banana. It's not a sickly sweet banana flavor, but it's definitely there on top, like it or not.  The sugar is  not overly high, but very adequate and compliments the level of acidity well.  Intensity of flavor is definitely above average.  It's no Suntan, but it asserts itself for sure. 

P1030412.jpg

Pomo Sanel's very late hanging characteristics got my attention.  I've been meaning to make some crosses with it, but this is the first year I did.  I crossed it with the queen of late hanging apples (in my orchard), the sleek, durable, beautiful, highly flavored, well behaved Lady Williams.  She impressed someone, because she is one of the parents of Pink Lady, an excellent late hanging apple in it's own right that I've eaten off the tree here at the new year.  Another potential cross would be Gold Rush and Pomo Sanel.  Gold Rush is by all accounts an outstanding storage apple and has disease resistance genes.  The ones I'm eating out of storage now are quite good around Christmas.  They both have Banana as a prominent flavor when ripe, but other flavors differ a little.  Gold Rush has more spice in it.  Gold rush is not durable on the tree though, where it cracks and declines in quality.  Both seem productive.  Gold rush has Golden Delicious and given the characteristics and appearance of this apple, it wouldn't surprise me if it comes from the Grime's Golden/Golden Delicious line.  Other late hanging apples that come to mind as possible candidates for crossing are Whitwick Pippin, Allen's Everlasting, Pink Parfait, Grenadine, Granny Smith, Katherine (of Etter) and Pink Lady.  Since I've made crosses using some of those late apples already I also hope to have seedlings that could potentially provide breeding material.  Who knows what the limits of quality, hanging and storage apples might be if we keep crossing these late lines.

I'm saving some seeds from this interesting apple to distribute this winter, but I can't send out scions of Pomo Sanel, or anything else, due to disease issues in the orchard.  I may at some point try to sleuth out a new source of scions to distribute to people that might grow it and share it out.  I have no idea what level and duration of cold it can stand.  Even if picking it for storage, it has to ripen into at least late November here.  It's okay to pick apples early for storage, but they should be fully sized up.  The picture below shows Pomo Sanel in mid November still looking a little lean and green.  Your mileage may vary of course.

 Pomo Sanel looking a little bit green on November 14th here in Northern California

Pomo Sanel looking a little bit green on November 14th here in Northern California

One thing I feel sure of is that this variety is worth saving, and it is certainly not remotely safe at this point.  Maybe the longest standing, most knowledgeable and well connected local fruit collector/experimenter I know asked me for some mosaic virus infected scions a couple of years ago.  I'm sure there are more copies out there among the local fruit collectors somewhere, but if it's not distributed much by any of us, it will fizzle out like so many others have.  That is assuming that it is a unique variety and just an unidentified more common named variety.

Etter's Blood Apples, Unique, Beautiful and Tasty, Red Flesh, Red Flavor

gren bited.jpg

This year I have three of apple breeder Albert Etter's red fleshed apples fruiting.  They are very unique and interesting apples, though they still represent unfinished work.  Red fleshed apples will be coming more and more into the public eye over the coming years.  They could have arrived much sooner had anyone taken up Etter's work, which was already well started.  With all their faults, these apples are still worth growing.  Also a short video on Gold Rush, which might be the apple I've seen most universally endorsed by home growers for flavor, keeping ability and disease resistance.

Cherry Cox Apple Variety and a Few Others, Tasting and Review

DSC09983.jpg

When I moved here 12 years ago, one of the first things I did was start to plan my fruit orchards.  I well knew then that the time to plant a fruit tree is ten years ago, now I might extend that to 15.  I began doing research on apple varieties, which I was very unfamiliar with.  I figured there must be hundreds of them, but the best resource I had available was a thick book called Cornucopia, a source book of edible plants which only listed a few of what I later found out were probably tens of thousands of named varieties.  I also talked to friend and fruit explorer Freddy Menge, who made his best recommendations at the time.  I had helped Mark Dupont of Sandy Bar nursery graft his first batch of fruit trees many years before, and had an outstanding favor owed for fruit trees whenever I finally got my own place.  I called in that favor.  Looking through their catalogue, they said they had a variety called cherry cox that had become a homestead favorite.  I was intrigued.   They had no trees to sell that year, but Mark sent me a scion, one of the first scions I grafted onto frankentree.  I've since sent out lots of scions to other people all over the country.

Cherry Cox has not disappointed.  It really does taste like cherries, among other flavors.  Few descriptions mention that it has a cherry flavor, suggesting even that the name is for the redder color it has.  There is no doubt though that the name is from the flavor, though I don't doubt that it does not always develop and some say they can't detect it at all.  It was also precocious, being one of the first apples to ever fruit on frankentree and one of the most consistent since.  If anything, it sets too much fruit, though it has taken years off as almost any apple will do when poorly managed.  It seems healthy enough so far, but I can't say too much about that as apple diseases are just getting a real foothold here.  It does get scab, and I think it could be called moderately susceptible.  Don't quote me on that, it's just a vague impression.

Cherry Cox is a sport of the very famous Cox's Orange Pippin.  A sport is a bud mutation.  One bud on a tree mutates into something new and thus begins a new variety, no tree sex required.  While many sports are very minor variations on the parent tree, Cherry Cox seems to be considerably different than it's parent.  It tastes different, performs different, allegedly keeps longer, and I'd just about bet that if you planted rows of each side by side there would be some obvious differences.  I was at my friend Tim Bray's orchard and his Cox's Orange Pippins were notably small and the trunks and branches completely covered in lichens, unlike the other trees.  They are known for their poor growability and have no doubt only survived by the virtue of exceptional flavor.  Cox's Orange Pippin is widely used in apple breeding because of it's eating quality, and is probably the apple most commonly said to be the best out of hand eating apple in the world.  Cox's Orange Pippin is indeed one of the few apples I've ever eaten worthy of the classification "best".  Even at it's best, Cherry cox is still not in that category.  It's a good lesson though that Cox's Orange Pippin seems to do poorly under my conditions and cherry cox is consistently good to very good.

Flavor wise, Cherry Cox has a lot going on, like it's parent Cox's Orange Pippin it is complex.  Obvious flavors are cherry, something almost like cherry cough drops, but in a good way, Anise is also present and I've detected some flavor of spice.  There is certainly more going on, other fruit flavors, but I'm not good at picking them out.  If I were to change things about Cherry Cox, I would.  It could use more sugar, which would bring the flavors out more.  Have you ever noticed how much better fruit tastes when you sprinkle sugar on it?  It's not just that it's sweeter, sugar is to fruit what salt is to meat and savory foods.  Cook a fantastic soup with no salt and you will barely taste the potential of it's flavor.  Add salt to it and boom, flavor city.  The cherry flavor develops early in cherry cox, but the sugar develops late.  It is a fairly acidic apple, and maybe even tart before it gets really ripe.  I would not reduce the acidity, I would just balance it with more sugar.  More sugar would also make it a richer flavored apple.  It can be a little thin tasting at times.  More scab resistance wouldn't hurt.  In the Beauty department it lacks nothing. It's is a beautiful apple.  it can grow plenty large under good cultural conditions, though it is not generally a very large apple.  Cherry Cox is a little known and little grown apple.  I doubt it has great potential as a broader market apple, but it has huge potential as a small scale specialty orchard and farmer's market apple.  And then there is the breeding potential.

DSC09983.jpg

Looking toward improvement, I think cherry cox is very promising breeding material.  If nothing else for the cherry flavor, but it also must carry most of the exceptional flavor gene pool of Cox's Orange Pippin.  My own breeding efforts include Cherry Cox crossed with various other apples.  If my efforts don't breed anything exceptional, maybe they will produce something that is worth using in further breeding.  I've crossed it with several red fleshed apples in the hopes that I might be lucky enough to co-mingle the berry flavors of blood apples with C.C.'s complexity and cherry flavor.  I've also crossed it with Sweet Sixteen, which has sometimes a cherry candy component, while also being a good grower and carrying some disease resistance.  I've crossed it with Wickson for higher sugar content and unique flavor and probably others I'm forgetting about.  I think Golden Russet might be a good candidate since it is one of the best apples I've ever tasted, and it also has an extremely high sugar content.  I'd like to see more crosses made along these lines.  I would like to see Cherry Cox crossed with sweet 16 and Sweet 16 also crossed with the generally scab susceptible red fleshed apples, and the offspring of both back crossed in an attempt to keep Sweet Sixteen's scab resistance, while reinforcing the cherry component and hoping for a red fleshed offspring.... or something along those lines.  I don't know anything about breeding for scab resistance, but the information on dominance of traits is available out there somewhere if one cared to look for it.  I've got all of those genetic crosses made, and then some, so fingers crossed.

 Cherry Cox crossed with Rubaiyat in 2013 and with Pink Parfait this past spring, both red fleshed apples.

Cherry Cox crossed with Rubaiyat in 2013 and with Pink Parfait this past spring, both red fleshed apples.

For various reasons, I'll have few Cherry Cox scions to offer for grafting, if any.  Being uncommon, it may be hard to find scions, but I think with a little effort they can be found.  The more that people grow it, the more scions will be available.  If you have a scion exchange in your area, that is a good place to look.  Online scion trading and fruit discussions can be found at GrowingFruit.org and The North American Scion Exchange.  Information on grafting can now by found on my Youtube channel and on this website.

Cherry Cox trees are listed for sale at Raintree Nursery and Maple Valley lists scions and benchgrafts.


Other apples in my cherry cox tasting video that are worth mentioning are:

Egremont Russet:  A nice russet.  Not up to the best russets as it is grown here, but a good performer and very good at it's best.  Stephen Hayes in the UK is a big fan.  Here is his video review.

 Sam Young is an Irish apple that is rare in the US.  My small branch is just starting to fruit, but seems promising. It's somewhat russeted and is also known as Irish Russet.  I'll be keeping an eye on this one.  It is hard and very sweet.  Below are some old descriptions.

 Old Sam Young

Old Sam Young

Sam Young:  Fruit small, flattish, about an inch and half from the eye to the stalk, and two inches in its transverse diameter; eye remarkably large, having some of the calyx attached to it; colour yellowish clouded with russet, reddish to the sun; very apt to crack; flesh yellowish, firm, crisp, sweet and well flavoured. In use from the beginning of November to January. Tree flat headed, shoots declining, of a light brown colour ; leaves sub-rotund, acuminate, coarsely serrated, upper surface shining, under slightly pubescent. An abundant bearer, and healthy on all soils.

Transactions of the Horticultural Society of London, 1820
___________________________

Sam Young, aka Irish Russet:

Fruit of a smallish size, somewhat globular, flattened, about one inch and three quarters deep, and two inches and a half in diameter. Eye remarkably wide and open, in a broad depression. Stalk short. Skin bright yellow, with minute brown spots, and a considerable quantity of russet, especially round the stalk; in some specimens red on the sunny side, usually cracking. Flesh inclining to yellow, mixed with green; tender, and melting. Juice plentiful, sweet, with a delicious flavour, scarcely inferior to that of the Golden Pippin.
An Irish dessert apple, of high reputation, ripe in November, and will keep good for two months.
The merits of this very valuable apple were made known in 1818 by Mr. Robertson, of Kilkenny. It is certainly one of the best of our modern apples, and cannot have too general a cultivation.

A Guide to the Orchard and Fruit Garden: Or, An Account of the Most Valuable Fruits Cultivated in Great Britain, 1833


You can support this blog and my projects by bookmarking this link in your web browser, and using it if you shop on Amazon.com.  No cost to you and a big help to me.  http://amzn.to/2yv0FSw

Grafting Series Finally Here! How to Dormant Graft Fruit Trees

   partially healed graft

partially healed graft

Grafting has generally been seen as the domain of experts and super-geek enthusiasts, but it doesn't have to be.  It is a skill that many, if not most, fruit tree owners could benefit from having.  Without it, you are at the mercy of economic and social trends, nursery owners, growers and distributors.  Fruit collecting, testing and breeding are exciting, life affirming, useful and meaningful pursuits which all pretty much require grafting.  There are exceptions, but most grafting is not that hard and once you've assimilated the basics, you don't have to really know or remember all that much.  You can go find any extra information you require on an as needed basis, or come back and review this stuff later. 

I've been meaning to do a basic dormant grafting series for a couple of years.  A week or so ago, I decided if I didn't throw my standards under the bus and just shoot the footage, it wasn't going to happen, and all those people out there with scions sitting in the fridge would be all like "WTF do I do with these?"  So, I shot enough for the whole series in one day regardless of lighting and other considerations that I prefer to pay more attention to.  I actually have to re-shoot the last few segments, but I have 5 of them published now for those of you who don't follow me on YouTube here is the entire playlist, which will be rounded out with segments on why grafts succeed or fail, grafting and grafts, aftercare, and follow up care.  Look down the page for the individual videos published so far.  If you are grafting this year and not totally sure what you're doing, I'd recommend watching all of them.  If not, they'll be here when you need them.  The sharpening video stands alone as a good treatment of what is important in sharpening and will be useful to anyone wishing to learn that skill.

At this point, I don't even make 100.00 a month on YouTube advertising revenue.  Patreon and commissions from people using my Amazon link when they shop on Amazon both bring in more.  Maybe I'll someday get enough views to make it work, but for now Patrons and Amazon link users keep the boat floating, and have so far prevented me from taking a working vacation to generate income.  Anyone who uses and enjoys my content can thank them, as I do.  THANK YOU!  You guys rock.  Onward.

THE FULL PLAYLIST

 


Bookmark this Amazon link and use it when you shop amazon, no cost to you, but a big help to me.

Apple Breeding, Promising Lines and Possibilities, What I'm Crossing and Pursuing

It’s bloom season and time to be out pollinating apple blossoms during sunny late mornings and early afternoons.  Since it’s raining, I’m going to write down some thoughts today on promising directions in apple breeding.  As I’ve pointed out elsewhere before, the interests and goals of large scale commercial breeders who have bred most of the apples now available in stores, are to an important extent different than the goals that benefit home growers and home breeders, and even to some extent, consumers.  While the apple is capable of much further development, entire genetic areas are ignored or even intentionally bred out.  Some of these genetics may actually be desirable to us for various reasons.  Not only do I think they are worthy of pursuit, I feel we have almost a responsibility to pursue and improve some of them if we are to begin to re-take partial responsibility for our own food supply and not simply hand it over to a system who’s first priority is profit.

   Anthers, dried to release their cargo of pollen, ready to do the deed.

Anthers, dried to release their cargo of pollen, ready to do the deed.

The big breeders mostly breed for commercial production now.  That means apples have to meet a lot of criteria and be acceptable to growers, shippers, wholesalers and grocers.  Of course they have to be acceptable to consumers too, but with a limited number of choices the consumer by extension has a limited education in their selection and critical estimation of the apples widely available.  Most Americans will have a preference for which apple they like, or what style of apple, but they are familiar with the available options only, and may not even know, for instance, what a russet apple is.  The market has ideas about what we want and will buy as consumers.  Whether those perceptions are accurate or not, I can't say for sure, but even if they are accurate now, I think the market can be trained, or retrained, to want and like other options.  For instance, Cuyama a large organic orchard in California took a chance on Crimson Gold, a very small apple bred by Albert Etter in the first half of the 20th century.  As far as I can tell, they are doing quite well with it.  The apples are no more than a few bites worth, but bags of them appear in the market here every fall and I’ve heard that they are also available on the East coast from the same grower.  It’s no wonder.  It’s an excellent apple, with more flavor than a typical large apple.  Once someone bites into one, they are likely to become a fan.  More on Crimson Gold below.

   Busy morning at the apple sperm bank

Busy morning at the apple sperm bank

FLAVORS, AND OTHER EATING QUALITIES v.s. DISEASE RESISTANCE

While growth characteristics and disease resistance can be important when it comes to actually getting apples into our hands, we eat them for texture, flavor, sugar and to a lesser extent appearance and size.  And it is those things that are inspiring to me.  It seems as though we should be able to take any type of apple that we can come up with by mixing crazy flavors and extending seasons etc. and eventually have something like it in a disease resistant apple with long enough effort and intention.  But if we pursue disease resistance first, then our options for parents are much more limited.  So for me, the pursuit of apple breeding is largely a feeling out process to see what can be created in terms of the things that make us want to eat apples in the first place.

I don’t talk about disease resistance much, because I don’t think about it much.  Disease pressure is fairly light here in our dry summer climate.  I’ve noticed some increase over the years and it will likely become more of a problem as I build up a reservoir of disease pathogens and pests.  No doubt they’ll entrench themselves along with my establishing trees.  I understand that folks in less favorable circumstances would naturally look toward disease resistance as a primary goal and I think it’s an important long term goal and a great endeavor.  There are still plenty of good apples to work with that are disease resistant, including heirlooms.  In fact, I’m sure there are more than ever due to the efforts of large scale breeding programs.  While I choose to keep it simple and not avail myself of much information related to plant breeding, there is no doubt much to be gained from studying how the various disease resistant traits are passed or reinforced.  No doubt much has been learned on the subject, which might be found out by reading scientific papers or communicating with breeders at universities.

But for me now, I cross whatever I’m moved to cross and let the cards fall where they will.  I’ve already seen horrid scab on a couple of seedlings, but the information I want is what the apple turns out like as far as other characteristics go and I’ll worry about the rest later, or let someone else worry about it.  I’m particularly interested in the idea of introducing new exotic flavors into the lines I want to work with.  The most intriguing are the cherry and fruit candy flavors and whatever psychotic combination of flavors are contained in sweet 16.  Fortunately, one of the other flavor groups I’m fascinated with, the berry flavors, are found most strongly, in red fleshed apples, one of my other great interests.  Combining the former and the latter to find out what happens is high on my list and well underway already.  I’m also interested in pineapple flavor, but it is not super common in any apples I have fruited, at least not strongly, except in Suntan, which is a triploid and very hard to pollinate.  I think I’ve gotten one viable seed from suntan over the years for all my efforts, and it died.  And then there are the crab apples with the unique flavor they bring to the table and which Etter showed in Vixen and Amberoso, can be brought into larger apples.  My seedling, BITE ME!, a small to medium sized apple, but certainly not a crab, has enough of that special taste to be it’s star flavor component.  I’m hoping that crossing larger tending apples with that flavor component, like BITE ME! and Vixen, with other larger Wickson offspring will reinforce that flavor trait in normal sized apples.  Vixen is the most promising large parent I’ve tasted in this line.

   Encouragingly, BITE ME!, has some of it's seed parent Wickson's flavor, though it is not strong.

Encouragingly, BITE ME!, has some of it's seed parent Wickson's flavor, though it is not strong.


SMALL APPLES AND CRABAPPLE GENES

Once I realized that the remarkable flavor characteristics and high sugar content of Albert Etter’s Wickson was due in large part to the crab apple genetics used by Etter in breeding, my gears started turning.  Later I was able to taste some of the other Etter crab derived apples, which have similar flavors, including Crimson Gold, Vixen and Muscat de Venus.  I feel quite sure that small apples with concentrated flavor and high sugar could be a class of popular apple.  You may have noticed as I have that large size often comes with diluted flavor.  Breeding large apples with concentrated flavor and high sugar is a worthy goal as well, and it is possible to do, at least to some extent, but there is no good reason to neglect small apples.  If someone bites into a truly remarkable miniature apple, there will be no turning back.  Is it just coincidence that both Wickson and Chestnut Crab show up so often on favorite lists?  Nope, not a coincidence.

   The diminutive and delicious chestnut crab is favored by many who are fortunate enough to taste it.  The phenomenon is very similar to the favoring of Wickson, both of which are commonly cited as favorite apples.  A perfect Chestnut crab is remarkably rich and delicious.  I've crossed it with Wickson, Maypole Crab, and others.  I'm excited now to cross it with high quality russet types, especially Golden Russet, but my chestnut tree died, so I have to wait for a new branch to start flowering next year.

The diminutive and delicious chestnut crab is favored by many who are fortunate enough to taste it.  The phenomenon is very similar to the favoring of Wickson, both of which are commonly cited as favorite apples.  A perfect Chestnut crab is remarkably rich and delicious.  I've crossed it with Wickson, Maypole Crab, and others.  I'm excited now to cross it with high quality russet types, especially Golden Russet, but my chestnut tree died, so I have to wait for a new branch to start flowering next year.

I’m fairly well convinced that the small, intense apple endeavor alone would be a worthy pursuit for an amateur breeder.  Collect all the very best crabs, along with other interesting apples to breed in other traits such as flavors and keeping ability, and start mixing it all up.  The crab derived apples Chestnut, Trailman and Wickson are all already excellent out of hand eating, and a great base to work from.  There are also a lot of red fleshed crabs, though I don’t know of any that are dessert quality out of hand.  I have made a lot of crab on crab crosses and have crossed wickson with many larger apples.  My own thoughts are to continue crab on crab crosses, but also continue to breed crabs with remarkably flavored apples like cherry cox, sweet 16 and golden russet to shake it up a bit.  I’m also mixing in a red fleshed crab called maypole and the red fleshed grenadine.

   Muscat De Venus, another probable Etter variety, small with high sugar and the unique taste that comes from crab genetics.  it is not great out of hand eating to me, lacking balancing acidity, but I consider it a very promising breeding parent, thus the orange tags on these hand pollinated apples.

Muscat De Venus, another probable Etter variety, small with high sugar and the unique taste that comes from crab genetics.  it is not great out of hand eating to me, lacking balancing acidity, but I consider it a very promising breeding parent, thus the orange tags on these hand pollinated apples.

   More Chestnut crab.

More Chestnut crab.

And why not go even smaller.  My friend Becca sent me an unknown tiny crab that hangs in clusters like cherries and has yellow flesh.  It was allegedly acquired out of an orchard at a North Carolina college.  They are truly one bite apples, the size of a cherry.  Most people would probably find them too tannic for munching, but they are sweet and delicious along with the pucker, and I love munching them down, seeds and all.  The flesh is crisp and juicy and they hang on the tree well.  I’m definitely working with Becca’s crab this year.  Imagine the possibility of a one bite apple that grows in clusters like cherries, and has very red flesh.  The red pigment would bring berry flavors to the mix.  Add some of the cherry flavors of Cherry Cox or Sweet Sixteen and that apple could be something else!  It’s a project that’s not going to come to fruition overnight, if it's even possible, so I’ll not likely see it in my lifetime, but I can damn well start the ball rolling and see what happens.  I also think such an apple could be marketable if it was good enough.  It could be sold on the antioxidant angle since they will contain a lot of antioxidant system stimulants.  It will certainly inherit more natural polyphenol content than the average apple, because of the tannic nature of crabs.  There is also the red flesh, which contains anthocyanins, widely promoted as healthy.  Even further, there are the seeds, which contain cyanic compounds shown to have health benefits as well.  The flavor of the seeds also reinforce the cherry aspect.  Give it a great name and sell them as cherry apples in clusters.  Who would not at least try them?

   The apple I acquired from my friend Becca and refer to as Becca's Crab.  About the size of a cherry, crisp, juicy and tasty, if a bit tannic.

The apple I acquired from my friend Becca and refer to as Becca's Crab.  About the size of a cherry, crisp, juicy and tasty, if a bit tannic.

   The beautiful cherry-like clusters of Becca's Crab inspired the concept of a "cherry apple".  I've got apples with all the characteristics I'd want in my cherry apple, but getting them all together in one variety could take many crosses and crosses of crosses and crosses of crosses of crosses, if it's possible at all.

The beautiful cherry-like clusters of Becca's Crab inspired the concept of a "cherry apple".  I've got apples with all the characteristics I'd want in my cherry apple, but getting them all together in one variety could take many crosses and crosses of crosses and crosses of crosses of crosses, if it's possible at all.


BLOOD APPLES

I have not sampled all that many red fleshed apples considering the number that seem to be out there, with more surfacing all the time, but my general impression is that they are badly in need of improvement all around.  My suspicion is that being mostly from primitive genes and receiving very little attention in the past from breeders, the red fleshed trait likely comes with a package of other less desirable genes equating to high acidity, low sugar and not so great texture.  Teasing those genes apart and refining selections to get the traits we want from other apples, while retaining the red flesh may be something of an undertaking.  Albert Etter started the process, and while I haven’t tried all of his red fleshed creations, my impression so far is they could use improving.  Greenmantle nursery has put trademark names on some apples that they allege to have salvaged from Etter's experimental orchards, but aside from Pink Parfait, I can see why Etter would not have released any of them.  Pink Parfait, which has only pink mottling in the flesh and very mild berry flavors, is the only significantly red fleshed apple I've tasted that has very high desert quality.  The others would never stand on their own merits without the red flesh, as interesting as that makes them.  The others I’m most familiar with are as follows:

Grenadine: dark pink to reddish with excellent fruit punch/berry flavor.  Variable quality on the same tree in the same year, lots of early drops and some of the apples go mealy early.  Variable size.  In a very good year it is grainy when ripe enough for good eating and high flavor, but more often it is mealy by that time.  Sugar is not particularly high.  Tannin content fairly high.  But that flavor!  The juice is excellent and it's a heavy and reliable producer for me.

   Grenadine left, with a grenadine seedling, right, that fruited last year and which very much resembles it's parent.  While it will not be the amazing dessert apple I'm hoping to get eventually, it won't surprise me if it's an improvement on the problematic grenadine.  More importantly, the excellent grenadine flavor is present in force and that is the reason I used Grenadine as a parent in the first place.

Grenadine left, with a grenadine seedling, right, that fruited last year and which very much resembles it's parent.  While it will not be the amazing dessert apple I'm hoping to get eventually, it won't surprise me if it's an improvement on the problematic grenadine.  More importantly, the excellent grenadine flavor is present in force and that is the reason I used Grenadine as a parent in the first place.

Rubaiyat: Very dark pink to almost velvety light red, strong berry flavor, but maybe not as complex or punch like as grenadine.  Seems to be very Scab prone, drops from tree, Often mealy by the time it is really ripe, but it can have a nice texture and it is a somewhat more refined apple than Grenadine.  Not all that sweet.  At it's very best it makes decent eating and has excellent "red" flavor.  It is a very nice looking apple when it escapes the scab.

   The velvety fleshed Rubaiyat.  Great potential, but still represents a project that was far from finished by Albert Etter.

The velvety fleshed Rubaiyat.  Great potential, but still represents a project that was far from finished by Albert Etter.

Pink Pearl:  Not particularly rich or flavorful or sugary.  A good cooking apple.  Better texture than the above apples.  Light pink flesh.

There are a bunch of commercial breeders and university programs now working on red fleshed apples.  I don’t know what took them so long.  Albert Etter knew 80 years or more ago that they would be popular, but he just didn’t quite have time to get them off the ground before he died and no one took up his important work.  Any red fleshed apple breeding program should be assessing his apples as possible breeding stock.  I have successfully passed the remarkable Grenadine flavor on to a seedling that I’m already hopeful will best it’s parent (even though I’ve only fruited two apples of it, and one was stolen by a raccoon!)  I’m hoping to get a few more this year.  It isn’t going to be an outstanding dessert apple, I can tell that already, but if it’s better than Grenadine that’s a start.

I haven’t talked to him in a while, but I seem to remember my friend Freddy Menge saying that about 25% of the red fleshed apple seeds he’s planted yield apples with red flesh.  Once crosses with non red fleshed apples are made though, I'm hoping those apples can be crossed with each other to reinforce the trait and bring it out since both parents will carry the gene.  That is the experiment anyway.  I make crosses of non-red fleshed apples with multiple red fleshed apples with just that plan in mind.  I’m also hopeful about crossing the resulting red fleshed x non-redflesh crosses with Pink Parfait and William’s Pride, both only slightly red fleshed, but both excellent desert apples in every other way.  You see where I’m headed I hope.  Take the best apples with red flesh, even if it’s not very much, and cross those to reinforce the red and hopefully also retain the desirable dessert qualities.  That is why I’m crossing William’s Pride and Pink Parfait this year, both great apples with some pink in the flesh.  Check back in about 6 or 8 years, lol.

   William's Pride x Pink Parfait ?  Could these two excellent eaters yield a redder apple that retains the fine qualities of it's parents?  Or will reinforcing the red genes reinforce less desirable traits lurking in their genes at the same time?  I'm going to find out.

William's Pride x Pink Parfait ?  Could these two excellent eaters yield a redder apple that retains the fine qualities of it's parents?  Or will reinforcing the red genes reinforce less desirable traits lurking in their genes at the same time?  I'm going to find out.


RUSSETS

Russets are another neglected but very promising line of genetics.  The phenomenon of russeting has been selected against in apple breeding for a long time now, so it’s not likely that large scale breeders will be pursuing a true russet apple, or even using them in the mix at all.  When I had good russets for sale at farmer’s market, people bought them.  They are somewhat wary at first, but once bitten, they almost always buy some.  Heirlooms are big, flavor is becoming more and more important to people, food is huge, foodie-ism is huge, and because of all that, and their inherent value, russets should become popular again.  There is nothing like them.  They have their own character and uses.  Not only should we not let them die out or languish in the background neglected by the monetary interests that drive our food systems now, but they should be taken in hand and improved, which has probably rarely been attempted due to appearance alone.

   Not particularly attractive russets.  This trait has been long selected against in breeding.  Unfortunately it is often accompanied by a unique and excellent type of quality and flavor that probably cannot be gotten in a non russet apple.

Not particularly attractive russets.  This trait has been long selected against in breeding.  Unfortunately it is often accompanied by a unique and excellent type of quality and flavor that probably cannot be gotten in a non russet apple.

The best russet I’ve tasted, and still one of the very best apples I’ve ever tasted for that matter, is the Golden Russet, a classic American apple.  At it’s best it has a well balanced symphony of flavor.  The flavor is concentrated and lasting.  It also has an extremely high sugar content and was once widely employed in cider making.  So, what’s not to like?  Well, culturally, it’s a pain in the ass.  It grows lanky and tippy with long bare interstems.  It’s hard to know how to prune it and I’m inclined to just let it grow and then hack off some bigger branches once in a while.  I’ve never seen it to be particularly productive either and I hear the same from others in the area.  Perhaps low productivity is the cost for all that flavor and goodness, but it if it doesn’t have to be so then I want more!  Compare that to another American classic The Roxbury Russet, which is better behaved and more productive.  But alas, though very good and very similar, Roxbury Russet is not the apple that Golden Russet is when it comes to flavor. If I had Roxbury here, I’d probably cross the two of them this year with a view toward an all around better russet.  I may cross Golden Russet with Ashmeads Kernel this season for similar reasons.  Another very high sugar russet I’ve been trying to acquire and fruit for possible breeding purposes is the Golden Harvey.  I’ve run into a couple of other breeders online working with Golden Harvey.

   A more attractive russet, probably Egremont's Russet.  It's easy to learn to appreciate the rustic, antiqued beauty of some russets once you taste them.  One bite of an excellent russet will put a big dent in the facade built up thru decades of glossy, polished apple marketing.

A more attractive russet, probably Egremont's Russet.  It's easy to learn to appreciate the rustic, antiqued beauty of some russets once you taste them.  One bite of an excellent russet will put a big dent in the facade built up thru decades of glossy, polished apple marketing.

To anyone well versed in heirloom apples and apple types, the thought of discarding russets from the world of apples would be absolutely horrifying.  Some of the best English, French and American apples are russets.  A person could stay pretty busy just collecting, archiving, researching, testing, tasting, photographing, documenting, making available and breeding russet apples and they’d be doing the world a great favor.  Another of many things I’d love to do, but that someone else will just have to do.


VERY LATE HANGING APPLES

   Pink Parfait hanging on the tree around christmas.  This apple was crisp, juicy and delicious!

Pink Parfait hanging on the tree around christmas.  This apple was crisp, juicy and delicious!

Extremely late hanging apples represent another whole area of possibility waiting to be expanded and improved.  Though my latest hanging apple, Lady Williams, is ripe February first, I’m inclined to think the season could be pushed later.  Some apples store really well, but to have fresh apples straight off the tree on a frozen February morning is another thing.  Also, the same apples could probably be harvested in January and store all the better for being picked so late.  I’ve found sound seedling apples hanging in a hedgerow here in March.  They were the pretty sour and useless, but that’s beside the point.  They were not a mushy mess.  We just need those kind of genes in a better eating apple.  Granny Smith, Lady Williams and Pink Lady are all promising apples for this line and all related, Granny smith coming from the very late, long keeping French Crab, Lady Williams from Granny and Pink Lady from Lady Williams.  Other Late hangers that I will probably use, or have used, are Pink Parfait (December), Grenadine (December), Pomo Sanel a selection from a local homestead (January) and Whitwick Pippin (December at least).

   Cripp's Pink (aka pink lady) at New Years with ice frozen in the stem-well.  Not only still edible, but better than what you're used to, though this is about the end of it's season.

Cripp's Pink (aka pink lady) at New Years with ice frozen in the stem-well.  Not only still edible, but better than what you're used to, though this is about the end of it's season.

I’ve looked for other late hangers, but not concertedly enough to find much.  I’m sure there are many more out there, but it will take some effort to find them.  Others will not have been noticed, either because the owners always pick them early, or because they are growing in cold regions where the fruit can’t hang so long.  I can hang any of these in temps down to and possibly a little below 20 degrees f, though some will be partly damaged by cracking near the stem well, probably due to ice forming there, and may then start to rot.  Others varieties would probably hang that long in good condition, if they didn’t crack so easily.  Many apples will hang late, but there is a clear difference between something like Lady Williams or Pink Lady not even ripening well until very late, or improving in storage if picked and held for a while, and some apple that looks well enough hanging there, but is declining in eating quality all along instead of improving.  My most promising acquisition aside from the two Ladies and Granny Smith, is Pomo Sanel.  I don’t know much about it, just that it came from a local homestead.  It has some similarity to Grime’s Golden and Golden Delicious in form and color.  The apples hang very late.  They have a coarse flesh and fairly rich flavor, though not quite equal in quality to some of the others.  Pomo Sanel is a little more prone to cracking and not as late as the Granny line, but it is still promising and I’ll probably use it to make some crosses this year.

   Apples hanging on Frankentree at christmas.  A video still pulled from the videos below.

Apples hanging on Frankentree at christmas.  A video still pulled from the videos below.

 

#APPLERENAISANCE !

Onward we go into the adventure of apple seeding, breeding and selection.  Those who prefer instant gratification and sure things are probably better off messing about with peaches, which will usually yield decent fruit with less variation from the parents.  But, peaches don’t come in a jillion sizes, shapes, colors and flavors.  You either get it or you don’t.  If someone can read this article and not become excited about playing mad scientist mixing apple genes to see the results, they should go do whatever moves them.  I’ve run into people that are doing the same thing I am.  The apple renaissance is afoot!  Not just the apple revival, but the renaissance.  A new era in which the diversity and awesomeness possible in apples will be realized more than ever.

If I had to do it over, I’d do even more research than I did.  I’d collect potential breeding parents more carefully, collecting and testing everything I could get with very intense flavor, especially fruit, pineapple, berry, cherry and almond.  I’d collect as many allegedly great or super long keeping old school russets as possible and as many out-of-hand edible crabs as possible.  I would also try to acquire more good red fleshed apples to work with.  Albert Etter said something to the effect that breeding up new apples was as simple as breeding up good dairy stock, just start with the best herd you can.  That means either trying out apples that someone else grew, or more likely growing them out yourself for assessment, a several year process, even when using dwarf stock or grafting onto established trees.  Etter trialed about 500 apple varieties and thought most of them were not worth growing.  By choosing the best of those to breed with, he said that he improved on the average of those 500 in the first generation.

I'm very interested in high quality crabs with high sugar or unique taste, truly amazing russets, better red fleshed dessert apples and extremely late hanging apples that are still crisp and solid on the tree after new years as well as being good eating.  If they hang till March and are just okay eating, I'm still interested.  Please contact me if you can help with any of those that are not already listed here.

I've been making tons of crosses this year.  Below are some of the crosses and parents I've been using, though not necessarily in the order presented.  I make up others as I go, like Coes Golden Drop x Muscat De Venus.

Becca’s crab w/ wickson, maypole, sweet 16, cherry cox, trailman, grenadine

Golden Russet w/ Ashmead’s, Egremont, Chestnut (most exciting, but can't make this one till next year), pendragon (red flesh, Welsh), Coe’s Golden Drop, Suntan, St. Edmund's Russet, Muscat de Venus, Roxbury russet (if I had it.  I REALLY want to make this cross!)

Chestnut crab (if I had any blooms or pollen this year) w/ Golden Russet, , Muscat de Venus, St. Edmund’s Russet, Coe’s Golden Drop, Ashmead’s Kernel

Williams' Pride w/ Pink Parfait, Rubaiyat, Pendragon, Sunrise (early), Sweet 16

Cherry Cox w/ N. Spy, Vixen, Muscat de Venus, Sweet 16, Pink Lady, Becca's Crab, Pendragon, Maypole

Pink Parfait w/ Pendragon, Lady Williams, Williams' Pride, Pink Lady, My own seedling Grenadine x Lady Williams #11/12, and Pomo Sanel

Lady Williams w/ Pomo Sanel, Whitwick pippin, Allen’s Everlasting, Newtown Pippin

Sweet 16 w/ Vixen, William’s Pride, Cherry Cox, King David, etc...

Trailman w/ Becca’s, St. Edmund’s, Chestnut Crab, Maypole

Pomo Sanel w/ Goldrush, Lady Williams, Whitwick Pippin

 

THE FULL APPLE BREEDING PLAYLIST

Homescale Apple Breeding: Labeling the Seedlings and Amazing Red Fall Colors

Below is todays video, the latest installment in the now year and a half long homescale apple breeding project.  We started at pollinating some blossoms in Spring of 2015, and now the trees are waiting another couple of months to be grafted out.  Labeling is important because it is what allows me to keep track of each tree and to take notes on the apples as they begin to grow and fruit.  The identifier code also tells me what the parents are and what year the pollination was made.

The fall colors on some of these seedlings is remarkable.  All of the extremely red leaved seedlings have maypole as one parent.  It is the most red fleshed apple I've used, but it also has very red leaves, flowers, bark and even some red in the wood.  The downside is that, it is a very primitive apple with a lot of puckery tannins.  The flavor is excellent, but it is pretty rough around the edges, and low in sugar on top of it.

imagine these all grafted onto one tree for fall color effect.

One neat thing about Maypole is that it is a columnar style tree.  That means it grows very upright and narrow.  Not a single stem, but it has a very small footprint.  It is also dwarfed, so it will never grow very tall.  If I recall correctly, I think the columnar trait is dominant.  So that will be interesting to watch for as these guys grow out.

:0 :0 :0

One of the apples I crossed Maypole with is Wickson, which can get up to 25% sugar, the most I've ever heard of for an apple, so hopefully one of those 14 crosses might yield something sweeter.  If nothing really eminently edible comes of those, they might still make good puckery cider apples if the sugar is raised, or something to use in further breeding.  Because, remember, each new seedling is a product of both of it's parents, and carries a large compliment of Genes hiding within.  If the high sugar trait does not express in the first generation, it may in a second generation, especially if it is back crossed to Wickson, or another Wickson seedling.  Stay tuned for 5 or 6 years to find out!

and here is the entire series on this project...

Tasting a Couple of New Seedling Apples with Mark Albert

While at Mark's Albert's house shooting the pineapple guava video, we sat down and tasted a couple of my new seedling apples, one of which has red flesh.  I'm a little more positive about the red fleshed apple now than I was at the time.  It developed a bit more sugar after spending a little more time in the fridge.  It's not going to be an outstanding desert apple, but I would think now there's a chance it will outperform Grenadine.  It looks better I think.  It's a very attractive apple.  The flavor is quite nice.  After that we tasted some varietal grapes and Glenora grape juice and chatted about grapes a bit.

Pineapple Guava Tour with Collector, Breeder Mark Albert

I visited with my good friend Mark Albert a long time collector and unintentional breeder of Feijoa, also known as Pineapple Guava.  Mark is a dyed in the wool fruit explorer and has dedicated his life to the pursuit of knowledge in the realms of home gardening and orcharding. More importantly he's driven to share that information (as well as genetic material) forward through the local group, Mendocino Permaculture which puts on the local scion exchange , writing, teaching and personal correspondence all of which no doubt cost him a great deal let alone not resulting in any personal gain.  We had a discussion while I was there about that drive to share information which we both share.  The idea that someone would earn that kind of hard won knowledge and not share it would probably leave us slack jawed and shaking our heads in bewilderment.  If that kind of thing isn't used to help us all progress then what's the point?   I hope to do some more video visits with him in the future and get some of his wisdom and opinions out to you guys.

After about 40 years of growing and testing Feijoa, he has some new seedling varieties which have risen to the top.  I've confirmed that at his tasting where I unknowingly picked the same favorite he did.  They are smaller fruits, but quality over quantity if it comes down to that.  Down the page you'll find his recommendations for a early, mid and late feijoa.  After this visit I'm planning to put in three to cover the season.  I have a smattering of them already placed here and there, but I think it's time to put in a row of better placed, and better cared for, bushes.  The plant is very tough and drought resistant once established and it looks good.  All around a good one for establishing on the homestead or home landscape if you have the climate for it.

VARIETY RECOMMENDATIONS FROM MARK ALBERT

At the 40 year mark of testing, the list has gotten pretty simple for the north. 

The north means our Mendoterranean climate zone, or anywhere north of the bay, where the cooler climate zone will likely not allow the latest-season southern cultivars to ripen to perfection before our cold temperatures stop the ripening or freeze the hanging fruit. This list has a definite bias toward the home grower, with no commercial goal in mind, and quality of fruit comes before size. 

The proven cultivars at this point are: 

Early season (October): Albert’s Pride or Albert’s Joy
Middle season (November) : Moore
Late Season (December): Albert’s Supreme

Because these cultivars have been selected in the north, they will also work in the southern California when they are not ruined by the Santa Ana winds, the hot, dry wind from the east that can cook the ripening fruit in the fall. It does not work the other way: good southern cultivars may not ripen in the north. 


This is an ongoing experiment, and we are now testing the latest New Zealand cultivars which have recently made their way to the U.S. These are likely to be very good, because they newest cultivars were selected by New Zealand feijoa lovers with a more educated pallet, not by paid academicians, as in the past. 

Also the biological time factor is that feijoa is a very new fruit, only selected out of the wild in the last 130 years or so from South America. When we look back at the old cultivar names, that’s only 5-6 generations of development. So it makes sense that each generation is higher quality because they are crosses of the best of the previous generation of cultivars. This is how all fruit is improved. The previous 2 waves of New Zealand cultivars were commercial selections and were a bust in California. 

So these recommendations may change in the next 5-10 years. 

In Abundance, 

Mark

BITE ME! revisited, Checking in With My First Seedling Apple and a Few Others

I only had a few specimens of my seedling apple this year.  The first couple were unripe, but the last one seemed better than any I had last year.  That is not surprising since fruits either grafted or from seed can take a few years to start bearing exemplary fruit.  BITE ME! is from an open pollinated Wickson seed, which means that I don't know whos spread powdery pollen was spread over Wickson's sticky stigma.  This year BITE ME! seems to have more of the Wickson flavor that motivated me to use wickson as a parent in breeding.  That flavor and the high sugar content (up to 25%) have encouraged me to make a lot of intentional Wickson crosses with other apples.  It's encouraging that the flavor came through in the this case, although the sugar content of BITE ME! seems average.  I will definitely be sending out scions of bite me to whomever wants to try it.  It has potential and I'd like to see what others think of it in the long run and how it does in other regions.  I will probably start selling scions in the webstore here about FEB 1st.  That is the plan at this point.

Also in this video we taste a few other apples, one that is probably Northern Spy, Zabergau Reinette, Vanilla Pippin and Suntan.

Sweet Subversion, The First Fruit From My Cross Pollinated Apple Seedlings Finally Arrives!

Somewhere back over five years ago I began to cross pollinate apples with the goal to breed new varieties.  This year 12 seedlings out of about 120 bloomed, some of those grew apples, and I now begin tasting the fruits of my labors.  In the video below, I taste what appears to be the earliest ripening of those fruiting this year and am looking forward to tasting a few more as the season progresses, though the set is sparse, the growing conditions harsh, and many of the fruits look pretty stunted and tortured.

This particular apple goes now by it’s tag name GN x GRT 11/12, which means, A Grenadine blossom was pollinated with Golden Russet pollen in 2011.  12 is a random identifier, but it is the important number that distinguishes this apple from the other seventeen GN x GRT crosses I made in 2011.  Grenadine is a red fleshed apple with fruit punch and berry type flavors and the Golden ‘Russet is a super sweet, complexly flavored gem of an old American apple. If one apple was the top inspiration to collect and work with apples in the first place it was Golden Russet.

The Venerable Golden Russet possesses remarkable depth of character and should be grown more.

The new, wild, untammed and Gaudy Grenadine.  The red color of the skin is actually the red flesh showing through it's yellow translucence.

This offspring of those very different, but both very interesting, parents is yellow, smooth, takes a high polish and has a strong aroma, even though it was picked under ripe.  The texture is crisp now, but a damaged one that I ate a couple of weeks ago had a rubbery texture, which if I recall correctly is a trait of the Golden Russet.  The rubbery texture that some russets acquire as they age and shrivel is far preferable to the mealy texture of most over ripening apples.  This new apple is very sweet, and I’m sure the sugar would rise further if it were allowed to ripen more.  Golden Russet has very high sugar levels, allegedly up to 20% and even more, while grenadine is lacking in the sugar department.  GN x GRT 11/12 has an angularity to it, like grenadine, but not nearly as pronounced as Grenadines “roman nose” ridge.  Though perfectly edible, it is fairly astringent like Grenadine, although that may mellow if it ripens more or is grown under better conditions.  These trees are not getting enough food and water, which I hope to fix this next season.

Like my first open pollinated seedling, Bite Me, there is nothing in particularly that is remarkable about this apple, even though it may end up being quite good.  But it is quite edible and certainly not a spitter.  As many of you already have gathered, I’m somewhat miffed about the urban (rural?) myth that you can’t grow apples from seed or you’ll get nearly 100% spitters.  I’ve eaten two of my seedling apples now and they were both good.  A third which I tested while very under ripe was astringent, so we’ll see how that one progresses.  This myth is a misunderstanding blown out of proportion by overstatement and repetition in Michael Pollan’s book Botany of Desire, which was also adapted into a widely viewed PBS special.  Many millions of people must have consumed that information.  Since many people don't distinguish well between information and knowledge, we have the current state of things where any discussion of growing apples from seed is likely to be peppered with un-factoids stated as unassailable truths presented by a guy who probably never grew an apple, let alone from seed.  If the truth were addressed, much of the apple chapter in that book would probably have to be consigned to the scrap heap and re-written since it seems largely woven around that misunderstanding.  If you want to know more about that stuff, watch my apple breeding introduction video below.

For people who view and consume information primarily as entertainment the erroneous content of Pollan's book may be a minor issue, but for me it’s obviously more personal.  I would like to see a frenzy of apple breeding and selection take place over the coming decades.  A chaos of people planting seeds all over the place and doing back yard breeding and selection of apples and all other fruits and edible things.  This is one of the ways we can reclaim responsibility for our lives and sustenance instead of standing by watching ever more gigantic corporations execute almost unbelievably Machiavellian long game plots to control the worlds food supplies while our seed and scion heritage go extinct in front of us.  When I say things like that, many will think of saving existing heirloom varieties, but the breeding and selection of new varieties is also part of that heritage.  After all, that is how varieties were developed in the first place.  When seed is saved, even without intending too, we are selecting and adapting varieties.  But amateur breeding and intentional improvement go back a good way as well and are easier than ever now with wider access to both germplasm and information. 

With apples in particular, I think that we need to continue improvement because they could still be much more improved, they are remarkably useful and they have huge potential for diversification and general improvement in various areas.  Major improvements are being made, but for the most part it is being left to professional breeders who are constrained by market forces into a narrow band of acceptable results.  Things like shipping, storage, size, particular looks and shapes, and disease resistance are also likely to be prioritized before flavor or niche uses.  By way of example, one of the greatest of our apple heritages is the russet group.  Many russets are apples of outstanding beauty, utility and flavor.  But the breeding and improvement of these rough skinned apples (the rough skin of which may actually contribute to their unique eating characteristics) will probably never be pursued by commercial breeders unless things change a whole lot, which lets hope they do, but it won't be without our involvement on some level.  I think Russets are one of the areas that amateur breeders should pursue along with small high sugar apples containing crab genes which have unique flavor characteristics.  I’m using russet genes and have my sights set on a red fleshed russet, which has already been achieved by another amateur breeder using my same favorite russet parent, Golden Russet.  I’d tell you who it is, but I don’t know that he wants his door beaten down by people asking for red fleshed Russet scions!

 I actually believe that the market can be trained or just adapt to love both small intensely sweet and uniquely flavored tiny apples and russets, but markets tend to be conservative.  If russets make it into large commercial track breeding programs, it will be because we the people take an interest in them to the point that they eventually find favor and end up in grocery stores.  For a large breeding program to invest resources into the gamble of breeding up russet apples for many years, then convincing growers to plant them, and finally seeing if the market will buy them, really makes no sense and it is hard to imagine that happening.  You see what I'm saying.  They either think they know what we want or are just conservative in their goals for perfectly rational, though not necessarily correct reasons.  Narrow goals equal narrow results.  Not necessarily bad results, but there is a world of possibility outside of what commercial breeding programs are likely to pursue.

Let me tell you something cool though.  I think that we can probably outbreed the professionals, because their criteria are so limiting that they release apples at a slow pace of one in many thousands of seedlings grown.  The market also only has so much room.  Apples are like brands now that people recognize.  New apples have to be tested, planted marketed and then maybe it will be the next Honeycrisp or Pink Lady and maybe it won’t.  It probably won’t.  But there isn’t the room in that type of market for 25 new apples a year.  We on the other hand, citizen breeder/scienceishists gone mad, can plant seeds of apples we just like, make intentional cross pollinations with whatever we please, trade and proliferate the resulting fruits all over the place and just exist outside of the apple industry.  We can even take advantage of the good work they are doing and back cross some refined, shiny, disease resistant, high quality apple genes from the big guys with whatever rough and ready, five o'clock shadow sporting lad of a russet we damn well feel like!  I mean does she really want to keep doing it with the same pretty boy-band apples over and over anyway when the Sean Penns and Lemmy Kilmisters of the world surely perform far better?

I have been pleasantly surprised at the interest shown in this project.  I hear from people who sound as if they have never grown much of anything that suddenly want to make some pollinations and breed a few apples in their suburban lot.  That would be so cool!  Like I’ve said before, I don’t see this as my effort alone here in my isolated world breeding for success or fame or my own satisfaction.  To me this, and efforts like it by people scattered all over the place, is a group effort.  I don’t breed apples for me to eat as much as I breed them for you to eat, and even more to inspire a rebellion as just described to take responsibility for ourselves instead of whining along as Monsanto and their ilk spread their diversity killing shadow across the globe gobbling up our potential to be free lumen by lumen.  Think about it that way for a second.  What is our potential for true human freedom without personal control of suitable and diverse germplasm for growing our own food?

Sure if I hit the jackpot and get something that happens to meet enough criteria to market I could see patenting and selling a variety, maybe to the home market, but I don’t think that will happen and it's not something I think about.  I may sell scions for a while of something good that I come up with, but I’ll expect to be put out of business by scion trading and will welcome it.  If I get something really good, I would like to see it propagated as widely as possible.  On a motivation scale of one to ten money hovers around zero.  I’m breeding for the public domain and to assess what is likely required to be successful in the endeavor.

I've invested heavily in this project at a personal cost, but it has been out of great interest an passion.  Now we'll start to see what comes of it in the short term (meaning the next 10 to 20 years).  I’m using a lot of primitive genes which will probably lower my success rate quite a bit and I may be pretty picky about what I name and release, except for my first apple Bite Me, which I released immediately for other reasons.  Then again, I may not.  I used to be more of the conservative ilk that wanted to know what every variety was “properly” called and that only the best improvements on existing apples should be released.  Now I’m more for the chaos club.  Let it all hang out, propagate, pollinate, trade and breed promiscuously.  That approach creates life and engagement.  If someone somewhere proudly names and sends out scions of something not so great, big deal.  More life is more better and engagement, proliferation, diversity and passion are what is needed to subvert the tightening grasp on our food supply and our freedom to be responsible for ourselves.

Go forth and propagate!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Training Fruit Trees to Avoid Narrow Crotch Angles & Bark Inclusions

A very common mistake in training trees is to allow narrow crotch angles to form.  If the fork of a tree is too sharp or narrow, bark will be trapped between the two limbs causing a very weak connection.  Along comes snow, wind or a heavy fruit load and the crotch will tear apart resulting in the loss of an entire limb.  In this video I show a bark inclusion on a broken Madrone tree and then demonstrate several ways to train against or fix narrow branch angles.  This is a serious problem that should be understood by anyone training fruit trees.  A little attention early on will insure the tree grows well for the rest of it's life.

April Apple Breeding Update, Seedlings and Blooms!

A short video update showing some red fleshed traits in seedlings and the new blossoms in the trial rows. I'm finally going to get some fruit out of these guys!  More below...

The seedlings are mostly up now and ready to plant out, though there are still a few stragglers.  Many of the crosses I made with Maypole, an intensely red fleshed apple that shows pigmentation throughout the plant, are showing obvious red pigmentation.  Not all of them though, some seem to be taking after the other parent, whatever that might be.

One of the seedlings is showing pinker blossoms than the others.  I'm hoping that means it will have redder flesh.  We'll see in a few months, or maybe many months since it is a Lady Williams cross and Lady Williams won't be ripe for over 10 months!  Wow.

Since several people have asked about getting pollen from me.  I decided to add it to the store to see if that is a service people might use.  Here is the link.  I only have a few varieties this year, but If it seems like people will buy it, I'll have more next year of all the varieties that I like and use in breeding.

15 Super Late Winter Apples, Still Hanging on at Winter Solstice

Here are a couple of videos about very late hanging apples, which I'm always excited about.  I broke it into two parts, because, in spite of heavy editing, it's still pretty long.  More below.

I'm not good at a lot of things, like remembering people, where I met them, their names, their faces, why I should care who they are and what they think, book keeping...  But, one thing I am good at is spotting potential.  Years ago when I found out that some apples can hang and ripen late into the winter, I was intrigued.  This was potential.  The potential to have fresh fruit in perfect condition off the tree at a time when most people in temperate climates are eating fruit out of storage and often already of marginal quality.  Imagine a tree that is grafted to many different late varieties ripening through December and January and maybe beyond?  That is an awesome idea- which is why I'm doing it!  I have a new frankentree started just for very late ripening apples.  But, I only know some of what I'll be grafting onto it, and a lot of work has gone into getting this far.

First I started collecting as many very late ripening, late hanging apples as I could find.  I spent hours upon hours researching apples to find more of them.  Some have fruited and some haven't yet.  Now, years later, all that labor is starting to pay off, and not just for me, for you too and anyone else that will listen to me.  Here are about 15 different apples that are still hanging on the tree just around the Winter Solstice/Christmas.  Some would have been better for sure in early Dec. or even back in late Nov., but some are excellent and a couple are not ripe yet.  There is something of a gap between the very latest, Lady Williams, and the ones at their best now, but I'm sure that gap can be filled with apples that are in existence somewhere now, let alone with what could still be bred in the future using the late apple genes that are out there.

Speaking of which, after making this video, I'm even more fired up about breeding for this type of apple.  I would guess that the season can be extended even further past Lady Williams coming in at about Feb 1st.  I have seen wildling apples here hang until March and still be in good condition, but there was not much else to recommend them unfortunately.  I hope to start getting some fruit this year from late variety crosses I made four years ago, like Grenadine x Lady Williams and Grenadine x Gold Rush.

Let me tell you, as soon as I finish this post, I'm going to mosey on out to Frankentree and bite into one of those amazing, crisp, perfect apples that yesterday was covered in snow and last night kissed by a 25 degree freeze, and I'm going to be stoked.  I'm sure you'll hear more from me on this topic in the future, but for now, this is a pretty good start.

I'd like to continue work along these lines, collecting, breeding and sharing information. You can easily support me in this and the other development and educational work at no cost to you simply by using my amazon links. If you bookmark this link and use it every time you shop at amazon and I'll make a small commission for sending you there.  Thanks for your support.  I'm not sure what else to do with myself!  I'm already planning more late apple variety breeding crosses to make this spring... 

Red Coloration in Blood Apple Seedling Leaves, Flowers, Bark and Wood

Red fall leaves on one of my seedling apples

I’ve been interested in how much my blood apple seedlings show red pigmentation in the bark, flowers, wood and leaves.  My impression is that the apples with the most red flesh also tend to have more of this coloration in other parts of the tree as well.  Bud 9 rootstock is a good example, with very red flesh and bright orange to red coloration in the fall leaves.  It also has dark red bark and even red in the wood.  Most of my seedlings show only minimal red coloration in the spring and fall and very few have really reddish bark, with none close to the deep purple/red of bud 9.  This video shows one seedling that has stronger red traits than the rest.  I suppose this trait may be affected somewhat by it’s age and where it’s growing, but I’m pretty sure this seedling is exceptional.


Maypole has strong expression of red genes in general as you can see in this spring photo.  The apples are also strongly red fleshed, a bit crabby, but still very edible, with some of the delicious red flavor found in red fruits like berries.  I've been very impressed by this apple the last couple years and made numerous crosses with it this past spring.  I'd like to plant enough of them to make juice.  The tree is very narrow and short so they could probably be planted only 3 feet apart or so.  I haven't juiced any, because I haven't had enough fruit, but I'm sure it will be very good.

I suppose one could select seedlings by coloration in the new leaves, or in the fall leaves, or in the bark even.  I know that Nigel Deacon does that in selecting his seedlings.  I’ve decided not to for the time being.  I may later when I have gathered information from the fruit of seedlings I have in the ground right now.  For the time being, I want to see what happens with all of them.  Not all of the best blood apples that I grow have strong pigmentation in places other than the flesh, so by culling most of the seedlings and keeping only the reddest leaved ones, I could end up tossing out something really good and I’d never know.  Another reason to keep everything for now is that I have speculated that the expression of the red flesh tends to come with some other traits that may not always be desirable.  Blood apples, are still being developed from primitive breeding stock.  They have not been refined by long breeding, so there are issues with bitterness, poor cultural traits and texture.  I’m not sure, but again I suspect that those traits may tag along somehow with the red fleshed gene expression.  So, by culling out the less red seedlings, I may also be culling out some of the best dessert traits.  What would you do?  Risk growing out everything to see what happens?  or select only the seedlings showing the most red?  Hopefully this spring will see blossoms in my seedling rows with apples to follow.

I haven't noticed that Williams' Pride has particularly red anything else, but it does have very red skin (it gets darker than this) and a little bit of red flesh.  Rome Beauty is another very red fleshed apple that can have pink tinges in the flesh, and I've seen small tinges in other apples, including cherry cox.  I'm hoping that simply by combining red fleshed apples with apples like King David that just have dark red skin, I may still reinforce the red fleshed trait.

William's pride showing tendency to red flesh

 

 

How I Pick Parent Apples for Breeding New Varieties, My List

Here is a video I put together on Apples that I have used as parents for my breeding project.  I show and discuess a few apples that I am using which were in season at the time, and talk about some others I’ve used.  My approach is not very sophisticated, but I’m trying to keep it fun.  Poring over scientific papers and reading about genetics is not my idea of a good time.  Perhaps my approach will become more sophisticated in the future, but I’m also just curious to see what an average person could do without learning too much new stuff beyond the basics of pollinating, growing seeds and grafting, which are all pretty accessible.  Below is a list of parents I’ve used, though I may have forgotten a couple.  I will probably do more full reviews of some of these in the future.  They were generally chosen for flavor, texture and overall desert quality, flesh color, season and keeping ability.  Those are the main things I think about with flavors and desert quality toping the list.

 

White and yellow fleshed apples:

 

Wickson

Sweet 16

Cherry cox

King David

gold rush

Rubinette

Golden Russet

Lady Williams (parent of cripps pink)

Cripp’s Pink (trademark name Pink Lady)

Granny Smith (probable parent of Lady Williams)

Newtown Pippin

Chestnut Crab

 Beautiful, tasty King David

Beautiful, tasty King David



Red Fleshed Apples:


Etter 7/13 (Grenadine)

Etter 8/11 Rubaiyat

Etter 7/9 (Pink Parfait)

(coop 23) Williams' Pride 

Maypole Crab (dwarf columnar growth habit and intense red flesh that is an odd combination of very edible and barely edible.  I like eating it and am excited about breeding with it.)


This year’s crosses (if I do any.  I have to stop at some point.  Hell, who am I kidding! ;)  This year’s crosses will probably involve William’s pride, Trailman Crab, Centennial crab, Chestnut Crab, William’s Pride, Sweet 16, Katherine, Etter 7/9, Maypole, Red Pippin (fiesta), Golden Russet, Cherry Cox, and Lady Williams, and possibly some other russets.  We need more russets!  St. Edmund’s Pippin is very intriguing.  It is a dyed in the wool russet that ripens in summer.  I just haven’t fruited it enough to be ready to jump in yet.  I will continue to do red fleshed crosses, but also some that aren't.  I'm pretty sure that using just red fleshed crosses is seriously diminishing the percentage of seedlings that will be successful, because of some of the unrefined genes in red fleshed apples.  Also, I'm just intrigued about other lines of dessert apples too.  I should be getting some fruit out of my trials this coming year, so stay tuned for actual results!

For more on apple breeding see the plant breeding pages:

Grape Tasting Notes 2015, and a sneak peek at my New Apple!

Grapes are a miracle.  They often produce enormous quantities of fruit packed with precious sugar and flavor with very little input.  I recently attended a grape tasting at local fruit enthusiast Richard Jeske’s house.  He and his wife host this tasting almost every year, where he collects other peoples opinions on his collection of grape varieties.  I can relate.  I’m always curious about what people think of the apples I grow.  I hold impromptu tastings and hand them out when I go places.  Richard has other fruit trees, vines and bushes, but his main interest and efforts have been among grapes.  He generously prints up a list with descriptions and brings cuttings to the Boonville scion exchange each winter to give away.  He is the reason I have any good grapes here.  He's been doing with grapes for a long time, what I've been doing with apples here for a shorter time.  He also sells rooted vines.

There were 30 grape varieties on the main tables.  I went through systematically and wrote down my favorites.  I plan to put in more grapes here, and have been meaning to go back to this tasting and then get cuttings for everything I like so I can further test them.  I have 4 varieties here now all of which are pretty good to excellent. and two of which I’ve already reviewed in youtube videos, linked below.  Here are my favorites from this tasting.

 

Blue/Purple Grapes

 

Enormous fantasy grape and raisin.  This guy had a big hand!

Fantasy:  This grape is huge and seedless.  It has a crunchy texture, which I like.  The flavors are mild, but very pleasant.  It makes gigantic grapes, which is cool, but they take a long time to dry.

Saturn:  This is similar to Fantasy right down to the shape, except that it is smaller.  It probably had just a little bit more flavor.  I will probably grow both of them.

Mars:  This is a big, seeded grape.  It is flavorful, but I’m not sure I can describe it. There were other similar large round blue grapes, but this was just the one I liked the best, though not by a large margin.  I think the juice would be excellent.

New York Muscat:  A very flavorful muscat cross.  It has good muscat flavor, but without the harsh dusty flavored, or coarse unrefined animal like musk that some of them have.  One of them, St. Vallier, tasted like laundry soap, but the woman next to me though that was the best grape ever.  Different strokes.  I’m not a huge muscat fan and most of them didn’t appeal to me.  I’m sure this one would make amazing juice.

Summer Royal:  Large round and crunchy.  I don’t remember much else, just that I liked it.  Like many of the large crunchy seedless grapes, it's not overflowing with sensational flavor.

Glenora:  This is a small crunchy blueberry shaped grape.  I really enjoy it, though it is finicky to eat because many of the fruits are very small.  It also tends to fall off with the stem attached, which makes it harder to process.  I will keep a vine though for sure.  I wouldn’t plant more than one though.  Video review here.

 

Green Grapes

 

Interlaken:  I already have this one.  It is similar to Himrod, which I also have, but I like the Interlaken better.  It is a soft textured seedless green grape.  My friend, local fruit expert and keeper of Feijoas Mark Albert also grows this in the hotter valley and swears it is the best thing going for reliability but also being of high quality.  It is a very good grape.  It’s not exciting, but my vine is also vigorous and productive and good eating.

Golden Muscat:  This is another muscat on the mild side.  Extremely sweet, soft, seeded.  Again, no doubt would make an amazing juice.  This is a crowd favorite.

Delight:  Delightful crunchy seedless grape.  Richard says it makes a small compact vine.

 

Red Grapes

 

Reliance:  This is my favorite of the four grapes that I already grow here, and Richard says it is very popular at tastings.  So, I’m already a big fan and did a video review last year.  It has some muscat flavor, but uniquely so.  I highly recommend it.

Beautiful, delicious Reliance

Swenson Red:  This one was stashed away in the limited quantity stash for fruit geeks like me to taste.  It may have been my favorite in the whole tasting. I’m definitely picking that one up if I can get a cutting or plant this winter.  It is had a sweet candy like flavor.  I think it was seedless, but don’t remember for sure.  The grapes are small.


I regret not spending more time picking Richard’s brain about the growth habits, disease resistance and any other relevant bits of info on all of these selections.  He did say that he has almost no problem with anything except the pure European vines.  He seemed to be saying that the hybrids and muscats are basically disease free.

The blurry woman in the blue shirt is my mother.

I hope to do some sizeable grape plantings here in the future, but I haven’t yet located where I want them in relation to other infrastructure and plantings.  I also have vague plans for a self supporting grape arbor, but again, haven’t settled on a location.  In the mean time.  I’d really like to get cuttings for all of these and plant them somewhere for further observation over the coming years.  It is one thing to taste a grape a couple times and decide it is probably worth growing, and another to live with it a few years and see how it fares.  How productive is it?  How vigorous?  What color and shape are the leaves (some go bright red in the fall)?  And will the fruit grow on me or become boring?  And then there is raisin making, grape syrup making and juice.  I think I’ll forgo wine making for the most part.

With the quantities of sugars and juice I currently consume, growing a ton of grapes sounds like a good idea.  I’ve done my own hot packed grape juice in the past and it is truly amazing.  The grapes have to compete with kiwi vines for arbor space, but I’ll find someplace to put them.  I’ve got some cool ideas for soil modification etc..

yum, fresh grape juice!

I also took a bunch of apples and put them out for people to taste.  They didn’t get a ton of play competing with all those grapes, but some of the results were interesting.  Wickson as always was a winner.  Not surprisingly King David too.  Margil was also popular.  Most gratifying though was that my first seedling apple was well received.  Yes, five years into my apple breeding efforts, I have a fruit.  It is actually an open pollinated seedling though, not one that I crossed intentionally..  More on that soon.  I’m going to have so much fun making that video!  For now, lets just say it has had a lot of fans and not much in the way of detractors.

My new apple!  In at least the top 25% of the 150 or so apples that have fruited here so far, as pleasant eating as any apple in season here right now, and not too bad lookin'!  Stay tuned for a full report and what may very well be a snarky, gloating video :D


A Visit to FRANKENTREE, With Over 85 Varieties Fruiting This Season!

Wow, frankentree has really kicked some apple tree butt this year with at least 85 varieties fruiting out of 150 grafts.  He looks amazing and I'm pretty excited to retry some old varieties and some new ones as well.  it's just a good apple year in general, and most of the trees are coming through year two of severe drought pretty well.  The apples on frankentree are on the small side, but I've had some pretty tasty ones so far, like the two great crabs I reviewed in July, Centenial and Trailman.  Check it out, its quite a sight!

I know I talk about Frankentree a lot, and multigrafting and frameworking in general, AND I keep threatening to tell you more about how to do it all, but it is coming!  I swear!  A lot actually ;)  I'm trying to tone it down lately, but it's just hard to express myself without cursing like a sailor sometimes!  Well heck, what was I saying?  Oh yeah, it's definitely coming and it's gonna be good.  If I wasn't already stoked enough about the idea, and convinced that it should be the rule rather than the exception, I'm even more stoked after seeing frankentree drooping with so many different apples this year.  I WILL influence thousands more people to do this, either directly or indirectly.  Maybe not to do it like a totally obsessed nutball such as myself, but at least to stick some new and exciting varieties with varying ripening times on that old tree out back.   Well, I'm going to try anyway.  That's the plan.  Help me out by sharing this video on social media!

Seven Summer Apples, Head to Head Taste Test

 Beautiful and Tasty Chestnut Crab

Beautiful and Tasty Chestnut Crab

Untold hours of research into apple geekery has resulted, among other things, in a fair collection of early apples of high reputation. Although many have not lived up their reputations, at least not in my climate, my last taste test of two early crab apples, TRAILMAN and CENTENNIAL was very encouraging  This week I got to taste 7 early apples that are in eating around early to mid August.  The results didn't surprise me. I've tasted most of these apples before. Still, it was very revealing to taste all of them at the same time and compare directly.  What did surprise me was significant red staining in the flesh of William's pride, making it a good candidate for my red fleshed apple breeding efforts, along with it's other merits. 

For anyone searching for good early apples,the winners in this tasting are good at any season and very exceptional for early apples. There are other apples which I grow that ripen in the same season, but for various reasons, like birds, Drought, and alternate bearing, I didn't have any specimens to add. So, they will have to wait for another year.  Most promising among those so far are probably St. Edmunds russet, Irish peach and golden nugget.  I also just today discovered an entire cordon Mother apples (Mother is the variety name) that I hadn't noticed. I've had them before, but I just ate one that was by far the best I've ever had, and it may have been a contender up against the winners of this taste test.  Extremely sweet with lots of rich flavor.  This one may have been an early drop.  It takes a while to learn when to pick and eat each variety.

  An old early apple variety known as Mother

An old early apple variety known as Mother

I now have a dedicated Frankentree in one of the orchards for only the very best early apples, which I will graft on over the years as I suss them out.