One of my main interests when it comes to collecting and breeding apple varieties is the very late hanging/ripening types. I’ll be heard to proselytize about them frequently and I am not sure why everyone else is not as excited about them as I am. While most would normally think of winter apples as being eaten out of storage, certain varieties can be ripened and held on the tree through at least all of January assuming the climate is suitable. This video is a walkaround checking out what is still hanging as well as tasting the remaining late ripening seedling apples from the breeding trials. I wrote a whole post about late hangers, but I decided to put off posting it until I can make a video that makes an argument for growing them more, ferreting more of them out, and beginning to test the climatic limits of hanging late fruit. Clearly there is going to be a cold limit and folks in places like Michigan will not be able to grow them. But chances are that they can be taken advantage of in much of Cascadia, the southern belt east to west, and other places that you can’t go ice fishing without falling through. Not doubt too there are going to be varieties that are more durable to the cold than others. Unfortunately, many of these late hanging varieties are quite rare and I usually have very limited scion wood available. I will have some this year, quite a bit of some of them and none of others. Scion sales will begin soon and I’ll post when they are available.
On September 18th I got to taste a few apples, including a new seedling apple. Some were over the hill and some were not yet ripe, but here is the report.
SKINNER’S SEEDLING: I have some doubt about the identification of this apple, just because it was not very good and reports in the old literature are glowing. Mine also have a lot of red stripping and the descriptions don’t really indicate that as much as they emphasize the yellow background with light striping or just a blush on the sunny side. The birds hit them pretty hard in spite of my covering them with footsox. Birds like large fruit, just like a lot of people do. I’ve been waiting for this variety to bear fruit for a long time. It was grown from a seed of Newtown Pippin brought to California via Wagon by Judge Henry Chapman Skinner in 1849. It is one of only two seedlings that survived out of 13 seeds and was planted on the banks of Coyote Creek in San Jose California. Out of only two seedlings that were allowed to grow, he considered both worth keeping, and this one became somewhat famous, at least in California, where it was even planted by some commercial orchardists.
Funny thing, I used to live right near the site of the original tree when I was just starting my first few years in school. We lived in a crappy, stuccoed, pink duplex. My parents managed to raise three kids on a low income while my mom rode her bike to nursing school. Across the street was a large walnut orchard, and the valley, once a great agricultural area with deep, fertile soil, was still dotted here and there with orchards and fields with solitary large old two story farmhouses defiantly standing their ground. By now, even more of that outstanding agricultural land has been paved over with cheap tract housing. Judge Skinners place was probably quite large and is now all dense housing. We used to explore and catch crawdads in the same Coyote Creek that Skinner’s Seedling was planted along, only about 15 blocks from where we lived. At that time, the creek was full of old tires, shopping carts, trash of all kinds and huge numbers of what are still to this day the largest crawdads I’ve ever caught. We used to go there with some neighborhood kids that sniffed glue on a regular basis. They seemed like about the dumbest people I ever met at the time and probably were lol. As dirty, rough and probably dangerous as that city environment was, we kids still wandered and played as we pleased. I think a lot of parents don’t give their kids that same kind of free reign these days. I think Judge skinner would be shocked and saddened at the defiled state of that once beautiful, prime farm land, though he was unknowingly paving the way for that eventuality.
This apple was very highly regarded. Check out the following quotes:
"Santa Clara King: Fruit large to very large; form, oblate, conic, slightly mixed; color rich lemon yellow, faintly striped with bright red; flesh, yellowish white, very tender, juicy, sprightly, mild subacid; quality best. Season, September and October. This is the best very large apple we have seen. Said to be a good grower and productive."
“It is one of our best summer apples. The color is a light yellow, quality good and sells well. The tree is a good grower and almost wholly resists blight.”
“form, oblate, conical; size, large; color, light green, blushed: flesh. texture fine, tender, juicy ; color, white ; flavor, subacid : quality, very good to best: use, dessert, kitchen, market: season. August.”
“The Skinner seedling as it is popularly known by thousands of consumers, or Skinner's pippin as it was named by the Horticultural Society, is one of the meritorious products of the Santa Clara valley, as well as having the"distinction of originating here. Its popularity increases as it becomes more widely known, for it undoubtedly suits the taste of more people during its season than any other apple grown in California. Ripening as it does during the warm, sunny weather of the first week in August. it must be picked at the right time and carefully protected from the weather in order to preserve its delicate flavor which evaporates and passes away rapidly when exposed to sun and wind. Its history is quite interesting and is about as follows.On March 29, 1849, Henry Chapman Skinner left Milwaukee, Wis., and crossed the plains to California, taking with him some Newtown pippin apples. On the long trip across the plains most of the apples decayed, but one was saved, which contained thirteen seeds, a lucky number in this instance. The seeds were carefully saved. Judge Skinner settled in San Jose in April. 1850, at what is now known as the Sweigert place, corner of Fifteenth and Julian streets. In the fall he planted thirteen apple seeds. Seven of them grew, but were all discarded but two. One of these proved to be a sour apple of good quality, and the other was Skinner's seedling. The tree grew thriftily, as is its nature, and in September, 1857, the first fruits, thirty-two in number were exhibited at the annual fair of the Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Society. The last record of the original tree was in 1878. It was then still standing at the back of the place near the Coyote creek, and in full bearing.”
“Skinner's Seedling is but little known in this country, but is destined to be the greatest money maker of any other apple grown in this section ripening as it does ahead of the Gravenstein. The tree is of a very hardy stock and a sure cropper. The apples are large, well formed, of splendid flavor and unusual shipping qualities. The color is of a clear, transparent, yellowish green, with a slight blush where it is kissed by the sun. Theo. Heiss, who lives northwest of Browns Valley, has a dozen or so of old trees of the above variety which bore a heavy crop of splendid apples this year and sold for a handsome price in Vallejo and was preferred by those who had used them to the Gravenstein or any other apple. The wood of the limbs is very tough and can hardly be broken. [This statement is rather surprising to us as we have long considered the wood of Skinner's Seedling as exceedingly brittle, especially- the wood of the spur which is very apt to come off with the fruit. Are we mistaken in that matter? —Editor.]”
Notes for the horticultural society meeting in November 1887 indicate that Skinner’s Seedling was so named instead of the name Santa Clara County King. E.J. Wickson, author of California Fruits apparently disagreed with adding seedling to apple names, which I tend to agree with. It was agreed to hereafter call the apple known both as Skinner's Seedling " and the "Santa Clara County King" by this former name….. but Mr. Coates and Mr. Wickson both protested against tacking the word seedling after names. Mr. Wickson urged that this practice was condemned by the American Pomological Society. Mr. Coates praised the practice of Mr. Hatch, which is to find original and characteristic names for new varieties.”
My own samples, if they are indeed Skinner’s Seedling, seemed to ripen about the right time, but I got them late and they had gone soft. The ones I tasted earlier were not very promising either, but I may have missed a magic window. It sure does sound promising in the old literature though.
GRAVENSTEIN: It’s hard for me to ever get this apple past the birds. It’s pretty good eating at it’s best, but it’s most suited to cooking. The flavor I can’t really describe, but it’s good and somewhat unique. This year I discovered the earlier Viking, which bears surprising similarities, but seems perhaps more intriguing and more complex in flavor, if more thin and acidic. There is a similarity between the flavors of the two apples somehow. I don’t believe there is any Gravenstein in Viking’s genes, but they seem like siblings in everything from appearance to leaning toward acid and the style of flavor.
MOTHER: Mother is very good this year. It has a rich flavor, fruity, on a background of “red apple”. In the best ones there is what I usually refer to as a fruit candy flavor, because my reference point growing up was not flavorful apples, but artificially flavored fruit candy from the corner store. That’s kind of sad, but I know most people are probably in the same boat these days. Mother is worth growing and has a long reputation as an exceptional early apple. Overall mother get’s two thumbs up for productivity, beauty and flavor this year.
SUNRISE This year Sunrise lived up to it’s usual reputation, being mild, sweet, unoffensive, easy to eat, pleasant, but perhaps a little boring. I think they are still a week or more away from being at their best though and I have hopes that they will become a little richer and sweeter if hung longer in the sun. I grafted a branch out in a sunny spot some years ago and it’s really just starting to bear well, so I’m hoping to taste more good specimens over the coming weeks.
ST. EDMUND’S PIPPIN (aka st. edmund’s russet): Early in the season, this apple tasted thin and acidic. By now it is soft and insipid. It is the most pear-like apple I think I’ve ever had. It has the grainy texture of an under ripe pear, pear flavor and pear-like russet skin. The flesh is very dry and the fruit is very light in weight. Overall it is a disappointment here and will probably be grafted over. Originally it seemed to hold promise as a good early russet, but it’s also not as early as I was hoping. I will probably graft it over to an earlier apple like.
HOLLOW LOG: An old southern apple. Looking at the description in Lee Calouns book Old Southern Apple, it may be mislabeled, since neither the season or the description match. It is not quite ripe yet, but seems somewhat promising. It is hard and dense. I think another one to three weeks for this one to ripen.
WICKSON SEEDLING #3 2011: In 2011, I planted open pollinated seeds of Wickson from a box of apples given to me by some friends after I helped them lay concrete block for a root cellar. I think by then I was already partially inspired by Albert Etter, early 20th century apple breeder who bred the Wickson apple. I remember thinking that this apple was so good that it had to produce a certain percentage of good apples from seed. In fact, it was hard to imagine the seeds producing bad apples. I was aware of the common assertion that you can’t grow apples from seed, but, when it comes to information, there is not much I take at face value. out of the seeds I planted, I ended up grafting 4 or 5 of them onto already established trees, and 3 of those lived and fruited. This is the final one of those seedlings to fruit, the others being the seedling that I named BITE ME! and a tiny flavorless, acid-less green crab the size of a large marble.
This seedling fruited last year, but it wasn’t that exciting. There was nothing wrong with it, it was just unremarkable. This year it seems much more promising. There is definitely some of the unique flavor type possessed by Wickson, which is also found in Wickson relatives and other crabs. Though still subtle, but I’m hoping that flavor will develop more as the apples ripen further over the next one to three weeks. Some of them have watercore, but that is not uncommon in young trees, especially in arid conditions like mine. Many varieties will outgrow it eventually. Overall, the best specimens this year so far, which are still not quite ripe, compete well with the best apples that I tasted in this session, and are certainly above the average apple in my large collection. I will go out on a limb and say it is not going to be as good as Bite Me!, the first apple to bloom out of the this group of Wickson seedlings, but it looks promising. Sometimes trees have to fruit a few times to come into their best quality. That seems to go for not just new seedlings and new grafted trees, but possibly even for branches grafted onto established trees. I’m not sure why that would be. It’s just a casual observation.
This apple is rather dense and firm fleshed, unlike Bite Me! which has a more open, juicy and easy to eat texture. It also has thicker skin. The resemblance to Wickson is apparent, though it is somewhere in size between Bite Me and that apple. It is not tiny, but it is small. As long as the quality is there, size is not that important. A mediocre small apple is much less interesting however, so it better shape up. I have quite a few apples on the branch this year. Hopefully I’ll get some good representative fruits in the coming weeks, and you’ll probably hear more about it before the season is over.
Yesterday I pulled out two varieties of apple from storage to taste, GoldRush and Pomo Sanel. It is one thing to find apples that keep for a long time without rotting, but that does not mean they will retain flavor or keep a good eating texture. Some apples will actually gain flavor with maturity, at least to a point, but most will lose flavor.
These were picked later than they should have been. I suspect if picked earlier, they would store a little better.
Gold Rush is well known for keeping very well, even without refrigeration. I have specimens from the refrigerator as well as from a cold room. All were picked late The apples from the fridge have retained some crunch, though they are not like the super crispy apples that you might find in a grocery store this time of year. Those apples are stored under controlled conditions with inert gasses to hold them in stasis until they are shipped to stores. The flavor has developed well in storage. When this apple is first picked it is edgy and harsh. I wouldn't say the flavor has improved from a month ago, but it is still complex and full with enough acidity to get my attention.
The apples stored in the shed were wrinkled and drying out. None though showed any signs of decay. Their texture is rubbery, with no hint of mealiness. The flesh compresses, then starts to break into pieces. The flavor and sugar are concentrated and delicious. I could see storing a lot of these and drying the oldest left over fruits in the spring. They would be half dry already.
All in all GoldRush is an excellent home orchard apple, and should be considered in any small collection of varieties. It combines long keeping, flavor, good cultural traits and some disease resistance. Out of all my dwarf interstem trees, it has the best, easiest to care for, form and high vigor.
Pomo Sanel is a rare apple, barely known among a few fruit enthusiasts in this area, let alone anywhere else.
Pomo Sanel was stored in the refrigerator. It gradually lost it's crispness. It is not meally or mushy, at least not yet, but all remnants of crispness are gone. I was hoping it would go rubbery instead, but it didn't. The flavor has changed, less complex, more appley, banana still prominent. There is some acidity, but the sprightliness is gone. I could eat plenty of these, but it is not equal to it's fridge mate at this point and will surely decline from here. Like GoldRush, it was probably harvested too late and might do better in storage if picked at an earlier stage, as soon as it reaches full size, but before the sugars develop.
Pomo Sanel's most interesting attribute is it's late ripening in late December or usually January here. Given it's high quality straight off the tree at that season, it's a winner here in my climate. Whether it will store well enough beyond 4 weeks or so if harvested earlier and treated well remains to be seen, but keeping up with the likes of Pink Lady and GoldRush is a tall order and it no doubt won't. A really good storage apple can be very good, even excellent, but it's still not the same as a tree ripened apple kissed by frost and brought into it's prime in cold weather, nor is the whole eating experience the same. That paradigm is where Pomo Sanel and hopefully it's offspring will shine. I sent out many seeds this winter all around the world, so everyone cross your fingers and we'll check in about 8 or 10 years from now.
I'm interested in breeding with both of these and have made some crosses. If I'm lucky, some of those seedling crosses might bear fruit this year.
I commonly get requests for scion wood or questions about where to find scions in general, or of a particular variety. Below are my best recommendations.
Scion Exchanges and Swaps
These are usually free, sometimes with a small entrance fee, but I've never heard of one where the scions are not free. There are more and more of them, though large areas of the U.S. still don't have any. Search the web for terms like scion exchange, scion swap, grafting class or grafting workshop along with your large city, state or region. If there are none nearby, maybe you can find some like minded people and eventually start one. To my way of thinking, there should be one within easy driving distance of everywhere :)
Online Trading, Fruit Communities and Fruit and Nut Organizations
Below are listed some online forums, destinations and organizations where people trade cuttings and seeds. They generally are also places to meet like minded people in your region. The best information and collaborations are often local.
NORTH AMERICAN SCION EXCHANGE Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/scion... Started by my Friends Andy and Little John because they had no nearby scion exchanges. There is a website too, but the facebook group is most active
Home Orchard Society (Pacific Northwest): http://www.homeorchardsociety.org/ An excellent organization for NorthWesterners. From what I hear, their scion swap is one of the largest and best in the country.
Temperate Orchard Society: Apparently cloned the enormous Nick Botner apple collection, so they should have over 2000 apple varieties. (scion sales) http://www.temperateorchardconservancy.org/contact-us/
SEEDS Durham North Carolina: http://www.seedsnc.org/2018/01/upcoming-grafting-workshop-scion-exchange/
Michigan Home Orchard group: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/mi-home-orchard Group by YouTube user Prof Kent for michigan folks.
Finally, you can buy scions. They have become more expensive, but if you really want a variety and you can't find it anywhere else, it might be worthwhile. Also, once you get interesting varieties, it gives you trading leverage. I sell scions sometimes, but I rarely trade, because I'm not collecting much anymore. Also, the apples that remain on my wants list are very rare, some probably even extinct or at least lost. If you want a specific variety, just search the net for the variety name and the work scion. You might be surprised to find some for sale, or to find at least someone that grows that variety or has it for trade. If I have scions for trade, they will be in the webstore around January and February. Unless you have some amazing rare stuff to trade, don't contact me about trading. I like to help people and will go out of my way to help serious collectors and breeders, but I get way too many requests. If you can find it anywhere else, please do.
If were to make a list of scion wood sources, they would all be on this page on the GrowingFruit.org site anyway, so I'll just refer you there.... http://growingfruit.org/t/scionwood-sources/3346
Grafting, the collecting fruit varieties and scion trading are fast growing in popularity, and for good reason. It's always an adventure finding out about new varieties, tracking them down and fruiting them out. I hope it grows enormously in the future. It is important to the preservation of food plant diversity that everyday citizens grow, share, eat, talk about and even create many different varieties. Even at it's most diverse, the larger industrial food model will always lack true diversity and soul. When there are quite possibly tens of thousands of apple varieties, even 20 varieties in markets looks pretty weak.
Feel free to contact me or leave a comment if you know of other good online communities, organizations or annual scion exchanges. Happy hunting
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
Yay! The apple breeding video series is off the ground! I really wanted to get it launched this year because I made a lot of pollinations this time around, and I'm not sure how many more years I'll be doing it.
The first two videos are published . They are basically the same video in two parts, of me talking about why I'm breeding apples and basically why I think more people should breed plants, apple breeding history, along with some gentle ranting (only had to bleep out one %$#*& word! Pat me on the head). The next videos will be thoughts on selecting parents and then onto the fun part, the first how to segment which is on pollination. The pollination segment is mostly done, and I think it really turned out beautifully with my new drastically improved video capabilities.
The concept of this series is to follow the entire breeding process starting from pollination, for many years onward, until those specific crosses bear fruit, and likely beyond that as the fruit is assessed over a number of years to see if it is worth naming and propagating. Also, we'll be following my progress with the whole project which is around 4 years in right now. I made my first pollinations in spring 2011, so I may get lucky and have some fruit as early as next year. One of my first seedlings is actually fruiting now, but it is just an open pollinated seedling of Wickson from my friends at The Apple Farm near here, so the pollen parent of that one is unknown.
My main goal with this video series to is to continue to incite creativity and deeper participation in what we are growing and eating, so please share so I can corrupt more people! mwaahhhahahahhhaaa...
Yay, burn season is here! Just uploaded a few videos. A couple of short grape variety reviews, The pretty darn good Glenora and the excellent Reliance (of which I'm eating some right now, and they're super tasty!). And a somewhat long winded, but cool, video of burning a top lit open burn brush pile to make biochar (Which Kelpie of Backyardbiochar calls TLOB). This is one of the two charring methods I've been messing with, the slope sided pit (or container), and the open top lit piles. I think each has it's merits, but probably more importantly, each might be better suited to certain materials that people commonly have. Both can be scaled up and down in size and neither should produce a ton of smoke if the wood isn't either soaking wet or green. A pit burn video should be forthcoming. Hopefully I'll get better at shooting and editing video, learn to talk faster and develop a video personality at some point. In the meantime, pop some popcorn and check it out. No Guinea Pigs were harmed during the making of these videos, although some chickens were verbally assaulted.
"Annual vegetables are like getting a goldfish. Trees are like getting a tortoise that might outlive us."
When we moved here to Turkeysong six and a half years ago, it was a very rainy December. We moved into a tiny trailer with just a propane oven for heat. I was rather unhealthy that winter with long continuing complications from Lyme disease, so my physical resources were limited. But it was an exciting time and full of promise as we embarked on a long held dream. Bathing was accomplished at the nearby hot springs most of the winter until I built a wood fired bathtub which worked passably well. Parking was a mile walk down the 4 wheel drive only road, and the winter was so wet that only two trips were made driving in the 1/2 mile driveway before late spring arrived. I carried office chairs, a desk and sheets of plywood down the half mile drive. I remember many times walking in at night after bathing at the springs, exhausted, sick, dizzy and weak. Most days I spent laying down alone in the damp cold miserable trailer feeling ill and tapped out. The Accommodations were very uncomfortable, but frugality ruled the day and I still knew where my priorities lay. Rather than move toward better shelter, showers, making the driveway passable or other creature comforts, I started preparing to plant trees and put in a garden.
I don’t get why everyone doesn’t see fruit and nut trees the way that I do, or make them a priority. Once established they can give so much for the effort expended in establishment and maintenance. Trees also have a charisma and substance that is of a nature very different than other plants. You can’t develop much of a relationship with a broccoli plant in one season. Annual vegetables are like getting a goldfish. Trees are like getting a tortoise that might outlive us.
Trees currently on the place are 11 Olive, 40 Apple, 9 Sweet Cherry, 2 Pie Cherry, 3 Chestnut, 8? Almond, 9 Carpathian Walnut, 3 Asian Plum, 7 Prune, 5 Feijoa, 2 Loquat, 5 European Pear, 1 Asian Pear, 2 Persimmon, 1 Jujube, 4 fig, 2 chilean wine palm, 1 jelly palm, 1 mulberry and some other odds and ends not counting 55 apples trained as diagonal cordons and a nursery full of trees for next year. After 6 years of planning, researching, planting, mulching, weeding, training, pruning, and occasionally watering and feeding, we are beginning to see results!
I’ve been delighted to see my efforts growing into something resembling trees. Since I do almost all of my own grafting, I’m a year, or even two, behind those buying trees in a nursery. When the young trees come out of the nursery bed the year after grafting, most of them are a single whip, or maiden which is a sapling with no branches around 2 to 5 feet tall, so it is some time before they really take shape and come to a size that suggests they be taken seriously. The spring orchard, which contains most of the trees first planted here, is beginning to take the visual form of an orchard now with some of the trees being 8x8 or larger which is big enough to support a significant crop.
And this year, on the wings of a warm spring, came fruit. Weeks of nice weather had bees out and busy pollinating. The trees were studded with fruitlets thick enough to break branches if they were all left to grow. I’ve delighted in watching my trees develop, cherishing each phase in their development. The graft “taking” and starting to grow is the first victory. A healthy Maiden in the fall is the second. Tucked in place the next spring they wait to begin the first season in the ground. Over the next few years of battling weeds, voles and bark beetle grubs they grow larger, more self sufficient and I can usually take satisfaction in the realization of a strong framework of well placed branches. They begin to bloom, and maybe even set a fruit or two. One day I look at them and they look something like a tree complete with fruit, being off on the right root and leaving their childhood years behind.
Fruit is good. I want to eat fruit and juice it and dry it and make alcohol from it, cook it, can it, ferment it and sell it, but this is not just any fruit! A great share of the energy put into trees here is put into research and planning. The first year my only real resource besides a few other fruit enthusiasts was a book called Cornucopia. It is a really cool book with descriptions of food plants, including varieties. There are a lot of Apples listed in Cornucopia, but even if interested I could not find many of them on short notice and the listing is on the order of hundreds while there are actually thousands of varieties. This person has catalogued 11,324 varieties of Apples! No doubt that number includes some repeats under different names, but no doubt that there are also many varieties missing. I began researching apples in more earnest in the past 3 years. During that time the amount of information about Apple varieties available in cyberspace has grown tremendously. The most useful information is often quite old, especially the mid to late 1800’s, such as Dr Hogg’s The Fruit Manual and up into the early part of the last century like Bunyard’s A Manual of Hardy Fruits More Commonly Grown In Great Brittain, and many more. I’ve spent untold hours researching apple varieties. Much of my down time when I’m too tired to work on other stuff has been spent searching for information and sources on hundreds of Apple varieties. I have fairly extensive data base entries of apple research to draw on and use them regularly. On top of that go notes about growth, tree health, ripening times and tasting of apples grown here. Not every fruit grower needs to be as enthusiastic as the likes of me to grow good fruit, but I can tell you that due care in the selection of varieties pays off.
I research whatever I’m planting generally. I don’t want to leave my decisions up to a nursery owner who may not be familiar with the many varieties of fruits out there. Also, most nurseries are only able to order a limited number of varieties, even though that is improving with renewed interest in heirlooms. Mostly I research Apple varieties because I plant more apples than any other fruit or nut. I’m fascinated by the apple. I long ago recognized the utility and greatness of the apple as the king of homestead fruits. It can be dried, sauced, baked, made into juice, cider, apple butter, dried apples, vinegar, brandy, pies and tarts, eaten off the tree or eaten or cooked after storing for months. There are apples that ripen in July and Apples that ripen in February and probably later... at least 6 months of apples fresh off the tree and I’m confident that this period can be extended.
I’m continually frustrated trying to talk about Apples with people. Its the same conversation over and over. “I like (insert grannysmith, golden delicious, pink lady, honeycrisp, fuji or other grocery store apple)”. “I like a crunchy apple”. “I don’t like mushy apples”. The conversation on apples is generally a limited debate. Its kind of like politics... “I like the Democrats”... “I like the republicans”... “I like one of the two new guys”... Like I said, a limited debate. I want to grab people and shake them and try to get them to listen to me when I tell them what they are missing, but by the time I start trying to tell them they are already telling me that they don’t like mushy apples. Well, almost nobody likes mushy apples, but the range of debate should not be limited to mushy v.s. crunchy and sweet v.s. tart; the world of apples is so much broader.
I like some of the apples I am already familiar with very much, but what I’m doing now is exploring my options- playing the field so to speak. I want to expand the season for apples as far as possible in both directions with first rate apples. That means planting and fruiting a lot of varieties to see what does well here and what suits our tastes. That means a lot of sampling! Some of my best memories of last fall and early winter were climbing into bed of an evening with tonia and an apple or two or three or four and doing some tasting. Sometimes a new one, but always approached as a new one because every one, even off the same tree at the same time, can taste a little or even a lot different. Over the years here I’ve collected around 220 varieties. Frankentree alone has about 140 varieties on him. In total, we have probably 60 or 70 varieties fruiting this year, a new level of apple tasting and eating. Hell yeah, now that's my idea of a good time!
I hope to be finding time to write more about apples since I put a lot of energy into them and I just like to talk about them; and no doubt I’ll be posting about some of the apples we’re tasting this year as the fruits of labor drop ripe and plump into our hands. But I suppose that what I really wanted to communicate here is my excitement at finally seeing my plans come to fruition and how worth it all the inconvenience and labor has been whatever the cost. We are still cooking and scraping by in the same crappy kitchen trailer and sleeping in half finished structures with no real doors or windows, but even if thats the case for another winter, at least we have trees that will be beginning to bear heavily of awesome and carefully selected fruits. The best time to plant a tree really is 10 years ago, but it turns out that 6 years ago isn’t so bad either.
Some parting advice:
*Take any advice with a grain of salt.
*Plant trees sooner rather than later.
*Don’t plant more than you can take good care of.
*Check with the local nursery, but check more with local fruit enthusiasts. Follow up leads with internet research. Many of the best fruits are little known and grown.
*Don’t make caramel popcorn while standing naked in front of a hot wood stove.
*Rarely plant more than one tree of any variety for home use and consider making some trees multiple varieties to span a greater range of seasons and/or tastes.
*Don't discount either Heirlooms or Modern apples. Many of both are excellent and Unique. Heirlooms are romantic, but not always superior. Many of both just plain suck.
*Learn to graft so that you can change trees to new varieties or add to your collection if you find something promising.
*Use the internet to research varieties you are interested in using the terms >> “apple name” apple variety <<. Orange Pippin and Adam’s Apples are a couple of good current sources. Google books rocks the older sources.
*Stay tuned for more hot Pomeography! Including sublimely tempting photos, tantalizing descriptions and verbose romantic ramblings on the virtues and charms of apples!