Posts tagged #heirloom apples

Earliest of the Early Summer Apples, 5 Varieties in July

It is the last third of July and I have 5 apple varieties ripe here. Typically early apples are thinly flavored, not overly sweet, decline rapidly once picked and best for cooking. Before grocery stores and regular international shipping, early apples were probably a big deal. By summertime, old apples in storage, if any remain, are pretty sad by comparison. Early summer fruits would mean truly fresh fruit gracing the kitchen again. A couple of these stand out as worth eating out of hand too. Apples will ripen in June in some climates, but not mine. As much as people may think we have a salubrious, warm climate, it cools off at night, which typically stops things from developing as rapidly as they might in uniformly warm summer areas.

July Red: July Red is the first to ripen here, but it also has a very long ripening season, of probably 2 to 3 weeks. The quality has improved as the season progresses. The flavor is very nice. Even in the past few days since shooting the video on tasting these apples, I’ve had some specimens that are the best I’ve tasted, and which I would rate as very good. They have also gotten sweeter. Others are not good at all, so it is highly variable and fragile. The ripeness window is short before it softens and goes off. It is variable in size but ranging to large. The flesh is tender and coarse, without much crunch or crispiness, but in no way offensive. It is pretty juicy too. I suspect the juice would be very good, but the texture would make it hard to squeeze in a press. July Red was developed by a breeding program in New Jersey and released in 1962. It is also in the ancestry of Williams’ Pride, an excellent summer apple. The tree is a tip bearer with some spurs, but should definitely be pruned as a tip bearer.


Early Harvest: Early drop is more like it. This one caught up to July Red and dropped all the fruit at once. It is not flavorful, soft and really just not worth eating out of hand. It is listed commonly as dessert and cooking, but here it is not worth eating. It is always possible that mine is mislabeled, but fruit descriptions and results can sometimes be radically different depending on zone and culture. This is a very scabby apple.

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Summer Rose: Very similar in appearance to Early Harvest, to the point that I would suspect they might be related. I found several watercolors, one of which is a dead ringer for my fruits as you can see, and the others are a striped apple that is very different. It seems to ripen a bit later though. Very similar in character to early harvest as well. it also gets scab badly, though maybe not at the very worst level.

This Summer Rose looks remarkably like the one I have.

This Summer Rose looks remarkably like the one I have.

Clearly another apple altogether.

Clearly another apple altogether.

Summer rose. Very scab susceptible.

Summer rose. Very scab susceptible.


Red Astrachan: Does not live up to it’s reputation here and never has in around 10 years of fruiting. It is thinly flavored, soft and unremarkable in every way. Tim Bates of the apple farm says it makes great apple sauce. I made some this week and it’s good for sure, but not the best I’ve had or anything. It is the best thing I’ve found to do with them so far. It is not sweet, so lots of sugar required.

Red Astrachan

Red Astrachan


A watercolor painting of this apple from Early August 1914 under the name Red June. It has the same red flesh staining in the same location right around the calyx tube on the bottom end. The shape is very similar to those growing here.

A watercolor painting of this apple from Early August 1914 under the name Red June. It has the same red flesh staining in the same location right around the calyx tube on the bottom end. The shape is very similar to those growing here.

Carolina Red June: An old heirloom from the south alleged to date from before 1800. This apple has some nice flavor going. Again tender fleshed. It is worth eating out of hand and the flavor is pleasant if polite in mine. I’m hoping this year it will improve over the season as it is a gradual ripener with a long season. The apples are quite small and very red. The red pigment extends into the stem and into the flesh a little bit. That could make it a candidate for breeding early red fleshed apples, along with Williams’ Pride. This one is scabby, but not horrible. I don’t have a full sized tree, so it’s hard to tell what it’s nature is, but it seems to tend to bear on the ends of short shoots. It’s like a short tip bearer. Don’t prune off shoots that terminate in fat tips.

Carolina Red June

Carolina Red June

Carolina Red June seems to bear a lot on tips of short twigs, or spur-like structures on the ends of twigs, but also spurs along branches too. Be careful about not pruning off short shoots that terminate in fat tips.

Carolina Red June seems to bear a lot on tips of short twigs, or spur-like structures on the ends of twigs, but also spurs along branches too. Be careful about not pruning off short shoots that terminate in fat tips.


Without cooking all of these apples in various ways to test that aspect, the ones I’m most interested in keeping are July Red and Carolina Red June, because of flavor. I think both perform slightly better in the scab department as well.

The next group of apples to ripen will generally be a significant improvement in richness, flavor and texture. Trailman Crab will probably be next, then Kerry Pippin, Williams’ Pride and Chestnut Crab. Most of these second early summer apples typically ripen in August

Next to ripen will probably be Trailman Crab, which I’ve had in July before, but also in August.

Next to ripen will probably be Trailman Crab, which I’ve had in July before, but also in August.

I should be posting some more photos and historical info about some of these apples to Instagram over the rest of this month.


The Venerated Golden Harvey, A Late Keeping, Heirloom, Dessert and Cider Apple of Alleged Surpassing Quality

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I have spent a lot of time researching apples. I used to spend hour after hour searching online for references in old books and magazines. I keep notes and quotes which I still add to occasionally. Of the more exciting and intriguing apples I ran across was the Golden Harvey, aka Brandy Apple. Since I started doing this type of research online, there are even more references that have been scanned and digitized. Below are the relevant references I’ve found on the Golden Harvey, which I’m making available here with links to the original texts in the hopes of saving some others the time it takes to dig up this stuff. There are a lot of them, more than can be found for most apple varieties.

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Aside from the apple in question, there are a few references comparing it to others, and most interesting, some references to it’s several offspring. A certain Mr. Knight seems to have been very taken with the Golden Harvey and a few other varieties, and used it in breeding new sorts. Most of those offspring are probably lost for good, unless someone hunts them down and saves any remaining trees. The only one I can find any current reference to is the Bringewood Pippin, which was recently found in an old orchard. It is also in my friend Nigel Deacon’s Collection in England. I’ve also heard of two current amateur apple breeders using Golden Harvey as a parent.

The Golden Harvey came to America along with several other interesting apples including Downton Pippin (on my want’s list), Cornish Gilliflower (have it!), Bringewood Pippin, Bittersweet Harvey. These were sent to the Hon. John Lowell of Massachusetts. Both Bringewood and Bittersweet Harvey were bred by intentional cross pollination by Mr. Knight of England, who you will read more about below.

Alas, I obtained a scion of Golden Harvey, grafted it, grew it for years until it fruited and it turned out to be a useless red apple of unknown variety. If anyone out there has the real Golden Harvey, feel free to send me a scion! I’m very interested in this apple for sugar content, quality and extreme storeability.


The Australasian Fruit Culturist: Containing Full and Complete Information as to the History, Traditions, Uses, Propagation and Culture of Such Fruits as are Suitable to Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand, David Alexander Crichton, 1893

Golden Harvey (Brandy Apple).—An old English variety, with small nearly round fruit. Skin roughly russety on a yellow ground, with a tinge of red on the cheek. Flesh yellow, juicy, sub-acid, with an aromatic flavour. Ripens late, keeps fairly well; a good dessert, and first-class cider Apple. Tree moderate in growth, but bears freely.

https://archive.org/details/australasianfrui00cricrich/page/n161


British Pomology Or the History, Description, Classification and Synonymes of the Fruits and Fruit Trees of Great Britain, Robert Hogg, 1851

Fruit, small; oblate-cylindrical, even and free from angles. Skin, entirely covered with rough scaly russet, with sometimes a patch of the yellow ground color exposed on the shaded side, and covered with brownish-red on the side next the sun. Eye, small and open, with very short, reflexed segments, set in a wide, shallow, and slightly plaited basin. Stalk, half-an-inch long, inserted in a shallow cavity. Flesh, yellow, firm, crisp, juicy, sugary, with an exceedingly rich and powerful aromatic flavor.

This is one of the richest and most excellent dessert apples; it is in use from December to May; but is very apt to shrivel if exposed to light and air as most russety apples are.

The tree is a free grower, and perfectly hardy. It attains about the middle size and is an excellent bearer. When grown on the paradise stock it is well adapted for dwarf training, and forms a good espalier.

Independently of being one of the best dessert apples, it is also one of the best for cider; and from the great strength of its juice, the specific gravity of which is 1085, it has been called the Brandy Apple.

Bringewood Pippin: Flesh Yellowish, firm, crisp and sugary, with a rich and perfumed flavor. An excellent, though not first rate, dessert apple, in use from January to March. It’s only fault is the flesh being too dry… This is one of the varieties raised by Thomas Andrew Knight, esq., of Downton Castle Herefordshire, and which he obtained by impregnating the Golden Pippin, with the pollen of The Golden Harvey.

Siberian Bittersweet: This remarkable apple was raised by Mr. Knight from the seed of Siberian Crab, impregnated with the pollen of the Golden Harvey. I cannot do better than to transcribe from the Transactions of the London Horticultural Society, Mr. Knight’s own account of this apple. “The fruit contains much saccharine matter, with scarcely any perceptible acid: and it in consequence affords a cider, which is perfectly free form the harshness which in that liquid offends the palate of many, and the constitution of more: and I believe that there is not any county in England in which it might not be made to afford, at a moderate price, a very wholesome and very palatable cider....”

When the Juice is pressed from the ripe, somewhat mellow fruit, it contains a very large portion of saccharine matter: and if part of the water it contains be made to evaporate, in a moderately low temperature, it affords a large quantity of a jelly of intense sweetness, which to my palate is extremely agreeable: and which may be employed for purposes similar to those to which insipissated juice of the grape is applied in France. The Jelly of the apple prepared in the manner above described, is, I believe, capable of being kept unchanged during a very long period in any climate: the mucilage being preserved by the antiseptic powers of the saccharine matter, and that being incapable of acquiring, as sugar does, a state of crystallization. If the juice be properly filtered, the jelly will be perfectly transparent. [edit: should be good for the real no sugar added, shelf stable traditional apple butter recipes]

The tree is a strong and vigorous grower: a most abundant bearer, and a perfect dreadnought to the woolly aphis.

Siberian Harvey: “Specific Gravity of juice, 1091 [edit: a specific gravity of 1091 is almost 22% sugar! the only higher sugar apple I have heard of is Wickson bred in the early 20th century by Albert Etter, which has been claimed to reach a whopping 25%]. A cider apple raised by T.A. Knight Esq., and along with the Foxley, considered by him superior to any other varieties in cultivation. It was produced from a seed of the Yellow Siberian Crab, fertilized with the pollen of the Golden Harvey, the juice of this variety is the most intensely sweet, and is probably, very nearly what that of the Golden Harvey would be in a southern climate, the original tree produced it’s blossoms in the year 1807...

THE SIBERIAN HARVEY. Check out the RHS collection of apple watercolors here!  https://www.rhs.org.uk/education-learning/libraries-at-rhs/collections/library-online/heritage-apples/hookers-paintings

THE SIBERIAN HARVEY. Check out the RHS collection of apple watercolors here! https://www.rhs.org.uk/education-learning/libraries-at-rhs/collections/library-online/heritage-apples/hookers-paintings

Hulbert’s Princes Royal:

A seedling from the Golden Harvey, but larger ; flesh more tender, and equally rich. It is a small dessert apple, of first-rate quality; and ripe in May.

https://archive.org/details/britishpomology00hogg/page/92


The fruit manual; containing the descriptions and synonymes of the fruits and fruit trees commonly met with in the gardens & orchards of Great Britain, with selected lists of those most worthy of cultivation. By Robert Hogg, London, Cottage Gardener Office, 1860.

Small, nearly round. Skin roughly russety, on a yellow ground, tinged with red next the sun. Stalk half an inch long, slender. Eye small, open and shallow. Flesh yellow, rich, aromatic and sub-acid flavour. A first rate dessert apple. December to June.

https://archive.org/stream/cbarchive_39329_apples1860/apples1860#page/n17/search/golden+harveu


Pyrus Malus Brentfordiensis:, or A CONCISE DESCRIPTION OF SELECTED APPLES BY HUGH RONALDS, F.H.S. 1831

GOLDEN HARVEY, or BRANDY APPLE.

A dessert apple not larger than the Golden Pippin; the eye broad; the stalk long and slender: colour light yellow with a flush of red and embroidered with a rougish russet. It is called Brandy Apple from the superior specific strength of its juice: is of remarkably close texture, very rich in flavour, and will keep till April or May. The tree is of slender growth, and does not bear well for the first two or three years, but after that time it seldom fails. Blossoms small: colour lilac and white.

https://archive.org/details/pyrusmalusbrent00ronagoog/page/n106


POMONA HEREFORDIENSIS; CONTAINING COLOURED ENGRAVINGS OF THE OLD CIDER AND PERRY OF HEREFORDSHIRE. BY THOMAS ANDREW KNIGHT, ESQ., 1811

THE GOLDEN HARVEY, OR BRANDY APPLE.

Three different varieties of Apples are distinguished by the name of Harveys in Herefordshire, the Golden, the Russet, and the Scotched: of these the Golden alone, which has derived its name from the bright yellow colour of its pulp, is valued for the press. It is doubtful whether the writers on fruits of the 17th century, were acquainted with this Apple: though Evelyn states, that some persons preferred the Cider of the “Harvey Apple (being boiled),” to all other Ciders; and the Harvey Apple, and Russet Harvey, are both mentioned by Worlidge. For if the Golden Harvey had been known to Worlidge, its excellence for the dessert, would have caused it to be cultivated in every part of England; and to be every where esteemed, as it is in Herefordshire, the best fruit of its species. The Cider afforded by the Golden Harvey, generally possesses very great strength, with little richness; and it has been thence called the Brandy Apple: in a very warm situation and season it, however, sometimes affords a most exceedingly rich and fine Cider. The fruit may be preserved for the dessert, in perfection, from December till May, and even later. The trees of this variety still possess a considerable share of health and vigour; and for culture, in the garden only, it is not much impaired by age. The specific gravity of its juice, considerably exceeds that of any other Apple which I have yet had occasion to describe, being about 1085.

https://ia902808.us.archive.org/13/items/pomonaherefordi00kniga/pomonaherefordi00kniga_djvu.txt


THE POMOLOGICAL MAGAZINE; OR, FIGURES AND DESCRIPTIONS OF THE MOST IMPORTANT VARIETIES OF FRUIT CULTIVATED IN GREAT BRITAIN VOL. I, 1828

This is by some supposed to be an Apple of very ancient date. Trees of considerable age are said to be growing on the Cotswold Hills, in Gloucestershire. By others it is doubted whether the writers on the fruits of the 17th century were acquainted with it, though Evelyn says, that some persons preferred the cider “of the Harvey Apple (being boiled)" to all other ciders ; and the Harvey Apple and Russet Harvey are both mentioned by Worlidge. These doubts are very much strengthened by the fact that the Golden Harvey is even at the present day but little cultivated in comparison with its surpassing merits. It is, perhaps, the very best of all our fruits, on which account it is probable, that if of an old origin, it would have been by this time more universally known. It is not to be supposed, that because Worlidge names two sorts of Harveys, this must necessarily be one of them; for in the cider counties there appear to be three distinct kinds under that name, and the Harvey Apple of Norfolk is a sort totally different from either of these three.

A most excellent variety, bearing in great abundance in many situations, ripening in December, and keeping till May, or even longer. Its flavour is more rich and agreeable than that of any other variety of Apple. No garden, however small, should be without it.

It is much esteemed as a cider fruit, on account of the quantity of sugar it contains. The cider made from it is very strong, but not rich, for which reason it has acquired the name of the Brandy Apple. The specific gravity of its juice is said, in the Pomona Herefordiensis, to be 1085.

Wood weak, erect, downy at the extremities, olive green, a little spotted.

Leaves ovate, acuminate, finely serrated, appearing early, but slightly downy in any part. Stipules subulate, smooth.

Fruit small, quite round, often growing in clusters, free from angles or irregularities of surface. Stalk short. Eye small, contracted. Skin dull russet, with a bright yellow ground, often breaking through the russet in patches. Flesh firm, breaking, very rich, juicy, spicy, and high-flavoured.

https://archive.org/details/pomologicalmagaz00lind/page/n165


Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society of London, Vol 10, 1888

Golden Harvey (Wheeler), D. Small, conical, open eye, light russet, flushed red, sometimes streaked, flesh firm, yellow, rich, sweet, mid-season ; first quality.

https://archive.org/stream/journalofroyalho1018roya#page/n1


HINTS ADDRESSED TO PROPRIETORS OF ORCHARDS

The Golden Harvey, or Brandy Apple, This variety is generally esteemed in Herefordshire the best fruit of its species, and I think with reason. Its season commences in November, and it remains in perfection, with proper attention, till May. This variety has long been cultivated, and it has, consequently, passed the period of youth and vigour, but it is still perfectly well calculated for gar- den culture. A coloured plate of this variety is given in the eighth number of the Pomona Herefordiensis, with that of its offspring, the Siberian Harvey, to which alone it is inferior in richness and in the high specific gravity of its juice. It is of little value, except for the press.

The Siberian Harvey. This variety is the offspring of a seed of the yellow Siberian crab, and the pollen of the last mentioned, and it possesses the hardy character of the former with the saccharine juice of the Golden Harvey: the gravity of its juice was .1091.

The Court of Wyck Pippin. This is a fine thriving variety and not an old fruit, it is much cultivated in Somersetshire, and is highly prized. This appears more like the Golden Harvey than any other apple, and I should think, is really an improvement on that fruit. I brought some of the fruit to London, and on giving it to several persons who are judges, it was pronounced one of the best apples. This, as well as the golden Harvey, partakes much of the nature in all respects, of the old golden pippin, except in colour the golden Harvey has a fine yellow russet on a red, and the court of Wyck is so much like it, that except in its being a more freely growing tree, and the fruit somewhat larger, no one I think could tell any great difference in the two.

https://archive.org/stream/hintsaddressedto00sali#page/124/search/golden+harvey


The Illustrated London Almanac, Jabez Hogg, James Glaisher Illustrated London News, 1859

Golden Harvey,—"No garden which can contain ten trees should do without one of this —it is one of the richest and most excellent of our dessert apples, and will keep until May. Parkinson mentions it, probably, in 1623, as "The Harvey apple, a fair, greatly good apple


The Penny Cyclopedia of the society for the diffusion of useful knowledge Vol 2, 1834

Of table apples, the varieties are endless; but by far the greater part of the local sorts, and of those commonly cultivated, is of only second-rate quality. The finest variety of all is the Cornish gilliflower; no other equals this in excellence, but it is unfortunately a bad bearer. Of those which combine productiveness and healthiness with the highest quality, the six following must be considered the best: golden Harvey, old nonpareil, Hubbard's pearmain, Ribston pippin, Dutch mignonne, Court of Wick. Finally, the best selection that could be made for a small garden, so as to obtain a constant succession of fruit from the earliest to the latest season, would be the following, which are enumerated in their order of ripening, the first being fit for use in June, and the last keeping till the end of April.

https://books.google.com/books?id=tP5eAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA190&dq=%22golden+harvey%22+apple+variety&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjC4Z69ptrdAhV6GDQIHZtbA6Y4ChDoAQg4MAM#v=onepage&q&f=false


The book of the garden, Volume 2, W. Blackwood, 1855

Golden Harvey.—Colour russet and yellow; form roundish; size under medium; quality first-rate. In use from November till Juno. One of our best dessert apples, having a peculiar flavour of brandy, hence often known as the brandy apple. It is much cultivated in the west of England, even in elevated localities, for the purpose of making the best quality of cider, as well as for tho dessert. It is, however, by no means a hardy tree, yet succeeds well at Dalkeith as a dwarf standard.

https://books.google.com/books?id=xkJJAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA432&dq=%22golden+harvey%22+apple+variety&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwia0OupptrdAhU1JTQIHZqoDlAQ6AEIWjAJ#v=onepage&q=%22golden%20harvey%22%20apple%20variety&f=false


The English Cyclopaedia: A New Dictionary of Universal Knowledge, Volume , By Charles Knight, 1859

England is celebrated for the excellence of its cider; a beverage which perhaps acquires its highest degree of excellence in Herefordshire, and the neighbouring counties. In those districts, it has been found that the best varieties are the foxtwelp, a worn-out sort, much used for mixing with other kinds, to which it communicates strength and flavour; the red must; the hagloe crab, which, however, is only good in a dry soil, on a basis of calcareous stone, in a warm situation and season; the grange apple; the orange pippin; the forest styre, which is supposed to produce a stronger cyder than any other, but is not a good bearer; the yellow Elliot; the Bennett; the Siberian Harvey; Stead't kernel; the friar, which is very hardy; and above all, the golden Harvey, or brandy apple. The specific gravity of the juice of these varieties has been stated by Mr. Knight to be as follows:— Besides these, the coccagee and the Siberian bittersweet are in much estimation.

https://books.google.com/books?id=vHdBAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA437&dq=%22golden+harvey%22+apple+variety&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwia0OupptrdAhU1JTQIHZqoDlAQ6AEIOjAD#v=onepage&q=%22golden%20harvey%22%20apple%20variety&f=false


The Gardeners' Chronicle: A Weekly Illustrated Journal of Horticulture and allied subjects, Vol XL, Third Series, 1906

BRANDY APPLE This is a small Herefordshire Apple called also Golden Harvey. It is globular in form, obscurely five angled, round, with the deep eye and with deep basin in which the short stalk is set. The skin is smooth, deep crimson; the carpels are acute. Flesh white (yellow in Golden Harvey), crisp; sweet with a marked aromatic flavour. Hogg's Manual, fifth edition, p. 88, describes the skin as russety, so that probably our specimen is not correctly named, though in other points it agrees quite well with Hogg's description. It is a good dessert Apple and is stated to be an excellent cider Apple, owing to the strength of its juice.

https://books.google.com/books?id=zlACAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA439&lpg=PA439&dq=hogg+brandy+apple+golden+harvey&source=bl&ots=uUARos9ZjU&sig=_7Y1ZvFlQVtJ5nkKAL2-cFAQhuU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiAlKGMh9vdAhXRIjQIHaelB98Q6AEwC3oECAMQAQ#v=onepage&q=hogg%20brandy%20apple%20golden%20harvey&f=false


The Apple, In Orchard and Garden, James Groom, 1883

Golden Harvey, 3 size, 1 quality. December to May. A beautiful fruit, one of the very best

https://archive.org/stream/appleinorcharda00groogoog#page/n6/search/%22golden+harvey%22


A Handbook of Hardy Fruit, More Commonly Grown in Great Britain, Apples and Pears Edward A Bunyard FLS, 1920

GOLDEN HARVEY. (Brandy Apple, Round Russet Harvey.) Dessert, till May, small, 2 by if, flattened, round, even. Colour, greenish-yellow with dull red flush, covered with thin russet. Flesh, firm, yellow, very sweet and rich. Eye, open in a shallow basin, Stem, moderately long, in a small cavity. Growth, moderate; fertile. Leaf, rather small, nearly flat. Origin, English ; known early in the seventeenth century. The original tree was at the Royal Horticultural Show, at Chiswick, in 1821. One of the good old sorts which have been neglected.

https://archive.org/stream/handbookofhardyf01bunyrich#page/n5/search/%22golden+harvey%22


The Fruit Cultivator, John Rodgers, 1834

Golden Harvey. — Ripe in December, and keeps till June. This is one of the excellent apples, of which mention is made in the Herefordshire Pomona; and highly extolled by the first orehardist in the kingdom, T. A. Knight, Esq., who has caused not only this, but many more superior kinds of fruit, to be brought into notice and general cultivation. This apple is small, round, and of a handsome shape; the colour a russet yellow, tinted on the sunward side with bright red. The pulp is yellow, breaking and crisp ; abounding with a high-flavoured juice, which remains long unexhausted. The tree is of moderate growth and size, healthy, hardy, and a good bearer. It falls in among the second grade of orchard trees; and, if worked on the paradise stock, no one answers better for either dwarfs or low espaliers. This apple in fine seasons produces the strongest cider; hence it is called the "Brandy Apple", where that liquor (cider) is manufactured. No collection or orchard should be without a few trees of this excellent fruit.

https://archive.org/stream/perkins73098663#page/n83/search/%22golden+harvey%22


A Guide to the Orchard and Kitchen Garden, George Lindley FRS, 1831

Fruit small, quite round, generally about five inches in circumference, and free from angles or irregularities of surface. Eye small, open; the segments of the calyx narrow, very short and diverging, placed in a flat, very shallow, slightly-crumpled basin. Stalk half an inch long, slender, not protruding beyond the base. Skin dull russet, with a bright yellow ground, often breaking through the russet in patches, and marbled on the sunny side with a lively shaded red. Flesh yellow, firm, breaking, very rich, juicy, spicy, and high flavoured.

A most excellent and beautiful dessert apple, ripening in December, and keeping till May or June. The tree is not a large grower, but very hardy; a great and constant bearer, and no garden, capable of containing ten trees, ought to be without one of it.

There are different varieties of the apple cultivated in Herefordshire under the name of Harvey: the Golden Harvey derives its name from the bright yellow colour of its pulp.

In order to keep some of the more valuable Apples in a perfect state to a late period of the season, they should hang till they can be readily detached from the tree. They should then be placed in casks or boxes, as they are gathered, beginning with a layer of thoroughly dry pit sand in the bottom, then a layer of Apples, placed close to each other, then another layer of sand, just sufficient to cover the fruit, and no more, and so continuing alternately, till the cask or box is full, finishing with a covering of sand. These should be placed in the fruit room; where they may remain undisturbed till the others of the same kind kept on the shelves are nearly done. This method has been practised many years ago at Holkham, where I have tasted the Golden Harvey Apple and some others, so kept, in as high a state of perfection in the month of May

https://archive.org/stream/guidetoorchardfr00lindrich#page/n9/search/%22golden+harvey%22


The Gardeners Assistant, William Watson

Golden Harvey. — Dessert. December-May. An excellent table Apple. Tree of moderate growth but healthy and forms an excellent small tree on the Paradise stock, bearing freely. Fruit small, round, flattened, yellow and russety, flavour exceptionally rich.

https://archive.org/stream/gardenersassista04thom#page/n0/search/%22golden+harvey%22


The New American Orchardist, William Kenrick, 1833

A dessert apple not larger than the Golden Pippin; the eye broad; the stalk long and slender; color light yellow, with a flush of red and embroidered with a roughish russet. It is called Brandy Apple from the superior specific strength of its juice: is of remarkably close texture, very rich in flavor, and will keep till April or May. The tree is of slender growth, and does not bear well for the first two or three years, but after that, it seldom fails. Blossoms small: color lilac and white. Specific gravity of its juice 1.085. A tree of this variety was sent by Mr Knight to the Hon. John Lowell in 1823, and has been by him distributed to all who have applied.

https://archive.org/stream/newamericanorch05kenrgoog#page/n62/search/%22golden+harvey%22


Science and Practice of Farm Cultivation, James Buckman FLS FGS, 1865

Golden Harvey, spec. grav. 1085, a first-rate cider fruit. No orchard should be without this.

https://archive.org/stream/cu31924080031127#page/n7/search/%22golden+harvey%22


The Apple, it’s History, Varieties and Cultivation, D. T. Fish,

Golden Harvey or Brandy Apple. —Fruit small russety, flesh compact, firm, rich, and highly aromatic. This is a valuable little apple for dessert, and also for stewing in syrup, to be served as a sweet. The solidity of its flesh enables it to keep its form when treated in this way.

https://archive.org/stream/apple00fish#page/8/search/%22golden+harvey%22


The Gardener’s Magazine and Register of Rural and Domestic Improvement, Vol IV, 1838

Apples : Golden Harvey (perhaps the richest table apple)

Some years ago, a valuable dessert apple, to which the name of Cornwall pippin has been given, was raised from seed at this place. The appearance of the fruit induces the supposition that its parents were the golden Harvey and the golden pippin, but its real origin is unknown. — October 12. 1837.

...very fine fruit of the golden Harvey and nonpareil apples, in illustration of his manner of keeping fruit of this description. The apples were found, upon trial, to have preserved their flavour in great perfection.

https://archive.org/stream/gardenersmagazi10loudgoog#page/n3/search/%22golden+harvey%22


A pictorial Monthly Magazine of Flowers Fruits and General Horticulture, Thomas Moore, FLS, FRHS, &C. 1876

COX’S REDLEAF RUSSET APPLE.

This Apple was raised from seed by Mr. Cox, of Redleaf, who thus speaks of it:—“The Redleaf Russet is ostensibly, according to my own manipulation, a cross between the Golden Knob and the Golden Harvey, but there is a possibility that I was anticipated by the bees, as a tree of the Old Nonpareil grew near by; and I am the more confirmed in this because the fruit possesses three of the characteristics of the Old Nonpareil—namely, the shape, the long stalk, and the tenderness of flesh. The colour of the skin is that of its parent, the Golden Knob. The yellow colour of the flesh would seem to be derived from the Golden Harvey, while the growth of the tree and manner of bearing resemble both Old Nonpareil and Golden Harvey more than the Golden Knob. When in perfection the flavour is most delicious and peculiar to itself, and it may be considered in perfection from February till the end of May, after which, although keeping sound till the end of July, the flavour gradually deteriorates.

The following description of the Redleaf Russet is from Hogg’s Year-Book (1876, p. 119):—“Fruit round, inclining to oblate; in appearance very like Golden Knob. Skin entirely covered with bright cinnamon-coloured russet, which is thinner on the shaded side, where it exposes a little of the yellow ground. Eye partially open, with flat segments set in a pretty wide and deep saiicer4ike basin. Stalk three-quarters of an inch long, pretty stout, set in a round cavity. Flesh yellowish, tender, crisp, very juicy, and sweet, with a rich flavour and pleasant aroma. An excellent dessert Apple, in use from December to February.

This was raised by Mr. John Cox, gardener at Redleaf, near Pens- hurst, Kent, and received a First-class Certificate from the Royal Horticultural Society, January 20, 1875.” This Apple will undoubtedly prove a most valuable addition to our high- flavoured very late table varieties. The entire stock is in the hands of Messrs. W. Paul and Son, Waltham Cross, Herts, who will be prepared to distribute it in November next.

REDLEAF RUSSET, POSSIBLE OFFSPRING OF GOLDEN HARVEY

REDLEAF RUSSET, POSSIBLE OFFSPRING OF GOLDEN HARVEY

https://archive.org/stream/floristpomologis1876unse#page/n0/search/%22golden+harvey%22


My Garden, It’s Plan and Culture, Alfred Smee, FRS, 1872

Apples which are fine in texture and rich in flavour are selected for the purposes of the table, of which the Irish Peach, the Ribston Pippin, and the Golden Harvey are notable examples.

January produces the large Reinette du Canada (fig. 244), which is generally a good bearer, and gives a large fine apple with excellent flavour. The Golden Harvey (fig. 245), a small apple, ripens about this time.

https://archive.org/stream/mygardenitsplanc00smeerich#page/146/search/%22golden+harvey%22


Fruits and Fruit Trees of America, A.J. Downing 1845

An excellent, high flavoured little dessert apple from England, which bears well, and retains its character with us. It is rather adapted for the fruit garden than the orchard — as the tree is of slender growth, and it would not be a popular market fruit here.

Fruit small, irregularly round, and about two inches in diameter. Skin rather rough, dull russet over a yellow ground, with a russety red cheek. Calyx small, open, with stiff segments, and set in a very shallow basin. Stalk half an inch long, and rather slender. Flesh yellow, of remarkably fine texture, with a spicy, rich, sub-acid flavour. The fruit should be kept in a cellar, or it is apt to shrivel. December to April.

https://archive.org/stream/fruitsandfruitt02downgoog#page/n129/search/%22golden+harvey%22


Hooper’s Western Fruit Book, A compendious collection of facts from the notes and experience of successful fruit culturists, E.J. Hooper 1857

Remarks. — " Unworthy." — Dr. Warder, one of our best Western Pomologists.

[EDIT, In this case western referred to the Midwest, as in Ohio. As you can see from this photo, these pomologists were not messing about when it came to the serious business of fruit.]

Screen Shot 2018-09-28 at 9.29.40 AM.png

https://archive.org/stream/hooperswesternfr00hoop#page/n17/search/%22golden+harvey%22

American Pomology, Dr. John A. Warder, 1867

[Note. This is the Same Warder that condemned the this variety as simply “unworthy” 10 years earlier in the above Hooper’s Western Fruit Book.]

This highly flavored English apple is often referred to, but is rarely seen in American collections ; but as it may be interesting to some, I quote Downing's brief description :

" Fruit small, irregularly round ; Skin rather rough, dull russet over a yellow ground, with a russety red cheek; Flesh yellow, of fine texture, with a rich sub-acid flavor. The fruit is apt to shrivel."

Tree of slender growth.

https://archive.org/stream/americanpomology00ward#page/n5/search/%22golden+harvey%22


The Fruit Cultivator’s Manual, by Thomas Bridgeman, Gardener, Seedsman, and Florist 1847

A dessert apple, not larger than the Golden Pippin ; colour light yellow, with a flush of red, and embroidered with a roughish russet. It is called Brandy Apple from the superior specific strength of its juice, being 1085; it is of remarkably close texture, very rich in flavour, and will keep till April or May.

https://archive.org/stream/fruitcultivators00bridrich#page/n5/search/%22golden+harvey%22e


Deutchland’s Apfelsorten, DR. TH. Engelbrecht, 1889

Golden Harvey auch llranily Apple

Gestalt 54: 47 — 48, stark uligestumpft liinfrliclirund, raittelUancli. Hälften gleich.

Kelch offen, gross, gelblich, locker behaart. Blättchen ziemlich schmal, am Grunde getrennt, lang, aufrecht, nach aussen gebogen, fein gespitzt. Einsenk. ziemlich tief, weit, etwas ausgeschweift, eben, yuersehn. rund.

Stiel holzig, dünn, etwa IHtnm 1., dunkelbraun, kahl. Höhle massig tief, weit, eben, zuweilen mit Fleisehwulst, brotizefarben berostet.

Schule glatt bis fein rauh, ziemlich glänzend, in der Zeitigung goldgelb, sonnenw. rariuoisin, fast blutrolh überzogen, nicht oder nicht deutlich ge.streift. l’unkte zahlreich, niitteldick bis dick, auch eckig, braun. Anflüge bräunlich gelben Kostes nicht selten. Hie Frucht welkt in einigen Gegenden zienilich stark, (ieruch fehlt. >

Kernhaus 33:27, zwiebelförm. Kammern etwas tiefsitzend 10:14, stielw. stumpf gespitzt, kelchw. abgerundet, fast glattwandig, geräumig, ge- schlossen oder sehr wenig offen. Achsenh. schmal. Kerne meistens zu 2, mittelgross, vollkommen, eiförmig, gespitzt, ka.stanienbraun.

Kelchböhle triehterfVirmig, mit oft recht flacher Mündung, '/j zur Achsenh. Pistille ziemlich kurz verwachsen, am Grunde fast kahl, in der Theilung etwas behaart. Staubfiiilen wenig über mittelständig.

Fleiscb gelblichweiss , fein, fest selbst gegen Ende der Zeitigung, saftig, edel rcinettenartig gewürzt, etwas vorherrschend sehr angenehm weinig, nicht viel weniger süss.

Hie Früchte erhielt ich von Kolbe -Langwarden (Oldenburg) und als Brandy von Hoesch-Hüren, sie waren getrocknet sehr schmackhaft.

Htt H iwOflTuiifcl (Kog.) Almost OOl + t, January to May.

(THE WACKY DIGITAL TRANSLATION BELOW. GERMANS, FEEL FREE TO SEND ME A BETTER TRANSLATION!)

Golden Harvey also Brandy Apple

Figure 54: 47-48, severely uli-stomped liinfrliclund, raittelUancli. halves equal.

Goblet open, large, yellowish, loosely hairy. Leaves quite narrow, on Basically separate, long, upright, bent outward, finely pointed. The immerse. pretty deep, wide, a bit out of sorts, even, yuersehn. round.

Stalk woody, thin, about 1st grade, dark brown, bare. Cave massively deep, wide, even, sometimes with Fleisehwulst, rusted britzizefarben.

Skin smooth to fine rough, rather shiny, golden yellow in the evening, Solstice. rariuoisin, almost blood red coated, not or not clear striped. There are numerous, thin to thick, even angular, brown. Approaches brownish yellow Kostes not infrequently. The fruit withers in in some areas it is strong, (it is missing

Kernhaus 33:27, bulbous. Chambers a bit deep sitting 10:14, stielw. dull tipped, kelchw. rounded, almost smooth-walled, spacious, closed or very little open. Achsenh. narrow. Cores mostly to 2, medium-sized, perfect, ovate, pointed, ka.stanienbraun.

Kelchböhle TriehterfVirmig, with often quite flat mouth, '/ j zum Achsenh. Pistachio rather short, at the base almost bald, in division a bit hairy. Dusting a little above medium.

Fleischb yellowish white, fine, firm even towards the end of the Zeitigung, juicy, noble rincette-like spiced, slightly predominantly very pleasantly vinous, not much less cute.

Hie fruits I received from Kolbe -Langwarden (Oldenburg) and as Brandy from Hoesch-Hüren, they were dried very tasty.

https://archive.org/stream/bub_gb_tR4EMgEACAAJ#page/n619/search/%22golden+harvey%22


The Book of the Garden, Charles M’Intosh, 1855

Golden Harvey. — Colour russet and yellow; form roundish ; size under medium ; quality first-rate. In use from November till June. One of our best dessert apples, having a peculiar fLavour of brandy, hence often known as the brandy apple. It is much cultivated in the west of England, even in elevated localities, for the purpose of making the best quality of cider, as weU as for the dessert. It is, however, by no means a hardy tree, yet succeeds well at Dalkeith as a dwarf standard.

https://archive.org/stream/cu31924051991929#page/n431/search/%22golden+harvey%22


The Florist and Fruitist, 1859

Class E. — Premiums of 1/. and ]0*\ for the best and second best six of any other dessert Apple in season, excepting old Nonpareil. The first prize was awarded to Mr. James Holder, of Reading, for Golden Harvey, from a standard; soil very rich, subsoil sandy loam, over gravel. Fruit fine coloured, very richly vinous, and sugary in flavour, and, but for being somewhat shrivelled, — probably owing to having been somewhat too early gathered, — they would have been, in every respect, one of the best dishes ever laid before the society. — The same variety was also sent by Mr. Simpson (gardener to Lady Molyneux, Stoke Farm, near Slough). Very plump and juicy, but small and slightly astringent.

https://archive.org/stream/floristfruitistg59lond#page/54/search/%22golden+harvey%22


The Horticulturist, 1860

Golden Harvey, syn. Brandy apple. Small, roundish, yellowish russet, firm, exceedingly rich, and high flavoured; in this respect a fruit of the very highest excellence; December to May; the tree is slender, upright, and a moderate bearer.

https://archive.org/stream/cu31924002832552#page/n3/search/%22golden+harvey%22


MONTHLY NOTICES OF PAPERS AND PROCEEDINGS AND REPORT OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF TASMANIA FOR 1879

Mackintosh's Book of the Garden, Vol. II. , p. 345, may assist in throwing some light on the subject. After describing the moth, he goes on'to state that it invariably selects the finest apple in which to lay its eggs, knowing instinctively that these will be most palatable to its future progeny. (In Tasmania the Golden Harvey is most affected).

https://archive.org/stream/papersproceeding1879roya#page/n5/search/%22golden+harvey%22


The Practical Gardener and Modern Horticulturist, Charles McIntosh, 1828

Brandy Apple, Golden Harvey. — Fruit small, resembling a golden pippin in shape, yellowish russet color, fine flavor ; in use from January till March. Is much esteemed in Herefordshire, where it has been long cultivated. Tree handsome habit and extremely hardy.

https://archive.org/stream/practicalgarden00mcingoog#page/n493/search/%22golden+harvey%22


Tilton’s Journal of Horticulture and Florists Companion, J.F. Tilton, 1870

Notwithstanding the efforts which the late Mr. Thomas Andrew Knight made to cross existing varieties of the cultivated apple with the Siberian Crab, they all failed to produce a result which has been of any real benefit. Mr. Knight's object in thus crossing these individuals was, as he states, to obtain such fruits as vegetate very early in spring by introducing the farina of the Sibe- rian Crab into the blossom of a rich and early apple, and by transferring, in the same manner, the farina of the apple to the blossom of the Siberian Crab. At the time Mr. Knight wrote this, the trees so produced had ngt yet borne fruit ; but he observes, 'The leaf and habit of many of the plants that I have thus obtained possess much of the character of the apple, whilst they vegetate as early in the spring as the apple of Siberia, and appear to possess an equal power of bearing cold.' But what was the result of these carefully performed experi- ments ? From this crossing we got the Siberian Bittersweet, which, Mr. Knight himself says, is wholly worthless, except for the press, that is, for cider making. Then the Siberian Harvey has a juice so intensely sweet,' that it, too, can only be used, mixed with other apples, for cider. Both of these were raised from the fruit of the Siberian Crab fertilized with the Golden Harvey, one of our best dessert apples.

https://archive.org/details/tiltonsjournalof71870bost/page/n7?q=%22golden+harvey%2

Early Fall Apple Tasting, September, 2018- New Seedling + New and Heirloom Varieties

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.

Open pollinated Wickson seedling #3, 2011

Open pollinated Wickson seedling #3, 2011

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.

Even though the fruits are covered with foot sox for protection, they are still a gorgeous deep red color. Uncovered spots that get more light are even darker in color. The conic shape is reminiscent of wickson, but it averages quite a bit larger.

Even though the fruits are covered with foot sox for protection, they are still a gorgeous deep red color. Uncovered spots that get more light are even darker in color. The conic shape is reminiscent of wickson, but it averages quite a bit larger.

Tasting Two Long Keeping Apples Out of Storage in Early March, GoldRush and Pomo Sanel

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.


GoldRush

These were picked later than they should have been.  I suspect if picked earlier, they would store a little better.

gold rush apple 11.jpg

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. 

gold rush apple 09.jpg

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

P1030430.jpg

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, still a little lean and green, but closer to where it should probably be picked for long storage

Pomo Sanel, still a little lean and green, but closer to where it should probably be picked for long storage

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.

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.

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

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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

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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.

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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
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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


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Apple Breeding Part 1: Everyone knows you can't do it, right?

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"...growers, shippers and retailers, who have been giving us food that looks great but often isn’t for over a century, have their own agendas."

When writing about apples and their propagation in both technical and popular literature, it seems almost compulsory for the author to assure us that if we grow an apple from a seed, that it will not be the same as the apple that we took the seed from.  We are usually further assured that the chances of  actually growing a toothsome new apple variety bursting with juice and flavor from those little seeds are extremely dismal.  One might imagine, and sometimes we are even subject to descriptions of, the small, hard, green, sour, bitter and worm eaten result of such an experiment!  In the past, I have been discouraged from making the experiment of growing apples from seed by this common knowledge, especially upon learning that modern apple breeding programs cull thousands of seedlings to find one gem worthy of propagation.

I will concede that under many circumstances growing apples from seed may not be the wisest course of action or the most likely to yield the greatest reward.  Who wants to invest in the time and patience required for the growing of an entire tree only to find the secret unlocked from it’s genes by our roll of the dice is some hard green apples for the kids to throw at each other?   Not I, not ye, not no one!  I only know of one apple that is supposed to grow fairly true to seed and that is the Snow Apple A.K.A. Fameuse.  Otherwise the chances are that a seedling will be at least somewhat unlike it’s parents.  But then, this genetic variability is what really makes the apple able to give us the great variety that it offers.

The genes of the apple hold many secrets.  Combinations and mutations of it’s genes have already yielded a remarkable array of attributes.  Resistance can be found to many diseases.  Northern Spy is nearly immune to the wooly aphid and breeders used it to bring us resistant rootstocks.  Some trees do well in wet soil, some in drier soil.  Some require a long chill in winter while others can bask in tropic heat with virtually no chill and not only grow and fruit, but also produce a delicious apple.  And we all know that apples come in a great variety of shapes, colors, and sizes.  Some will ripen in early summer and others can hang on the tree well into winter and even into the spring.  Some must be eaten post haste before they begin to deteriorate while still others have kept in a common cellar for two years.  What most do not know however, is the flavor potential locked within the gene pool of the apple.

Apples encompass an amazingly diverse range of flavors which most people never even have a chance to explore.  banana, mango, fennel, berry, pineapple, citrus, cherry, rose, vanilla, spices, pear, wine, “apple”, jolly rancher’s candy and more all lurk in those genes.  Probably the greatest variety of flavors contained within any fruit.  While most post Red Delicious era consumers are obsessed only with the crunch of an apple, it is primarily the world of flavors contained in domestic Apples which drive the obsession of amateur grower/collectors like me and which makes the roll of the dice when growing out apples from seed seem not only worth the risk, but downright compelling!

I am no expert in the matter, but I have come to think that we have a better chance of ending up with something good from that seed than we are often told.  Maybe the idea that seedling apples are a one-in-a-gajillion chance is one of those ideas that is repeated by one author after another becoming common knowledge with a life of it’s own... just minus the knowledge part.  If the idea interests you, please read on, because previous to the turn of the century the vast majority of apples the world over were grown from random seeds, and we can do better than that.

In the 19th century, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman) ran around planting apple seeds.  Being a folk hero, he gets all the credit, but lots of people planted seedlings and seedling orchards, or collected seeds from fortuitous trees that bore good fruit.  As a result, American Apple diversity absolutely exploded over a relatively short period.  Most of them, even the named and propagated varieties were just not that great when held up against the best apples out there, old and new, but there is also no doubt that many valuable new varieties came into being from this upswelling of apple culture.

Keep in mind, that Apple breeding is a progressive process in which we build on the foundations laid before, so progress in the field should be continual, and our chances of breeding good apples should increase with each generation.  I am all for preserving diversity, but I’m inclined to preserve diversity worth preserving.  I’m sure it’s uncool to say this, but I don’t think it is worth our while to catalogue and preserve every single heirloom plant out there, Apple or otherwise.  It is at once too daunting and too narrow minded.  Gajillions of varieties have already come and gone before us to get us where we are now.  we need a certain amount of diversity to work with in breeding up new stuff, but we just don’t need it all, and some varieties are simply not worth the effort.  The point is really to move forward in a holistic sort of way.

What I am actually more interested in than mindlessly conserving everything that has gone before is increasing, or at least maintaining diversity.  Sadly, the industrial food supply line is antithetical to the idea of diversity.  If we leave it up to them, we will lose any apple that is not what apple breeders, growers and marketers think we want and is easiest to get to us.  Thus would we lose our lovely russets and our lumpy, bumpy and otherwise unfashionable or uncomely, but delicious, apples.  In order to preserve crop diversity in a way that is relevant, we have to live a culture of food in which those plants are important to our lives.  Apples can still use improving and diversification, and I think that the layperson and fruit hobbyists can have a place in that process.

Here is an interesting piece of history.  At the Geneva agricultural research station in 1898 and 1899 an experiment in the growing of new apples from intentional crosses was made.  The experimenters claimed that up until this time, theirs was an altogether novel idea.  The selecting of seeds from good apples was commonly practiced, but hand pollinating the flowers to cross two specific apples was, if we are to believe the authors, nearly unheard of.  The operators grew what by modern breeding standards was a measly 148 seedlings of intentional cross pollinations using 10 different varieties of apples as the parents.  Of those 148 seedlings, 125 survived and at the publication of  their report “An Experiment in Apple Breeding” in 1911,  just 106 of those seedlings had fruited. After which they proclaimed....

“all will be interested it is certain, in knowing how many of the progeny of these crosses seem to the writers to have sufficient value to name or test further.”

Well yeah! way to work the suspense... drum rollllllllllllllllll-  out of the 106 seedlings, 13 varieties were deemed worthy of propagation and naming, those being Clinton, Cortland, Herkimer, Nassau, Onondaga, Otsego, Oswego, Rensselaer, Rockland, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Tioga, Westchester,  and 14 deemed worthy of further testing, but not worth naming. Wow!, they must have been stoked! At the time apple breeding was in its infancy and few apples had known parents although one parent was often known, claimed or at least suspected.  The report, is detailed and I’m sure much was learned from the experiment regarding the breeding of apples... but times have indeed changed.

Most of those first apples selected at Geneva in their probably overly generous enthusiasm are basically unknown today, with cortland having notably stood the test of time.  It is encouraging though that the apples they came up with in such a small lot were not just plain bad, but about 1/4 of them considered worth naming or at least considering.  From there out, apple breeding became increasingly complex and the goals ever more narrow.

Cortland.  The only apple I know of from the Geneva experiment that has stood the test of time.

The Geneva station remains a full time apple breeding operation using traditional breeding as well as unnatural marriages of bacteria, insects and fungi with apple genes to create GMO apples.  Something I read recently claimed a 1 in 10,000 ratio for seedling selection, meaning that out of 10,000 seedlings only one will be chosen to become a new marketed cultivar. The results of these programs will no doubt be more disease resistant apples that look really “good” on the shelf 6 months after picking. Many of them taste good as well and one can’t really argue with those results.  There is a place for these apples (minus the GMO's in my considerable opinion) and these programs, but the selections are skewed by the intentions of the researchers.

Susan Brown, the head of apple breeding at Geneva breeds to make growers money.  Like most research anymore, these programs are married to industry. While the products are sometimes great, I don’t see the soul of the apple in these efforts.  Some of the most famously flavored apples relished and praised by millions throughout history would never be selected in this paradigm because they don’t look “good” enough or they lack disease resistance.  It pains me to think of all the amazingly flavored apples that must be culled from these programs every year because they don’t meet the very long list of criteria that a modern cultivar has to live up to in order to make the grade in a commercial paradigm. There can be no doubt that out of 10,000 seedlings the one that tastes the most amazing and the one that looks the "best" are not going to be the same apple!  But growers, shippers and retailers, who have been giving us food that looks great but often isn’t for over a century, have their own agendas.  Their criteria are not only flavor, but good looks, storage ability, productivity, and lower labor and chemical inputs.  Oh yeah, and Canadians have been laboring away quietly on a genetically engineered apple which doesn’t brown when it’s cut and is on the fast track to store shelves in the U.S.  Now that's progress!?

So, my objection to modern apple breeding programs is that, while their results may often be very useful to us, their goals are in line with a culture based around supermarket consumers.  What’s wrong with that?  All kinds of things.  First of all, the supermarket consumer paradigm discourages diversity.  Brands are built up as recognizable entities, ideally (but rarely so) with uniform quality.  In a way, that has always been the case, but on a local basis.  These days shippers and marketers cover large areas, global actually, and global diversity is becoming lower as a result.  Another issue is that, cosmetics are a goal that is placed above eating quality.  Sure, breeders are making great strides in growing up apples that look good and taste good, but appearance is and always has been more important.  Thirdly, another important goal is to make money.  Growers have provided us with crappy apples for decades at least, because in the grocery store paradigm they have a dependent and basically captive customer base.  I won’t go on, but let’s just say that, in short, the goals of consumers v.s. producers, packers, retailers, and ultimately the breeders that cater to them, are just not the same, and that we can’t predict the many ways in which that might affect us.  One way though is that the majority of modern cultivars are bred from one of six cultivars deemed desirable by the industry, leading to a lack of diversity and inbreeding as this article points out.

"The author’s analysis of five hundred commercial varieties developed since 1920, mainly Central European and American types, shows that most are descended from Golden Delicious, Cox's Orange Pippin, Jonathan, McIntosh, Red Delicious or James Grieve. This means they have at least one of these apples in their family tree, as a parent, grandparent or great-grandparent.

Six apples as "ancestors" of the 500 examined varieties In 274 species (55% of those investigated) the six "ancestor varieties" are represented twice or more in the family tree, in 140 varieties (28%) at least three times, in 87 varieties (17%) at least 4 times and in 55 varieties (11%) 5 times or more."

H.-J. Bannier, Pomologen-Verein,

I’d like to expand for a moment on the cosmetic issue, because I think it is key.  I love a beautiful apple as much as the next person, but what is a beautiful apple anyway?  In the supermarket consumer paradigm our chances for comparison are limited.  A couple of the apples I’ve seen that I would call most beautiful would be passed over without a thought in a modern breeding program because they are covered with a map of cracked russet (russeting, for those who don’t know is a sort of rough skin layer that covers more or less of some apples).  There is a class of Apples called russets, which are heavily russeted.  While many people might consider them to be less than attractive, I think the vast majority of people in America today have never even tasted one, even though they have been prized in the past as a group for containing varieties of exceptional quality of a specific type.  We perceive our world with expectations and standards that are built up from many sources, judging, accepting and rejecting based on those ideas.  While the uninitiated may view a rough yellow russet apple with suspicion, I think that the russet eating veteran sees these apples very differently indeed.  Besides, heavy russeting is thought by some to contribute to the style of flavor this group of apples possesses.

Egremont Russet Apple

JUST ASK ALBERT! One of my heroes is an apple breeder named Albert Etter.  Albert is the source of some of the apples I’m using in my breeding efforts.  He grew a lot of seedlings but, like the early geneva experiments, he was very encouraged with the results of intentional crosses.  So, without further ado, in the interest of supporting my theory that it is worthwhile for amateurs to try growing a few apples from seeds, here is Albert’s experience as reported in the Pacific Rural Press 101 years ago, roughly contemporary with the Geneva breeding experiments.

”Mr. Etter's Work with Apples. To the Editor: Making good my promise, I am sending you another bunch of my new varieties of apples grown from selected seed. l am not saying much about these varieties yet, because they are too new and untried. Still, it might be as well for those interested to prepare for many new varieties of new and striking characters. I see that the publication of my personal note to you, in your issue of October 7, has aroused an interest in this branch of my plant-breeding work. This work has been under way for many years in a preliminary way, and now all is ready to try out thousands of seedlings. I will not say just how many, because I do not know. But, if facts uncovered as the work progresses justify it, there is ample room and facilities to try out several hundred thousand varieties in the next twenty years. Results obtained so far more than justify my plans for the future, which are to make haste slowly, and sell guaranteed stock under a registered or copyright label."..... “When I had figured out the lines of desirable variation in the dahlia species', as a boy of eighteen, I dreamed of taking up the apple trail. The best horticulturist I knew in that day, an old gray-bearded man, After listening to my dream frankly told me to forget it. The idea of trying to do that which trained men, with all the recorded knowledge of the world on the subject, could not do, or they would have done it long ago!  But I could not forget it.  As I remember, I kept thinking of it until I reached the conclusion that the apple varieties we have at this late day are a harum-scarum lot, to make the most of it, to represent possibly 4000 years of human endeavor. What Is more and worse, as apple breeders, we are making little progress.”  [Mr. Etter's seedlings which we have examined with much interest and have kept on exhibition in our office since their arrival, certainly justify much more than he claims to have attained in his sketch of his preparatory work. They have very striking and novel characters, external and internal. In our judgment he has already attained things which generations of apple-growing have not developed. We are glad to put on record this early record of his work which will some day be looked upon as of great historic interest. — IMs.]

Apple Breeding. —A few seedling apples have already been fruited and there are also 1000 seedling grafts approaching fruiting age on the place and 1000 ungrafted seedlings, which it will take longer to try out. In this connection, Mr. Etter states in a recent letter: "My new apples are looking better every day. One is a Wagener that looks a great deal better than the Wagener and is better flavored, too. The other is a seedling of the Rome Beauty, and is a beauty beside its parent now, and as near as I can judge at this date is going to be considerably better flavored, too. "This apple breeding proposition now looks as though I am on the right idea, and, if such is the case, I will be able to do what I prophesied I was going to do over 20 years ago—produce more and better varieties of apples than the world possesses today. That is a big task, but if I am right, it will be comparatively easy. If I were not right, how could I get seedlings of the Wagener that outclass its parent the first time?" Such success with only a few seedlings indicates that better success will follow work on a more extensive scale, especially as the experience obtained will furnish a guide to future operations. Just here a few words on the origin of apple varieties is not unfitting. Without doubt practically all of our old standard commercial varieties, like the Bellefleur, Spitzenberg and Newtown Pippin, are the result of chance, not design. Seedlings came up by chance, fruited and their merit was recognized. Crossing of varieties for seedlings of merit was hardly done, if at all, and if done was not based on scientific principles. The seedlings of great merit have been carefully preserved and propagated, but the unknown possibilities of new varieties have not been explored. Then also, the joy of discovery of new varieties evidently warped the judgment of many discoverers, and an astounding proportion of the 500 named varieties grown are of as little merit as apples well could be. In fact the average of the seedlings grown purposely on the Ettersburg ranch is fully equal to the average of the 500, and the best of the seedlings is in the class with the best of the 500.  In other words, the new apple breeding is being conducted along careful and systematic lines as compared with the raising of seedlings by chance and then finding which of the seedlings were good by chance also. Of the two methods, theory and results, both indicate that the systematic and scientific one is sure to produce in a short time varieties surpassing those obtained in a haphazard way through many generations.”

Note here several things about Etter’s experiments and comments.

One is that he thought most named varieties were not that great.  My experiments here in growing out and fruiting many varieties confirm this idea.  Apples could stand to be improved.

Secondly, the crossing of apples intentionally using quality parents is much more likely to yield good results.  The explosion of variety in American apples was due to the growing and finding of random seedlings, and that worked tolerably well.  We have a world population of 7 billion now.  If .00001 percent of those grew a dozen apple seeds from selected parents, that would be 840,000 seedlings to pick some great apple varieties from! Exactly what the scientific lines Etter refers to I don't know, but I'm inclined to think that most of his success was due to his strong vision, a willingness to take chances, and taking the effort to collect and compare over 500 varieties before choosing the parents he would work with.

Thirdly, some old learned guy told him not to bother, but he did it anyway!

Albert came up with some excellent apples that are finally attracting the interest of small scale growers and collectors.  The Wickson apple in particular is going viral in the last few years, and deservedly so.

grenadine apple on tree

Having an interest in apple breeding on a small home scale, I have always marveled at the numbers you hear regarding seedling to cultivar ratio like the 1 in 10,000 mentioned above. I'm undaunted though, because when you read older stuff like the Geneva report and Albert Etter’s reports, it is clear that they were not dealing in the thousands to one ratio to produce a fruit very suitable for eating, and they were not uncommonly an improvement on what was already available. That of course was a different time and goals were different, but those goals were more in line with those of homesteaders and foodies of today than most modern breeding efforts.  We already know that increasing commercialization of the industry along with the requisite shift to home economies based on consumerism killed apple diversity which apple-collectors and enthusiasts around the world are now scrambling to save from extinction.  In reading research material on apples from the 19th century, the trend toward commercialization to supply a society moving further and further from the farm is very apparent.  Discussions among growers increasingly placed productivity, looks and keeping abilities above eating quality.  The modern programs can help with that problem and they have by providing apples which will keep well and look good while flavors are steadily improving.  However, taken as a whole, from the breeder to the farmer to the table the industrial food system is a fundamentally flawed one which never has, and never will have, the best interest of consumers and communities in the forefront.  That's not so bad, if we don't neglect our responsibility to maintain diversity, and one way we can do that is to breed new apples building on the work of modern breeders, as well as by using heirloom varieties with special qualities.

And in the meantime, we would do well not to let our apple diversity pass into oblivion.  Stephen Hayes, who is AWESOME, makes the argument that we should not spend our time trying to grow new apples from seed when there are so many heirlooms to be saved from extinction.  But I respectfully disagree.  I think all homesteader types who grow fruit trees should be growing heirlooms, but there is room for experimentation for the geekier among us, and I think we can have our apples and breed them too!  a few apples grown from seed can be grafted onto existing apple trees to bear with very little time investment or, for the more committed, a small growing plot can be kept to grow the new apples out on dwarfing rootstock.

King David.  I great example of good genes waiting to be built upon.

I guess to sum it up, apples could still use improvement, but if we leave apples to the hands of the big outfits with lots of resources they will continue to produce results that cater to the source of those resources.  It is up to no one, except everyone, to preserve apple diversity and move the creation of new and exciting apples forward.  Small scale breeding efforts such as anyone with a tree or two can do in their back yards, are where that battle can be fought.  However, we should not let the apple industry set the standard, because their goals are different.  I guess what I'm saying is that if we don't pursue unmarketable lines of apple improvement, apples will only develop along certain restricted lines.

I would encourage you not to think just in terms of your accomplishments, or lack of in a backyard breeding endeavor, but rather view your efforts as a part of a larger effort.  Any of us may or may not breed apples that are really amazing and worthy of widespread fame and replication.  However, taken together as a whole, we most certainly will!

Two springs ago, I spent maybe two or three hours hand pollinating flowers and produced a couple hundred seeds.  Of those, over 100 sprouted in the greenhouse and were grown out in a small nursery bed.  Last spring I pollinated a few more, and have further plans this spring.  This month, the one year old seedlings were grafted onto dwarfing root stocks and planted in a nursery row.  Next year they go into a trial plot planted close together, and in 4 or more years I may have some results to report.  The total time devoted to this project has not been very great.  In the next installment, I’ll show you how easy it is to pollinate a few apples and grow the seeds out.  I have hopes that I can help nudge over the cliff others equally seduced by the chance to taste brand new apples that have never existed before.  Pollinating a few flowers is the first step.  Yes.... jump.... just do it.

Further reading on Albert Etter and his apples:

Albert Etter's red fleshed apples article by Ram Fishman foremost expert on Etter and his apples.

Informative Greenmantle Nursery page on Albert Etter's apples

From Old Nonpareil to Lady Williams: Apple tasting notes, late season 2012/2013

Line of apples Here are my tasting notes from mid to late season.  The Late season extends quite late here with Lady Williams coming in at the end of February.  For notes on earlier apples and my thoughts on tasting and evaluation in general, see the previous post, Red Astrachan to King David.  I did not review every apple I tasted this season.  If something was really good, I'm inclined to mention it, but I feel I need more time to live with many of them before I make any judgement at all.  Young trees don't always produce exemplary fruit, and it can be difficult to judge when to pick and eat apples.  I also reserve the right to change my mind in the future as I encounter more specimens of various apples and maybe find new benchmarks for comparison.  And, as always, what does well here in sunny (often hot) Northern California might not do so well where you live, and vice versa.  This time around I’ve stuck mostly to apples that I did actually really  like, or had a lot of, and passed by many that were just not that interesting.  Some of these fruits are presented in the order of ripening, and some aren't... if that makes any sense... if that doesn't make sense, I guess I'll just give up and get on with it.

 

Old Nonpareil:  Light, juicy, pleasing, easy to eat.  Old Nonpareil has been very enjoyable eating this year.  Old Nonpareil has a difficult to describe quality that makes me think of some candy that I can’t remember, if it ever even existed in the first place.  It is not particularly intensely flavored or rich though, and is more along the lines of a light refreshing pleasant apple.  Everything seems to come together pretty well for an enjoyable eating experience.  It has something of a citrus quality, but I’m not sure if that's due mostly to the acidity or actual flavor compounds in the citrus realm.  Either way, citrus comes to mind, and not just to my mind.  Like many old apples, it is not crisp or crunchy.  It is alleged to keep well, but we didn’t have enough to try keeping any, especially since they seem to be prone to dropping from the tree before they are ripe.  The branch is in the shade and this is it’s first year bearing significant fruit, so I’m not sure the fruit is exemplary.  For now I’ll look forward to eating them when I can get them, and will probably graft a branch in a sunnier location for further evaluation.

Wickson:  Hella intense flavor in a tiny sugar filled package.  YUM! This tiny apple is named after then famous California Agronomy champion Edward J. Wickson, who had a large impact on agriculture in the state early in the 20th century.    Albert Etter must have recognized great quality in this fruit to name it after his friend and associate, who was an important figure at the time.  Everyone loves a Wickson.  Early in the season it did taste a bit oddly like crab (it is a crab apple after all), but the seafood element faded as the season moved on.  The latest specimens, though cracked from fall rains, were intensely flavored with insane amounts of sugar.  It is difficult to describe the flavor of Wickson, so I won't try, but it really is awesomely, rich and unique.  The only apple I've had that was close to similar in flavor is Crimson Gold, another Etter variety, which is also delicious, though not as intense.  (edit:  tonia says that if an apple could have umami, it would be wickson.  Adam of Adam's Apples blog describes one of the flavor components as malt.  I know what he means, though I wouldn't say that specifically, and haven't been able to characterize that flavor by comparison to anything else.)  I've heard two people this year say that if they could have only one apple it would be Wickson... one was a fruit expert and one was my mom.  During a talk on apples and apple growing, when asked what trees he would recommend planting Tim Bates said with confidence and practically before the question was finished, "WWWICKSON!".  He also added that when interns stay on the Apple Farm, Wickson is always their favorite apple by the time they leave.  Find one to eat, graft a branch, graft a tree, graft two, Wickson rocks!

Karmijn de Sonneville:  Ginormous cox decendent.  I tasted this Cox’s Orange Pippin/Johnathan cross from September through late October at least.  Most of my notes are very positive, though my memory is not equally positive.  The apple is very tart and that characteristic never mellowed much.  Karmijn de Sonneville had very bad watercore on frankentree the first few years, but seems to be getting over it now that the tree is bearing more regularly.  The tree that I planted of it in the garden orchard had horrible watercore this year and not a single good apple was harvested.  I’m hoping it will come around as the tree matures.

here are some excerpts from my notes on Karmijn de Sonneville:

Oct 15th  riper now.  still very tart, probably too tart for some.  Delicious though.  citrusy with other fruit flavors.  Very juicy, pretty rich, fairly complex.  The perfect apple for people who like to chew on lemons, it has a sensational level of tartness with strong undercurrents of relatively complex flavors.  Add to this a great texture and lots of juice and no wonder the Karmijn de Sonneville is a common taste test winner.

Oct 29th  very good.  Citrusy, pretty tart, yummy coxlike thing.

Grenadine®:  a fun apple that tastes as red as it looks.  Grenadine® is a rather obscure apple bred by Albert Etter of Ettersburg in Humboldt County California.  He was working on red fleshed apples, and this is the reddest of those available.  Grenadine® has one major issue (texture) and probably would not have been released in Etter’s time... and wasn’t.  Still, it is a remarkably flavorful apple with strong berry or fruit punch flavors.  Everyone seems to love it, and I’m quite fond of it myself.  The flesh is very dark pink, bordering on red.  The longer it hangs into early winter, the more intense the flavor becomes, but it also becomes more mealy.  Last year it was not as mealy as it is was this year.  It requires a long season for ripening.  This year it was probably at it’s best compromise between mealy and fully flavored around mid November.  I haven’t tried all the red fleshed Etter apples that are out there, but my guess is that another couple of generations of breeding would have yielded better specimens than are available now.  Greenmantle Nursery maintains a trademark on the name and doesn’t want anyone growing it without buying the trees exclusively from them and signing an non-propagation agreement, thus all the little ®'s.  As a result, the apple is very uncommon, but cuttings of it show up at scion exchanges, and it is not patented.

Grenadine.  Probably the reddest of the Etter red fleshed apples, and possibly the most intensely flavored.  As you can see the juice is red as well, and very delicious.

The apple formerly known as Rubaiyat®?:  Red flesh, red flavor, more please!  This is the Albert Etter apple trademarked as Rubaiyat® by Greenmantle Nursery.  The fact that Greenmantle limits propagation and demands royalties under that name serves as a disincentive to use it.  Perhaps if it had another name it could become popularized and thoroughly assessed by apple collectors and fruit growers, and could possibly even be found for sale now and then.  I had just a few of these on frankentree this year.  Many dropped from the tree prematurely and only one really fine specimen was harvested.  That specimen was, however, delicious!  The Texture is open and juicy with berry like flavors common to Etter’s red fleshed apples.  Grenadine® has stronger flavors, but this one seems to have better texture and is generally a more refined fruit.  I’m reeeeally looking forward to taste eating more of these.

Ruby is very red inside and as delicious as it looks.  Thanks Albert.

Becca’s Crab:  Tiny, crabby, but yummy.  My buddy Becca the farmer sent me some scions of this from North Carolina.  Apparently in came out of a university research orchard or something like that.  She said it made great cider.  I distributed some to other apple collectors and cider makers.  My scions died when a piece of frozen meat was set on them in the refrigerator, but one single bud miraculously lived.  It didn’t even grow the first year, but did the following year and it fruited quite a bit this year.  The apples are about an inch in diameter, beautifully red, round, with a deep yellow/orange flesh.  I ate some in the fall and more later in the December and January.  They hung well without going really soft.  A few were left hanging on January 1st, but many were starting to rot.  I picked them and the few that were still good were delicious.  The late ones had a lychee flavor as tonia pointed out.  The earlier ones were reminiscent of cherries, especially when eaten seeds and all.  It is a little crabby, with a marked astringency and it can also be somewhat mealy, but given a pile of them, I would probably eat a lot.  We’ll see what I think of it after living with it a few years.   If it makes great cider too, which seems not unlikely, I’d say this is a pretty swell little apple.  I may actually graft a whole tree of it.  Wish I had a few to munch on right now.  I wouldn't be surprised if this is a common named cultivar, but I don't know my crabs, so...  Does it look familiar to anyone?

Becca's Crab.  Tasty if a little crabby.

Pomo Sanel:  Local discovery falls short... This apple hung really late.  I picked the last ones on January first.  The texture was still firm.  The latest specimens had some skin blemishes and pitting, but were not rotting or anything like that.  The flavor is fairly rich, but not complex being dominated by a banana like flavor.  Banana not being my favorite, I found them inedible, even though I kept trying to eat them.  Suffice to say, the Chickens got to eat a lot of them.  Too bad because I am looking for late hanging apples.  This is probably an old known variety, but who knows, it might be a local seedling.  It came from a scion exchange and I believe the bag said it was from an old homestead or farm in Talmage.  I assumed that it was named by whomever collected it.  I would not say it was a bad apple at all, but just not excellent and not to my tasts, so I will not continue growing it.

Newton Pippin:  A most praised and praiseworthy apple.  (a.k.a. Newtown Pippin, Albermarle Pippin):  There is a tree of this famous American apple on the property next to us.  I grafted it onto frankentree some years back because the old tree is so decrepit that I figured it didn’t have long to live.  In fact, one of the three trees I took cuttings from fell over and died within a year.  I had a few late harvested apples off the remaining Newton Pippin this year, and it they were similar to other good newtons I’ve had.  There is a strong fruit flavor like jolly rancher candy, sometimes the watermelon flavor and sometimes just generic fake candy flavor.  I’m very intrigued.  I’ve been told numerous times that Newton will not do well here, but I’m not convinced.  (Recent conversations with local growers indicate that it probably does fine here, but that it may take a very long time to come into bearing and is scab susceptible.)  Interestingly, the apples that I harvested off frankentree, which were grafted from the original tree are not nearly as flavorful.  Still, they were quite good and when eaten out of the fridge in late January were of a very welcome quality.  I’m also looking forward to trying a couple of highly rated offspring of the Newtown Pippin- the Virginia Gold (Golden Delicious X Newton) and the New Rock Pippin, an English seedling of Newton Pippin purported to keep extremely well.  Virginia Gold scions just arrived and I’m working on getting New Rock Pippin into the country with the help of apple super enthusiast John Gasbarre of Lamb Abbey Orchards.  The Newton Pippin has an interesting history, but I’ll save all that for another time and place.  for a little more on Newton Pippin check Orange Pippin.

The Venerable Newton Pippin.  A thorough review of the literature would probably show this to be the most praised American apple.  It was still common in grocery stores when I was a kid, but only in a green and very tart state, much Like Granny Smith today.

Hauer Pippin:  Hoped for better, still hoping...  I’ve been really excited to try this apple, but it turns out I’ve been trying it for a few years under the pseudonym of Rose Pippin.  I planted a semi dwarf tree of it on recommendation from a friend in Santa Cruz County who is especially fond of it and knows his apples.  Axel of the Cloudforest Cafe is also very fond of it.  To me, it did not have Wow flavor and it didn’t actually store that well.  The texture after a short time in refrigerated storage was bordering on mealy.  The flavor is hard to describe.  There are some subtle notes of cinnamon candy that I like, but the dominant flavor is somewhat peculiar, very subtle and impossible to nail down.  It’s almost more of a sensation than a taste, like alkalinity or acidity are.  I’ll try this a couple more years and hope that it comes around.  Maybe I have to pick it earlier and store it, but so far, not so good, although it hangs late and is not a bad apple by any means when it is still firm.  I just want more out of it if it’s going to have a whole tree to itself.

More on the Hauer Pippin by Axel Kratel here:

Hauer Pippin Ripens very late and is reported to keep very well, though mine went mealy pretty fast... maybe I need to pick them sooner.

Lady Williams:  Super late and quite tasty, Lady Williams scores more points!  Lady Williams was encouraging this year.  One tree was drought stricken (no water and heavy competition from a huge Poison Oak bush) and had poorer quality apples.  The apples off frankentree were much better.  As usual, they ripened late January, being pretty prime right around Feb 1st.  Lady Williams is a tart apple, but by the time it is really ripe on the tree, the high measure of acidity is balanced by a shit ton of sugar!  It is a very sweet apple.  Flavor is also strong and I guess I would say fruity for lack of any specific descriptors.  The one odd flavor I picked out was on the drought stricken tree, Oregano of all things.  Those fruits were very stunted though.  Lady Williams is a descendent of Granny Smith and the parent of Pink Lady, which seems to be the best supermarket apple out there.  The Lineage is... French Crab begat Granny Smith, begat Lady Williams, Begat Pink Lady...  Lady Williams looks like a keeper for sure since it is not only extremely late, but it is quite good as well.  It requires this long season to ripen though, which would seem to limit its distribution to only a few areas.  It will withstand considerable frost and freezes, but I'm sure there is a limit.  We rarely see temps as low as 20 degrees.