read this!

appleseed70July 30, 2014

A man dedicated to apples and their history. Best article I've read in a long, long time.

H'man, Scottsmith etc and all the rest of the apple folks here will love this story if they haven't already seen it. I found this on the Home Orchard Societies forum.

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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Great article about a great guy! I hadn't seen it before.


    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 6:58PM
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Lived in Maine, before my move and orchard. Sorry I missed Bunk! Mrs. G

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 7:50PM
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Very cool story. I am doing my part, having ordered some old apple varieties for this coming spring. I want to ad more after watching the video.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 8:52PM
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Thank you, Appleseed. It's a great story.

I've enjoyed reading a Fedco catalog. It's good to know that the man behind it is such a great guy.

I should look into growing a few of those old varieties.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 9:31PM
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alan haigh

He does frequently contribute to the NAFEX forum.

It is funny to me how folks will rhapsodize about specific heirloom varieties, which to me are often not very good of are fussy and difficult to realize top quality of. I think many of the best have been maintained and many of the worst have been deservedly forgotten. It is not as if people ever stopped growing apples in small non-commercial orchards.

What I miss most is full sized apple trees- these are the trees of our ancestors and realize a grandeur after a century of growth that can be duplicated by no other species.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 6:02AM
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H'man...I'm guessing that a lot of the really good flavored ones were either not very pretty to look at or were selected way back for specific purposes. For example, how valuable would good cider varieties be in this modern age. What percentage of modern Americans make their own cider anymore? I'm guessing less than .025%. Most Americans these days are far too lazy, stupid and simply disinterested in anything other than reality TV to do anything .
How many Americans routinely bake their own apple pies? I'm guessing around 3-4%...maybe. I'm basing this from how many commercial pies you see in boxes in Walmart, and none of them are very good compared to a homemade pie...especially one made from Northern Spy (spies are for pies) or some other even better pie apple. So where then would be the market for a apple like Spice Sweet? I think this had as much to do with their disappearance as simply being culled because better varieties became available.
I do know there is a swell of interest in the production of good hard ciders right now. Miller, Anhaueser Busch and lots of others see this too and all are scrambling to get a product on the market There are scores of them in the liquor store now. 20 years ago there were none. I've tried a lot of them and none are very good when compared to what my Grandma used to keep. All are corporate manufactured products where profit margin rules and you know what that means. They taste more like sweet wines than hard cider.
I'm happy about a renewed interest in cider and think it will continue to grow. It will provide oppurtunities for small growers to build in profit in their operations. Their gonna need some good cider apples if they want to make good ones.
I'm also happy there are guys like John Bunker. I'm glad he found a way to eek out a living doing something he is passionate about. I wish I could have. I'm a huge history buff and I wouldn't mind sampling a Newtown Pippin myself.
BTW...there is also a video on youtube where Bunk talks a little about this whole endeavor. It's about an hour long and you can find it by searching "John Bunker apples" on YT.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 11:09AM
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Apparently Newtown Pippin is much of the reason why Martinelli's sparkling sweet cider tastes much better to me than most commercially available.

They are available fresh for a short time in the fall in the expensive grocery stores around here.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 1:18PM
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alan haigh

I love Newtowns and have them in my nursery and my personal orchard. Not sure yet if I can get it to crop consistently, however. It may be more productive in Santa Cruz than here in the east coast where it comes from.

I manage hundreds of very old heirloom apples on seedling rootstock, incidentally- some are good, some are great and some pretty much suck as apples for eating off the tree. As Tom Burford says, the old apples were used in a wide range of ways and not necessarily judged by how they taste off the tree.

These old trees are what allowed me to succeed at my business. The rolling hills that are the perfect horse farms for the filthy rich, or just mansions with a view near NYC. used to be apple country. The remaining apple trees are often "specimen" trees on estates and the owners are willing to pay well to keep them beautiful and productive.

As far as heirlooms go, many people and groups have been trying to save them besides Bunker. He's just the NH guy- which is a relatively limited state for the range of wonderful old apples that have been selected over the centuries in this country and elsewhere.

Lee Calhoun has written books about the old southern varieties and Tom Burford has been involved with promoting the old strains (and good new ones) for probably much longer than Bunker. These are just two well known advocates for saving old varieties.

I was involved in a project about 15 years ago where a NAFEX member who died left a collection of about 500 varieties of heirloom apples and we moved them from their location to an estate in CT. A few years later the owner of the estate who bankrolled the moving of these trees to his property sold it and moved to a vineyard in N. CA to make wine. I never found out what happened to the trees after that.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 4:43PM
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nyRockFarmer(5A Southern Tier, NY)

" What I miss most is full sized apple trees " - harvestman

One of my fondest memories from growing up was climbing the 20' - 30' apple trees in autumn. I would get a good spot with a view overlooking an adjacent field and watch the wildlife activity as I ate apples off the tree. Sometimes I would throw cores at the critters foraging under the tree. Sadly, this primal comfort is lost with the dwarf trees.

I also liked the uniqueness of the fruit from these old trees. I'm not sure if they were hybrids or obscure/forgotten varieties. They were definitely not your typical apples from the market. Recently I was thinking that I should try to propagate my favorite trees so they will not be lost. Only one has died so far. It happened during period of time when I wasn't around much. It's so sad. Nothing I can do now.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 10:58PM
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Bunker is actually a Maine guy. Yeah, I've read about Calhoun too, I think he's in North Carolina, and to some degree specializes in southern varieties. I think he's kinda winding down, his wife died and I think he set up a guy in business with scionwood etc to sell vintage heirlooms. I know of Burford too, he's the cider guy right? Think I watched a YT video with him in Virginia at a cider pressing.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 11:28PM
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alan haigh

nyRock, whether they are grafted or seedling trees doesn't matter. If you love the fruit you can do what Bunker does and save the strains by harvesting new shoots to graft in late winter. Put them on something as vigorous as 111 and they can grow into very big trees if they get the chance.

Old forgotten varieties are hybrids, BTW. They were once chance seedlings and saved by someone who thought the fruit exceptional.

Only a few varieties of apples are self-fertile and actually grow quite similar apples from seed. I've read that Gravenstein produces seedlings quite similar to the parent and that such trees are prevalent in some wild areas of the west coast.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 5:55AM
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alan haigh

BTW, I don't think Tom Burford is the "cider guy". He mostly talks about best varieties to grow for eating off the tree but also about which varieties are best for which purposes, probably including cider but also for drying, making apple butter, etc.

The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens published a book not too long ago titled "The Best Apples to Buy and Grow" that included chapters written by Tom Burford and a couple of other gurus of unusual apples, both old and new.

Burford's chapters include one about making apple pie. The best old fashioned pie apples in his opinion are Winesap, Stayman, RI Greening, and Brambley's Seedling. These are all in my orchard. He also writes about restoring old trees and grafting.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 6:09AM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

Thanks for sharing this article. I had no idea about the founder of Fedco trees. I like his style!

"I felt like these trees ... were a gift to me by someone whom I had never met, who had no idea who I was, who had no idea that I was ever going to be."

I feel exactly the same way.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 11:32AM
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"I felt like these trees ... were a gift to me by someone whom I had never met, who had no idea who I was, who had no idea that I was ever going to be."

I feel exactly the same way.
Me too milhighgirl!...Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 1:45PM
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true_blue(Mtl Can Zone 4b)

Thanks Appleseed for the article. Really enjoyed it. I'm a sucker for anything heirloom, tomatoes, roses and now apples!

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 4:30PM
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