Many people whose work I put out on the Web have died long ago. I never met them, so it's entirely possible that some were terrible human beings, but they contributed to our knowledge of agriculture (fruit usually) and so I try to faithfully pass that along to those who seek agricultural knowledge on the Web. The writings below are from Richard Fahey of the "Catholic Homesteading Movement". (I put this in quotation marks because a) at least one similar Catholic organization has disavowed his group and b) his group appears to just be his wife and underage children.) Richard is a fellow who I did some correspondence with in the past. Usually, the correspondence was businesslike and unworthy of further comment. He was an active member of the North American Fruit Explorers (NAFEX) and chairman of the NAFEX Apple Interest Group and thus I wanted to think well of him. However, a red flag was raised when I submitted an article to the Pomona, the quarterly newsletter of NAFEX, summarizing my observations about apples I had grown in the very-different climate of the Southeastern U.S. For those of you unfamiliar with it, the Pomona is not a scientific journal and observations are typically published without judgment and with very light editing, consisting of correcting typographical errors and such. Thus, it was to my great surprise when Mr. Fahey condescendingly rejected my article on the basis of the fact that I had rated the apples eating quality on the traditional scale used by pomologists in early American history (poor, fair, good, very good, excellent, best), which he said was insufficiently descriptive of the taste. Of course taste is so subjective, that I had merely sought to share with others what my opinion was, but that's a whole 'nuther discussion. His letter was so insulting and condescending that I did not re-submit the article. I also noted that he hypocritically often used the same or similar subjective, parsimonious descriptions in his catalog. More recently, it's come to light that his choice to live with almost no contact with the outside world other than the mailbox was not just isolating his family, but hid from the world evidence of child abuse. These accusations come from his own children after they left home and from others who visited long enough to see interactions that made them uncomfortable. I find these allegations credible.
Nevertheless, I will not stoop to his level by ignoring his observations, though I do note any clear falsehoods below in [square brackets], as is the convention throughout this Web site.
APPLES!Rootstocks and Grafting with a Chisel
My wife, 5 year old son and I run a small nursery and young fruit orchard. We grow only fruit producing species and are 100% organic. We are a solid zone 3 up here (in our 11 years here we've seen 38°F below). We graft around 200 varieties of apples as well as a smaller variety of other fruits. We have also begun propagating rootstocks. Though we reproduce nearly all our plants our goal is to create a completely local supported and sustainable system of plant production from power to pots.
As for apples...despite the climate we have had no major mishaps and the number of varieties hardy enough are aplenty, though in my former home (I grew up in Elmira, N. Y.) the pickings sure were better. We bench graft primarily, using a wide variety of rootstocks and occasional interstemming. We've tried Antonovka, Prunifolia, Dolgo, Robusta, Ranetka, as well as a good deal of Vermont crabs (I think we may be the only source of organically grown rootstocks). Success in grafting has been good with all these varieties, but Bud 9 is a poor choice in this climate — sure it is hardy enough, but our 5 feet of snow either crushes the wimpy creatures or tears off all the limbs. It also grows at a fraction of the rate of the others. Although this may be the nature of the beast for dwarfs, it spells trouble for a nursery and nearly guarantees a non-expert customer to be disappointed.
Last year I grafted about 1000 apples, and since you've thrown anecdotes on, grafting about, I’ll let you in on my procedure. Being trained (and worked for 15 years) in cabinetmaking I use not a grafting knife or razor, but a chisel. Nothing in my experience gives such a consistently perfect cut on a single plane —it absolutely eliminates “whittling.” The initial cut is
made with the Felco followed by a single confident cut set upon a hardwood block. I have close to 100% take.
(Todd Parlo, Walden Heights Nursery, 120 VT Rt. 215, Walden, VT 05873)
My target apple is one that is superior in flavor, disease resistant or easy to grow, and thrives in the warm weather we have in Central Kentucky—zone 6. I am putting together a group of “niche” apples that will do well on my roadside stand.
Based on your advice, I planted two William’s Pride trees and put them on Bud 9. They are doing fabulously. The flavor and appearance, as well as disease resistance, were amazing. This year they were the cleanest of all my apples. Gourmet flavor, especially for an early apple!
Another tree that has done beautifully
for me is Redfree. Extremely lovely and tasty!
(Richard Hamon, 1730 Morris Rd., Winchester, KY 40391)
I enjoyed your comments on the McIntosh in Pomona. I am in my 90’s and a long-time member of NAFEX. At one time I had 302 different apple cultivars growing around here somewhere in a Zone
3B climate. Events caused it to decline, but I still am planting, rehabilitating, and selling trees locally. If they don't do well here and I haven't eaten them, with rare exception I don't sell the tree. I lean heavily on the scab resistant types.
The oldest living McIntosh in the USA was nearby in Newport, VT. My wife and I visited it many years ago. It was well over 100 when it gave up. The greatest enemy of it is the debilitating scab.
The original McIntosh is moving out due to the cost of scab and early dropping. But the flavor will live on in many other apples, especially those of the scab resistant type. A neighbor is planting a small 100 tree pick-your-own adventure. Guess the name of the apple he sells almost exclusively. I sell Novamac, MacFree, McShane, and Richelieu. The patented cultivar in Canada, McExcel, is a Wikjik Mac descendant, but more bushy, long stemmed, and SCAB resistant. I have eaten them at the Quebec experimental station. They have Mac flavor which could be more intense. If I can get an import permit I will bring in 10-20 of them in the spring of 2004, when I believe they will be put on the market for the first time.
Here, I note only one problem with MacFree. It tends to ripen later than the Mac in this short season. That is critical. It tends to improve flavor when stored and perhaps stores longer than a Mac.
(Kenneth E. Parr, POB 77, East Burke, VT 05832)
Beauty of Bath
Reinette Rouge Etoilee
Roter Ananas.(Red Pineapple)
Cider apple: Brown’s Apple
(From The Book of Apples by Joan Morgan and Alison Richards. Submitted by Ernst Walter, 48W110 Beith Rd., Maple Park, IL 60151)
Cut a hole in one side of a plastic jug. Mix equal parts vinegar and water and pour it into the jug after hanging it in the tree.
Add three tablespoons of blackstrap molasses and mix. Occasionally scoop out the moths and add vinegar and water. The molasses will last the season unless a raccoon or opossum drinks it. (Ted Daniecki, 609-896-1161 after 6 PM.)
SMALL SCION GRAFTS
I started growing apples three years ago and decided to try simple whip grafting last year. I knew to have good cambial contact between the stock and the scion, but I was perplexed as to how to deal with smaller scion sticks.
When I made straight splices across both pieces I ended up having cambial contact on only one side, These often did not heal properly. I decided I might have better luck if I had contact on both sides of the scion by grafting along one side of the rootstock and cutting the top of the stock off flat. This worked well resulting in over 90% success.
(Jim Hockmuth, 10066 Norris Twilley Rd., Delmar MD 1875.)
Some apples hang all winter, such as Northern Spy, which sometimes hangs into January and February. Repeated thawing and freezing bursts the cells throughout the apple and it turns brown, but it is not rotten; rot takes place in the presence of warmth and yeasts of fungi. Neither of these exists inside a frozen apple. These hanging apples are like applesauce or apple ice cream! Wild apples have erratic quality, but domestic fruit will tend to be very good.
Flowering Crabapples have been popular as ornamental trees over the past generation. They have been selected for both flowers and long-hanging fruit. The cherry sized apples are the most abundant fruit source in towns in the winter. A few are pleasant to eat right off the tree, but most are either on the sour or bitter side. They can be put through a ricer to make a sauce with sweetening added. They can also be put into breads and cakes.
I would encourage everyone to explore flowering crabs both for fresh eating and cooking. There’s a wealth of material looking at you for applied imagination.
Pollination advice includes mowing down competing bloom—some bees will work the dandelions instead of the apple blossoms— but such cutting of the understory drives tarnished plant bugs up into the tree canopy to wreak havoc on fruit buds and also frees scab ascospores from an entrapping cover.
There is an apple we are testing here that shows some signs of being bug proof. It is called Golden Nugget, a small russet apple. A friend with a small orchard of twenty trees has one Golden Nugget that does not get internal worms. Every other tree does get internal worms.
(Dale Rhoads, 339 Mt. Liberty Rd., Nashville IN 47440.)
Years ago I had a variety with a thick, leathery, corky skin that was immune to all insects and diseases. I discarded it because the skin was inedible. You could not chew it; it had to be pared first. The flesh was good, but I figured that nobody would buy it with an inedible skin. Now I am sorry. I had the first Ironclad apple and discarded it. They peel oranges, tangerines and bananas. Why not peel apples? (Conrad D. Gemmer, deceased)
POUND SWEET and the Rat Test
My vision for growing apples was stimulated most by the Pound Sweet apple. Shining, sunny, yellow apples hung on the three trees and paved the earth in a neighbor’s orchard. In the clear air of autumn, nothing shines as brightly as the gold of Pound Sweets.
Pound Sweet is in a class of apples that has fallen from popularity in this century. The “sweet” apples have no discernible acid in them. I can't think of one sweet apple since 1900 that has been introduced. Modern tastes want a sweet/acid balance. Why is this? A couple of reasons come to mind.
In this century, sugar has become a cheap commodity, whereas previously it was a luxury for the rich. People overeat sweet foods and have no taste left for sweet apples.
Another reason is that as we age, our taste goes from liking sweet to favoring tart. Coffee is acid. Young people start out with two creams and sugars to soften the acidity and evolve to plain black coffee at age fifty or sixty. Asking people how they like their coffee can be a big clue what class of apples they like best: tart, sweet, or balanced.
Throughout history, boys and girls did a lot of fruit exploring. They and their taste buds are a missing factor this century. Children aren't getting outside, and their sweet taste is satisfied by soda and candy. They aren't doing the shopping for apples, and you won't find them on the panels at fruit rating trials at universities. However, put some boys and girls in an orchard with a hundred trees in it, and they will quickly find the only Pound Sweet tree. They will be attracted to the bright, big, yellow apples; and will soon have a path beaten to it for its sweet taste.
Taste tests are misleading. At a tasting with a slice each of any ten apples, chances are that I will pick Northern Spy as the best. Yet I hardly ever eat Northern Spys. I feel the true test comes, when I am walking in the orchard on a quiet Sunday afternoon taking a bite of this apple and a bite of that one. Then I come to an apple and eat it ALL... and perhaps another. Or, during my work time, I will find myself pulled over to a certain tree. In October, I usually find this “apple gravity” puts me under a Pound Sweet tree. No apple satisfies your hunger like this one.
At taste tests, Pound Sweet has been described as “unique”, “tasting like musk melon", and “mild candied pineapple”. One sport we introduced is highly marbled with translucent flesh, and has more of this candied pineapple flavor. We named it: Pineapple Pound Sweet. There is also more variation of opinion on Pound Sweet at taste tests, than on any other apple. It has the singular distinction of getting the LOWEST rating of any apple in our collection. These testers like their apples acid.
The tree is healthy, upright, spreading, vigorous, and gives good crops almost every year. The fruit is one of the most disease and insect- resistant here. We have more Pound Sweet trees in our orchard than any other except Spy. That says a lot, because Pound Sweet does not keep beyond Christmas, whereas Spy keeps past Easter.
Last fall and winter, conditions were right for rodent survival in New York. We had rats, mice, and voles feasting on our apples. Pound Sweet was what they went for first. Since the laboratory scientist uses these creatures to come to logical conclusions in matters of vitamins, medicine, and diet; could we not conclude impartially that Pound Sweet is indeed one of the best apples of all time? (Originally published in “Pomona” Spring 1995)
A new sport of Gala has been discovered that is a solid grassy green. “I discovered this single branch of green apples on a whole tree Gala graft I did over 25 years ago,”
said Richard Fahey.
I have hundreds of trees of different varieties and I sett scion wood from them, but this is the first time I found a notable mutation.” The Gala he grafted was from the original tree he purchased in 1970 from Stark Brothers Nursery.
“I don't think Green Gala is going to be a popular mutation. The trend is to have redder Galas. But it is interesting. It’s a good-looking apple with the Gala shape and a shiny light green color.”
Since Richard sells scion wood, he is concerned that some of his customers got the green sport through the years. He will be happy to send replacement scions to anyone requesting them.
“Although I didn't intend it that way, Richard said, “Green Gala probably got distributed to a lot of people. I'd like to hear what apple growers think of it.”
Write to Richard Fahey, c/o CHM, Oxford, NY 13830.
MYERS ROYAL LIMBERTWIG
“I saw that you mentioned Royal Limbertwig favorably. I've had a “Myers” Royal Limbertwig growing for a few years. I do spray, but Myers has been one of my better apples as far as disease and insect problems. It is also fairly consistent in setting decent fruit every year."
(Terry Wilson, 62385 Sampson Rd., Cambridge, OH 43725)
Snow Sweet or “Snowsweet” is a new release for the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station. It is a 70-85% bronze-red apple that is said to have an outstanding flavor which is sweet with a slight tart balance and rich overtones.”
The Minnesota station breeds hardy apples and Snow Sweet is hardy into zone 4a. They recommend it be grown in northern U. S., Canada, and areas with relatively cooler climates.
The fruit ripens late in October and only keeps up to 2 months. Snow Sweet’s flesh is “very slow to oxidize when exposed to air” keeping it’s white flesh color in salads and snack tracks, which; no doubt contributed to its name.
The tree and fruit have average, or a little above average, disease resistance. The fruits are about 3”, oblate, and uniform. The tree is somewhat drooping and open. For more information see www.apples.Umn.edu.
“The quickest and cheapest way to improve the health of my apple orchard is to destroy the hundreds of volunteer apple trees and hawthorns that grow in my woodlands,” writes Kenneth Parr (Box 77, E. Burke, VT 05832). Every spring he goes into the woods and destroys them. “They host an infinity of apple diseases and insects,” he says.
DELCON JUICE AND MAC ON SPY
I have a Delcon. It doesn't have “knarley” fruit like Red Gold or Stark Crimson. I never did much with it until I made apple juice from it with the kitchen juicer. Excellent juice!
However, if this juice is left a day or two, it is just sweet cider. I use it before it oxidizes into cider. Years ago, I grafted a MacIntosh onto a Spy seedling. This Mac is better than the same Mac on M7 rootstock.
(Tom Blose, Rt. 3 Creveling, Cochranton, PA
Crimson Crisp is a new disease resistant release from the Purdue Research Foundation, which under the direction of Dr. Janick has given the world many new resistant apple varieties. Originally tested for many years as Co-op 39, Crimson Crisp was released in 2006.
As expected from the name, Crimson Crisp has a crisp texture with very firm flesh and a flavor described as “tart and complex.” The fruit ripens around September 10 in Indiana.
The tree is nicely branched with a spreading habit and is particularly notable for blooming late, almost always escaping spring frosts. The fruit will keep in storage for six months.
This information comes from Adams County Nursery, 26 Nursery Rd., Box 108, Aspers, PA 17304, which is selling Crimson Crisp trees for $23.45 each.
Thanks to Thomas Bishop (2963 Gratiot Rd. SE, Newark, OH 43056) for the information about Crimson Crisp and Snow Sweet.
This year's report reviews some apples that are reliable bearers here in Central New York. Many apple trees in our collection bear very poorly because of our hard winters and late frost, but these are regular croppers.
Akane (A-khan-ae) A Japanese introduction 40 years ago that comes out of Jonathan. It is a fall and early winter apple that is bright fire-engine red. It has crisp juicy white flesh with a refreshing Jonathan tartness. The apples are below average size and uniform. Disease resistant with some insect damage. The tree is spreading.
Mountain Boomer - A vigorous growing Kentucky apple introduced by a former editor of Pomona, Henry Converse. The tree crops regularly here in September. The apples are large, clear yellow, attractive, conic like a big yellow transparent. The flavor is lightly tart and pleasant. It has no insect or disease problems here and the tree is strong growing with a lot of good branching from which to choose scaffold branches. Hangs on tree in good condition for a long time.
Sterling - Also known as American Beauty. An antique apple from Massachusetts that has performed well here. The apple is white or white-yellow with light red streaking. It is round, average size uniform and the flavor is pleasant, somewhat juicy, fairly crisp. It gives regular crops of disease and insect free fruit. Tree is spreading and easy to care for. Keeps to January.
Hudson's Golden Gem - A beautiful golden russeted apple from Oregon. It is well known for its disease resistance. Hudson's is a fall apple of the Golden Delicious type, but more conic and uniform. Gives moderate to light crops annually on a fairly dense, somewhat upright tree. Keeps to Christmas.
Hidden Rose - A great name for a red fleshed apple. The red flesh is "hidden" by a poorly colored yellowish-pink blushed skin. Red flesh apples come from almost inedible crab parentage so they are disappointing in flavor for the most part. I haven't heard anyone claim Hidden Rose as a favorite apple, but it does qualify for "good." It is a great novelty and dresses up salads. The apple is average size with moderate disease resistance. The tree is moderately vigorous and spreading. Ripens in October. Developed by Albert Etter in the 1920's in California.
Niagara - A New York Experimental Station introduction in the 70's. New York was breeding all kinds of McIntoshes at the time and this is one of them that ripens in early September. It has good crops of attractive red and green/yellow average size fruit. Fairly good insect and disease resistance here. Tree is moderately spreading and vigorous. An earlier apple for McIntosh lovers.
Ralls Genet - A larger than average antique southern apple that has borne regular crops here. Although Ralls does not ripen fully here, it hangs on the tree into mid winter when it is good to eat right off the tree at a "stewed pruned" stage. Apparently it ripens to perfection in Virginia. It was sent to Japan early in the 20th century and became a parent of Fuji.
Spartan - A dark attractive red seedling of McIntosh from Canada. The fruit is a harder better storing McIntosh with very good quality in a crisp, juicy, sweet/tart, round, uniform, average size fruit. The tree is strong growing, well branched, healthy, and open. Spartan's great defect is that like Mac, it drops its fruit when it is ripe in October.
People like to ask me what my favorite apples are. There are two ways to answer this
One way is to give all the best tasting individual apples that I've eaten. The other way is to tell what my favorite apples are in relation to tree characteristics, disease resistance and dependability, as well as taste. On the first list are apples that may vary a lot from year to year in flavor, may be poor croppers or may have a poor tree. The lists are in alphabetical order simply because it is impossible to compare apples that ripen at different times and apples with unique characters.
Favorite Individual Apples
Fall Pippin (Antique)
Lyman's Large Summer (Antique)
Pound Sweet (Antique)
Ribston Pippin (Antique)
Victoria Sweet (Antique)
Black Gilliflower (Antique)
Golden Delicious, Empress Spur
Pound Sweet (Antique)
Ribston Pippin (Antique)
Sweet Bough (Antique)
Victoria Sweet (Antique)
People frequently ask me for a list of the best apples to grow with a no-spray organic culture. We have found quite a few disease and insect resistant apples that do well here. From various reports I have found that many o! these selections also do well other places. Here they are in order of ripening.
SWEET BOUGH. The best early apple. Sweet, candle yellow, fairly attractive, conic to round and fairly uniform. Apples ripen through August. A semi dwarf spreading-drooping tree that has crops biennially or sometimes almost annually. Sweet Bough is a 200 year old apple well proven for the home.
PRISTINE. The cooperative breeding program of Purdue, Rutgers and Indiana (PRI) has been introducing disease resistant apples since 1975. A high percentage of these introductions have been reliable annual bearers and frost resistant at bloom time. Most of the apples have “PRI” somewhere in their names as does Pristine. Pristine ripens perfectly right after Sweet Bough, but is good to eat as a tart apple before. This is the highest quality early apple. It is hard, crisp and juicy with a robust sweet and tart balance. The fruit is yellowish with caramel striping, round and medium and below medium in size. The tree is spreading and willowy, dense and an abundant annual bearer.
WILLIAMS PRIDE. Another disease resistant apple from the PRI breeding program. Above medium, shiny red conic apple that ripens in late August through September. It may be the best tasting apple of the season — one every orchard should have. Fairly crisp, sweet/tart flavor. Strong growing with good right angle branching and dense. Apples hang well.
GREENSLEEVES. The only green apple on this list. One of the heaviest cropping trees in our orchard, yet rarely do branches break. It ripens unevenly in September into October holding on the tree well. The fruit is medium size, round, light green to dull yellow and has a refreshing light tartness good for fresh eating or cooking. Green Sleeves was bred in England and introduced in the 1970’s.
PRISCILLA. A PRI introduction that is a Red Delicious type. It is our most insect and disease resistant fruit and the most consistently productive. Fruits are red, attractive, uniform, conic, very good, tending to be larger on young trees but then becoming smaller as trees age. Tree is dense with fairly good branching and vigor. Fruit is more subject to freeze damage than most apples. September — December. A good cider apple.
RIBSTON PIPPIN. The favorite apple in England a hundred years ago and in vintage years still one of the best. Annual or biennial crops of uniform, just below medium orange, yellow and russet fruit. Somewhat attractive. Strong growing, well branched tree. Best in zones 4-6. It has as much vitamin C as an orange and is one of the best cider apples. Best non-sweetened canned apple slices! It is a triploid and needs a pollinator. September — January.
POUND SWEET. No one is neutral about Pound Sweet. It is either a favorite or not liked at all! The sweet, coarse flesh is reminiscent of melon and pineapple. A big yellow, sometimes greenish apple that is a proven winner for the home orchard. They make wonderful baked apples. In was in every orchard in the east 100 year ago. Reliable, healthy, strong growing trees. Ripe October — December.
VICTORIA SWEET. A popular local apple we rescued from extinction. This is our favorite apple in late September and October and deserves wide distribution although our information is scanty how it succeeds elsewhere. Red with pronounced white dots, medium to below medium, juicy, refreshingly sweet. Tree is initially spreading and becoming somewhat drooping. Fruit hangs and should be harvested early for storage to February. [This is probably a misnamed Victoria Limbertwig, a.k.a. 'Sweet Limbertwig'. -ASC]
SWEET SIXTEEN. A great name for a great apple. A larger than average conic apple blushed with dull red and russeted lightly. It is not pretty enough to make the supermarket shelves but very resistant to insects and disease. Its zippy anise flavor always gets lots of favorable comments. This tree is very hardy, upright and dense with good crops every year. Ripe in early October. Keeps till January.
MACFREE. The best McIntosh type ever developed. Solid red, very attractive shiny, perfect uniform, average size apples. McIntosh’s only flavor defect is that it has become the “common apple” and people look for new flavors. Very reliable crops on a semi-dwarf drooping tree. Apples hang and ripen in October. Keeps to February.
INCARNATION. A beautiful dark red sweet apple with white crisp flesh reminiscent of Macoun. Heavy crops of medium size apples every year from a more upright tree. The label got blurred on this original graft and was one of the many disease resistant apples we were sent for trial. We introduced it in honor of the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus, and would like to give credit to the originator when he is found.
ZABERGAU REINETTE. A German russet apple from early this century. Coarse, typical russet flesh of good quality. Uniform, pleasing tan russet color. Tree is open and strong branching with medium annual crops. One of the cleanest-apples. Fruit drops in early October and keeps well into the winter.
NOVA EASY GRO. Attractive, uniform, red blush, above average size. Needs to be stored for flavor to develop. Good. The spreading dense tree never fails to have abundant crops. October — March.
STAR SONG. The best tasting apple in our orchards according to our yearly taste tests. A Golden Delicious type—round, candle yellow, attractive. Keeps all winter. Tree is open, upright-spreading and productive every other year.
JONAGOLD. Generally rated the best apple in the world. Great flavor in a medium red and gold apple. Tree is strong growing, good branching, somewhat open with annual heavy crops. Eaten from October to Christmas but keeps to March. We have had great success with no sprays here.
GOLD RUSH. A Golden Delicious type of apple from the PRI program that was introduced in the 1980’s. It has received wide acclaim among growers. The high quality apples are smaller than Golden Delicious, and kee longer than any good apple in our 600 variety collection. Ours keep until mid-June! Gold Rush is best grown it zone 6 south. Ours don't ripen fully here in northern zone 5 for fall eating, but they mellow in storage for late winter and spring. It hangs on the tree most of the winter here when it still can be used for juice, off-the-tree snacks, animal feed and for wild life. The tree bears annually and abundantly.