Heirloom Apples

Prior to 1900 there were over 8,000 varieties of apples. 8,000! That’s an amazing amount! But the vast majority of those varieties have become extinct and the others are quickly fading away. There appears to be only about 700 varieties left in private and public collections. Such a shame!

Arkansas Black Apples

I’m picky about my apples I like them crisp and tart. I’m usually relegated to Granny Smith apples. The commercially available varieties of apples are very limited. And I don’t know why. There are so many varieties out there that are amazing. Even some of the varieties I used to see as a kid, like Pippin and McIntosh, aren’t easy to find anymore.

Last weekend on our way back from Mendocino we stopped at an apple orchard stand called Gowan’s Oak Tree Stand. They had dozens of varieties of apples available (but actually grow 60 different varieties), some of which I had never seen before. Some I had only heard of, like the Pink Pearl and Arkansas Black, others I hadn’t. It was the Arkansas Black I wanted to try. I wish I had also grabbed a couple of Pink Pearl apples as well to see their pink flesh – definitely a novelty apple.

They only had a large bag of Arkansas Black apples available. So I scooped them up and bought them. They were fairly small apples. Once in the car I pulled one out of the bag and crunched into. Hard. Very crisp. Slightly dry but with a subtle tartness followed by sweetness. Definitely an apple I can eat. I turned to Tom and said “We’re planting one of these.” He rolled his eyes, “I know.” I’d even go so far as to pull out our Granny Smith apple and replace it with one of these if I absolutely had to. Fortunately we won’t have to go to that extreme.

Growing different varieties of fruits and vegetables, particularly heirlooms and open pollinated varieties, is incredibly important, not only for genetic purposes, but also for preserving our heritage.

We currently have 3 apple trees. A Granny Smith, a Fuji and an unknown cider apple tree that has been grafted from one of the original Johnny Appleseed trees found in Ohio. I think we can find a spot for this heirloom tree as well.

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