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Antique Varieties; ID and Propagation in Maine

Posted: Mon Oct 13, 2014 9:46 am
by Uncle Jaque

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I'm pretty sure our digs here in Monmouth Maine are on the site of an old orchard - that's why I've taken to calling it the "Wylde Orchard".

The property across the road from us is still an operating commercial orchard.

As I clear some paths / fire breaks around the property and check out the boundry lines I keep coming across old root stock hidden away in the jungle. I have no idea what variety they might have been or if they would produce any fruit if the forest overgrowth could be cleared around them. We could have some real antique varieties in there, as I suspect that one out by the road might be.

On that old tree out by the road we have a bunch of golden / pink "mystery apples" :
Those funny pink apples sure are tasty!

They look a little like Neighbor Ann's Pound Golden but smaller and more pink around the top.

I picked up one that had dropped - it was in pretty tough shape but fairly fresh:

After cutting out some bad spots, I cut it in half. It had very clear, white flesh with a very small seed case.
It was quite sweet and delicious; the flavor was sort of like a cross between a golden delicious and a pear.
Any idea what variety these might be?

One of my facebook contacts says it might be a "Grimes Golden" which is an antique variety from down South, originating around 1800. So what's it doing up here in Maine I wonder?

I really love the idea of saving what we can of the heritage varieties that the commercial producers don't bother with any more. Hopefully we can "rescue" some more of the old root stocks that are lingering around our woods and see if we can get them to bear fruit again, or at least graft available scions from old varieties on to them. I loved learning how to graft from Mike and looking forward to doing a lot more of it next Spring.

We may start a living collection up here!

Jaque Clarke
194 Norris Hill Rd.
Monmouth, ME 04259

Re: Antique Varieties; ID and Propagation in Maine

Posted: Thu Oct 16, 2014 8:21 am
by rickg
Uncle Jaque

Can't help with the ID of your apple, but congrats on trying to bring back some old apple trees. I've always been drawn to old apple trees even as a kid. I was lucky enough to build my house on ground here in Pa. that I roamed over as a kid that had a scattering of old apple trees. Their all gone now replaced by "volunteers" that sprouted up from their seeds, none too tasty but the wildlife likes them :D . In your neck of the woods you should contact John Bunker at Fedco (google search). He's an apple explorer well known in Maine.


Re: Antique Varieties; ID and Propagation in Maine

Posted: Thu Oct 16, 2014 11:39 am
by Uncle Jaque

I have a current FEDCO catalog and have read Bunker's book "Not Far From the Tree" about his research up in Palermo ME.

He advises that apple identification can be a lifetime avocation, and even then it's as much guesswork as science for the most part.

My experience is only confirming that observation.
Suffice it to say that when it comes to trying to ID a specific variety, I'm somewhere between flummoxed and overwhelmed.

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I suspect that most of my "Wylde Orchard" is like yours, a collection of second or third generation seedlings or root sprouts that have devolved back to generic wild "spitters", with the exception of my Grimes.

Some of them are essentially ornamentals as they still blossom in the Spring, but don't produce anything other than chipmunk and deer fodder.

What I'm doing is using these old wild trees as root stock into which I'm grafting such varieties as I can get ahold of; Some scions were obtained from Mike who has a pretty good collection of heritage varieties in his home nursery and orchard, others harvested off of other old, abandoned trees in the area that bear decent looking apples, and a few from the commercial Orchard across the road - mainly Macintosh, as I am particularly fond of them.

Recently Mike and I investigated a Neighbor's Farm Orchard in which a former owner had planted "Unusual apples". Another source advised that they were selected to be disease resistant as he wanted to sell "Organic" apples free of pesticides and chemicals.

At first I thought he had several varieties up there, as there are color and flavor variations - but I guess that can throw you off since those characteristics change as the fruit ripens or depending on how much sun it gets.

These trees hadn't been thinned or pruned in quite some time, so it's remarkable how good a condition most of them still were in spite of years of neglect.

My best guess is that they might all be Liberty, which grows well here in Maine and has a reputation for disease resistance.

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Not a "heritage" variety by any means, but I might pop a scion or two anyway.

Smack in the middle of the orchard is a lone, scrawny Gold Rush (pretty sure that's what it is), possibly an afterthought or to provide cross pollination. Those pretty yellow pink spotted apples certainly are tasty!

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Not only is that a modern variety, but apparently it's still under patent so we have to be careful propagating that.

What I really want to do is to ID local surviving antique varieties so we can harvest some scion wood off of them and propagate them onto our old root stock in order to keep them going.

So far I"m having the devil's own time identifying all the old stone wall pasture hanging forsaken and forgotten apple trees still clinging to life out in the boondocks.

My attitude at the moment is to call anything with red on it that's mostly spherical and at least semi edible a Ben Davis until someone can prove otherwise.

If my scions take, in about ten years we'll find out how many actual Ben Davis apples adorn my Wylde Orchard.
If I'm still alive by then, I'll be interested to know.