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Tom Brown Is on a Mission to Restore Appalachia's Rare and Lost Apples (2021) (southernliving.com)
50 points by taubek 38 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 18 comments

Back when I lived in Vancouver (BC), there was an annual apple festivatal every fall in the UBC Botanical Gardens. You get to see and taste (!) several dozen of varieties and that was quite an experience. They also sold a dozen or so non-mainstream varieties at the exit, which too was an awesome thing to have. Highly recommended if you are in the area... though I must admit that apples are my all time favourite fruit, so there is a bit of bias.

Edit - found a link: https://botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/apple-festival/

A bit of UBC apple trivia which I thought was neat is that the trees in front of UBC Triumf facility are descendants of perhaps the most famous apple tree of all, the one Sir Isaac Newton sat under while composing his theory of gravity.


I've been to that same festival, and agree, it was a great event.

The tasting tent with over a hundred different varieties was an amazing experience.

Be sure to click through to the Atlas Obscura article, which is better.

So much better!

Can we replace the current link with the Atlas Obscura one? That's what this Southern Living article is referencing anyway.

If you have the opportunity, check out the Esopus Spitzenburg apple (discovered in the Hudson River valley). It's really tasty - aromatic and tart.

I think I'll pick up a Spitzenburg to plant next winter. Trees of Antiquity has them.

Thanks for the suggestion.

"The king of all apples"


Friendly reminder that a lot of Appalachia’s apple planting (think Johnny Appleseed) was actually for booze/other fermented products.

I thought it was weird that this article didn’t mention it at all, but upon searching for a source the first article that popped up was also about this man (Tom) & talked about it [0]

Probably has to do with the nature of the websites demographic that they exclude it.

This reminds me of another person I’m familiar with though, who is preserving hundreds of tomato species - Dan at Rainbow Tomato’s Garden [1]



Cider was once the primary fermented alcoholic drink consumed in the US, but the industry was wiped out by prohibition, and afterwards beer took over.

This directly led to the situation we have currently, where in the US, "cider" usually refers to cloudy apple juice, and specifically "hard cider" refers to alcoholic, fermented juice, while in the rest of the world, "cider" only refers to the alcoholic drink.

Esopus spitzenburgs and golden russets cover the raw fruit bases for me. Lodi is a great early variety for baking. I definitely understand the appeal of Honeycrisp, but it is very sad seeing old orchards of Macs and galas and empires being ripped down in favour of rows of dwarf honeycrisps

As far as I know, whether a modern apple tree is dwarf or not bears little relation to the variety of apples on it- all apple trees are grafts, and most these days are grafted onto dwarf rootstocks to make the apples easier to pick.

If you want to plant an old variety of apple, there is nothing to stop you having it on a dwarf rootstock.

Oh yeah, and I have dwarf varieties in my yard due to space limitations... But it's sad to see old, beautiful orchards of big trees reduced to more of an industrial process.

The variety of apples really is something special that I’m afraid we’re losing due to mass centralized farming and big box stores. There are many varieties of apple you can’t really access easily unless you want to plant a sapling and wait a few years. If you’ve got enough space for trees, try ordering a couple saplings of varieties you’ve never heard of before, it’s like a slow little side quest.

Share some with your neighbors and maybe propagate some new trees to spread. Maybe your little corner of the world will have a special niche apple variety that will outlive you.

It's completely the opposite. A few decades ago the only apples you could get anywhere in the US were McIntosh, red delicious (which were very much not delicious), golden delicious (same), and Granny Smith. They were the only apples that could survive the weeks-to-months-long harvest and bulk transport processes. Other than Granny Smith, you can't even find those apples in stores anymore. Now we've got a dozen varieties in every suburban supermarket, and specialty stores have even more options.

McIntosh apples do not keep well, and it's very rare to find them significantly out of season. This time of year it would be difficult to find anyone with McIntosh available, now or a couple decades ago.

They are a very popular apple in the northeastern US, though, so if you grew up in that area it's no surprise you found them everywhere, for probably ~5 months out of the year.

While it's certainly true that the varieties of apple available are much larger now than they were, unfortunately a lot of the common varieties nowadays are bred with longevity more in mind than flavor, and also have parentage from e.g. red delicious and share its distinctive cardboard flavor (in my opinion).

>Other than Granny Smith, you can't even find those apples in stores anymore.

Absolutely not true in New England--although I agree with your assessment on red delicious and golden delicious in particular. McIntoshes aren't great for cooking but they're pretty good eating apples--although I don't usually buy them my neighbor as quite a few trees of them in her orchard. Granny Smiths tend to be my go to for cooking.

Which suburbs do you live in? still the same old 5 varieties here. I drove for 3-4 hours to get to an orchard that grows a variety that used to be a local staple 20 years ago. 30 years ago the variety was much greater over here in the mid atlantic.

Related link to Mr. Brown's website: https://www.applesearch.org/index.html

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