[NAFEX] feral apples

Tom Olenio tolenio at sentex.net
Sun May 2 08:17:50 EDT 2004


Hi,

Wasn't the Macintosh a wild apple growing in a field fence line?  Also, why do many governments retain large
gene bank collections of older heirloom/antique varieties?  There is plenty of value in old apple varieties in
my opinion.

I must take a moment to thank Fred Jansen for some old variety scions.

The older apples are used to breed the new apples, and there is value there.

I would agree that many older varieties are problematic for large orchards, and it is not cost effective for
supermarket apple production to use heirloom varieties.  However, the small backyard orchardist does not worry
about those things.  The small producer grows what they like to eat.

My in-laws have a farmhouse orchard full of Macintosh, Northern Spy, Yellow Transparent, Improved Snow, and
Blenheim Pippin that I would stack up against any modern apple.  This orchard was planted in 1918 and is in
decline, and they had dwarf trees grafted to replace the old standards.  And yes, they used scions from those
old variety apple trees.  They have ignored the modern varieties, because they enjoy the old apples.

There are economic production costs that large apple producers must consider.  However, my wife's favorite apple
(and she eats them all) is Improved Snow (local variation of Fameuse), so that is the apple I grow.  I am also
playing with an apple I took scions from found in a fence line.

The last I heard the new owners of Fred Jansen's property were using the orchard collection as a horse pasture,
and the horses were destroying the collection.  Has anyone heard anything more recent than this?

One man's trash is another man's treasure.

Later,
Tom


Ed Fackler wrote:

> Thomas (and others):
>
>      I recall several genuine "explorers" within NAFEX back in the late 70s
> and early 80s.  Foremost was John Creech of Cumberland, KY who came upon a
> few dozen in the mountains of western Virginia and eastern KY.  Henry
> Converse was another who sought out these older local varieties.  The late
> Fred Janson of Canada did the same.  For that matter during an extended
> visit, Fred told me that as a group, collecting these old varieties was a
> waste of time.  Fred was meticulous in collecting data on them, showing me
> charts of their yields, storage abilities, etc.  He also told me that
> published descriptions where bogus and/or severely distorted.  During the
> same period, Elwood Fisher searched out and identified many.  Later on, Lee
> Calhoun did the same.  Aside from relative mediocrity of these "antiques"
> was the difficulty in defining (factual) authenticity of varietial trueness.
> I even dabbled in it abit but only in evaluations.  I did however learn many
> things over the 15-20 years of evaluations.
>      There is some legit value in collecting these old ones.  Chiefly if one
> retains any objectivity, it quickly becomes obvious that they (as a group)
> are very inferior to newer varieties especially in quality and horticulture
> ease of growing.  Also during the entire process, one becomes more familiar
> with apple tree physiology, genetic inheritance and/or the evolution of
> malus in North America.  And as Elwood and Lee can illustrate an added
> "value" is that one can glean publicity and/or fame from this exercise.
>      In a lecture at the Virginia NAFEX meeting some few years back, Elwood
> finally got enough courage to state flatly that many, if not most so-called
> "heirloom" varieties should have become extinct years ago due to mediocrity.
>      Lastly, there seems to be some pseudo "moral" aspect in collecting this
> old stuff, somewhat akin to dogmas of religions.  Can't quite put a finger
> on it, but without exception this element seems to hang around and distorts
> descriptions blatantly.
>      Anyway more specifically, if you'd want to collect old southern
> varieties, I'd contact Lee Calhoun and/or Dave Vernon as they both have many
> of them.  Lee in particular has identified a few which have strong
> resistance to CAR which is likely the most damaging disease of apples in the
> hot humid south.
>
>      And if you'd like to contact John Creech email me off line.
>
> Ed, So. Ohio.........rains daily
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: nafex-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
> [mailto:nafex-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org]On Behalf Of Thomas Beckett
> Sent: Saturday, May 01, 2004 11:17 PM
> To: North American Fruit Explorers
> Subject: [NAFEX] feral apples
>
>         Part of the lore I have picked up about NAFEX is that, in the old days
> at least, members were oftentimes literal "fruit explorers", seeking out
> rare specimens in the wilderness areas and trekking through the
> backwoods to find abandoned orchards for those heirloom varieties.
>
>         My question relates to the latter activity:  where does one look for
> stands of old apple trees?  Did y'all compile a guidebook or list?  I'd
> love to make some day trips this fall seeking out old Southern apples in
> the Blue Ridge or Southern Appalachians.  How would I begin to locate
> such places?
>
>         Many thanks,
>
> Thomas
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--
Thomas Olenio
Ontario, Canada
Hardiness Zone 5b





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