[NAFEX] Introduction of apples to North America

John Henderson jhenderson at ithaca.edu
Mon Nov 12 12:45:00 EST 2007

One of the first apples introduced or developed in North America was  
the Rambo. Actually two of the first apples introduced or developed  
in North America are two different apples with Rambo in their name.  
Both are described in William Coxe's 1817 "A View of the Cultivation  
of Fruit Trees." One, the Rambo, is credited to Peter Gunnarsson  
Rambo, a New Sweden colonist who arrived in what is now Delaware in  
1640. It is a highly flavored early winter apple. The other, the  
Summer Rambo, originated in France and is the one described by many  
as the "first apple of the season."

Both the varieties and the name origins appear to have no connection,  
but because of the similarity, there is often confusion concerning  
them. Whether Peter Gunnarsson Rambo brought scion wood or seed with  
him on his voyage of 1639/40 is not clear, and the best evidence of  
the early colonist's connection with the variety is found in William  
Coxe's note in his book that indicates that the Rambo took its name  
from the "families by whom it was brought into notice." Some of the  
synonyms for the apple, however, help confirm its origins. "Delaware"  
is the most obvious, but another name for it was "Bread and Cheese."  
That name struck me as particularly odd until I learned that there is  
a Bread and Cheese Island approximately 5 miles southwest of  
Wilmington, or Fort Christina, as it was known when Peter Gunnarsson  
Rambo arrived there.

Coxe called the Summer Rambo by its French name, Rambour d'Ete. That  
is still the name for it in France. It is said to have originated in  
the village of Rambure, in Picardy, France in the 16th century, but I  
don't know any detail of its coming to North America.

Peter Gunnarsson Rambo only adapted the surname Rambo after arriving  
in the New World. I have wondered very speculatively if he might not  
have taken his name from the apple variety that he may proudly have  
developed (or introduced). The best I can do is to determine that  
there was enough trade between Sweden and France that Gunnarsson  
could have been familiar with some varieties of French apples -- and  
there are several European varieties with Rambour in their name --  
before leaving Gothenburg. The Rambo apple is not particularly hardy,  
so I don't know how well it would have thrived in Sweden. If the   
Ramboäpplena Project, sponsored by the American Swedish Historical  
Museum and is supported by several Swedish organizations, is  
successful in "reintroducing" the apple to Sweden, we may find out.

John Henderson
Sage Hen Farm
Lodi, NY

More information about the nafex mailing list