“Comfort me with apples …” — The Song of Solomon
Apples are central to some of my most cherished memories. There was the autumn that I lived on a Virginia farm and spent hours visiting an old Grimes Golden tree. The fragrance from its wind-fallen fruit was nearly intoxicating. Bees and wasps dedicated their days to feasting on the bruised spots. At twilight deer came to dine.
Many years later I helped rescue an aging Irish bred steeplechase horse who loved apples more than anything. He would chew them slowly, eyes closed in ecstasy. I can still smell his sweet apple scented breath.
Best of all was the indescribable applesauce that my childhood best friend’s mother, Mama Dit, “put up” each fall. After I grew up and moved away, my friend would send a bubble-wrapped Mason jar of that beloved deliciousness every year at Christmas. It was always my favorite gift. Until she was too frail, Mama Dit picked the apples herself from an ancient gnarled tree she called an Early Transparent.
Many Americans have not tasted the older varieties of apples. Heirloom apples are either too delicate or oddly shaped to be picked by machine, so they don’t appear in chain grocery stores. However, increasingly home gardeners are rediscovering varieties grown by our immigrant ancestors who arrived with apple seeds from their homelands.
Today you can purchase antique apple seedlings with wonderful names and interesting origins: Allington Pippin from the United Kingdom, Api Etoile (Star Lady) from Switzerland, Belle De Boskoop from Holland, Calville Blanc from France, Crown Prince Rudolf from Austria, Duchess of Oldenburg from Russia and others. Consult with the nursery to determine the variety best suited to your purpose (food or cider production) and location.
Apple trees should be planted on a sunny site with good drainage. Ideally it would be at least 300 yards from any members of the juniper family (such as Eastern Red Cedar), which are alternate hosts for the cedar-apple rust fungus.
— Joanna Angle is a 30-year resident of Chester County and a Master Tree Farmer. She has previously directed the Olde English District Tourism Commission, produced and hosted “Palmetto Places” for SCETV and helped establish the Chester campus of York Technical College.