May 30, 2017

"David Benscoter honed his craft as an investigator for the F.B.I. and the United States Treasury, cornering corrupt politicians and tax evaders."

"The lost apple trees that he hunts down now are really not so different. People and things, he said, tend to hide in plain sight if you know how and where to look. 'It’s like a crime scene,' Mr. Benscoter, 62, said as he hiked down a slope toward a long-abandoned apple orchard planted in the late 1800s.'You have to establish that the trees existed, and hope that there’s a paper trail to follow.' About two-thirds of the $4 billion apple industry is now concentrated in Washington State — and 15 varieties, led by the Red Delicious, account for about 90 percent of the market. But the past looked, and tasted, much different: An estimated 17,000 varieties were grown in North America over the centuries, and about 13,000 are lost."

From "Hunting Down the Lost Apples of the Pacific Northwest" (in the NYT).

54 comments:

rehajm said...

The Chelan Valley pulled up most of their orchards and some there were giving grapes a go...


Birches said...

Red delicious most popular? Yuck. Give me a pink lady or Braeburn.

Ralph L said...

He got tired of finding rotten apples.

George Grady said...

I know that somebody must be buying the red delicious apples, but, good God, why?

Todd Galle said...

There is a large push at historic sites to reintroduce original plant types. We recently introduced a period orchard with several varieties of apples and peaches that were grown in 17th Century Pennsylvania. Once they start producing (I'll be retired then!), the staff will use them in cooking, brewing, cidering, etc.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The tell tale sign (in my area of the Pac NW) of an old abandoned homestead are the ancient apple trees and other non native plantings. Sometimes even a very old rose gone wild. If you investigate you may find some odd remains of buildings and shacks. Metal detectorists have a fun time when they find the old orchards.

We planted a Pippen apple tree and the fruit is wonderful for cobblers and cooking. Tart, crisp and sweet. The golden delicious makes the best applesauce.

khesanh0802 said...

It is ridiculous that people even buy Red Delicious apples in their current evolutionary state. They did, at one time, live up to their name, no more. I had one of the old style in VA in 1968 and it was an incredibly good eater. I have a small orchard of dwarf trees, mostly MN bred ( Zestar, Regent, Keepsake), but with a few antiques like Roxbury Russet and Virginia Winesap. It is truly amazing how many different flavors there can be in something as simple as an apple.

rhhardin said...

Zuleika was not stricly beautiful

No apple tree, no wall of peaches, had not been robbed, not any Tyrian rose garden, for the glory of Miss Dobson's cheeks.

madAsHell said...

Honey Crisp are high maintenance, and may yield fruit every other year.

khesanh0802 said...

For any of you who are interested in older apples and cider apples try Cummins Nursery. Even if you are not buying, reading the descriptions is enlightening. Link.

Expat(ish) said...

My (oldest) son's Eagle Project was putting historically accurate trees/variatials into the Bennet Place historical site. (The big surrender that ended the WBTS.)

The tour guides now include details on these trees.

-XC

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I'm growing apple trees from Macoun seeds. I've also just gotten some walnuts to sprout.

Earnest Prole said...

The Times article fails to mention that most of the 13,000 lost varieties of apples in America were grown for hard cider and not for eating, and indeed were so bitter and tannic that they were inedible, “like sucking on a black tea bag soaked in lemon juice."

AllenS said...

A good estimate of how many red delicious apples that I eat in a year would be 365.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

AllenS said...

A good estimate of how many red delicious apples that I eat in a year would be 365.

Guess you won't have to worry about doctors coming around.

Unknown said...

My understanding is that apples cannot be grown from seeds since they don't breed true. If so, how has the Red Delicious declined? Aren't all RD trees essentially grafted clones?

(My understanding comes, I think, from _Freakonomics_ which had a chapter noting that Johnny Appleseed's trees grown from seed would be good only for cider..)

SayAahh said...

Apple extraordinaire: SweeTango. Nothing else like it.
Parents are Honeycrisp and Zestar.
Hard to find as they are licensed by the U. of Minnesota. But exceptional!

rehajm said...

We pull the apples off the tress in yard of the parent's 1800s farmhouse. Different varieties, all full of scabs. Lots of definitive but speculative declarations of the varieties- in other words, nobody has any idea. Three off the tree by the garage and four off the one in back makes for a very tasty pie, though.

rehajm said...

A good hard Macintosh you pull off the tree.

Tim Wright said...

There is a fellow in northern NY, Bill McKentley, who ran St. Lawrence Nursries in Potsdam, who did much the same thing, rescuing old apple varieties suited to cold weather climates, and selling them through a catalog. He's retired but a young fellow is picking it up. I have a variety of apples on my land, Westfield seek-no-further, smokehouse, fameuse, golden russet, ashmeades kernal, and some ancient crabs from our fathers land he crafted for me. Tim

Tim Wright said...

Okay, sorry, ancient varieties he grafted. Tim

traditionalguy said...

One Bad Apple spoils the fruit bowl. Is it hard cider time yet?

The Sebastopol area of the Russian River Valley has great apple festivals.That part of California north of the Spanish Franciscan Mission chain was Russian occupied. And then James Knox Polk did his Andy Jackson imitation and now we own it. In fact this Washington State area, lying north of the Columbia River also owes its inclusion into the USA to James Knox Polk.

Ann Althouse said...

The Red Delicious apples in the stores today are very different from what we had in the 1960s, which were very sweet but often soft and mealy. Now, they're really tough and hard and they're not so sweet.

I think they took over because they look idealized -- red and usually unmarred. But in the old days they'd get messed up and bruised in shipping. But we loved them when we were kids because they were so sweet. They made other apples seem too tart (or suitable for pie making, which involves adding a lot of sugar).

donald said...

Screw the apples, it's all about the magnificent, huge peaches in Washington and Oregon.

The best damned thing I have ever eaten in my entire life were from the produce stand right across from the pig and fish market in Seattle.

Period, the end.

Ann Althouse said...

Meade planted 2 apple trees this year: Gala and Honeycrisp.

He's been talking about adding 5 more. All in our small front yard: 7 apple trees. That's in addition to the huge oak tree, the elm tree, the serviceberry, and 3 (or more) redbuds.

Ann Althouse said...

The best thing I ever ate in my life was a cherry pie made by someone who had a sour cherry tree in her yard.

Ann Althouse said...

I mean a slice of the pie. Didn't eat a whole pie.

Larry J said...

AllenS said...
A good estimate of how many red delicious apples that I eat in a year would be 365.


Try some Gala or Fuji apples. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

AllenS said...

Not very many varieties of apples where I buy groceries.

MadisonMan said...

I've a cherry tree in my yard -- Montmorency -- and I make one pie per year that I eat in its entirety. All you need in the filling is cherries, a bit of sugar, butter, and some Almond Extract. And a good butter or lard crust.

The apple tree I have is a Greening. I think. I usually don't remember its name correctly. It is a green apple, and sweet. Good eating apple.

I'm growing apple trees from Macoun seed

You won't get Macoun Apples from it. Apple trees don't breed true -- but on the plus side, maybe you'll get something interesting.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The best thing I ever ate in my life was a cherry pie made by someone who had a sour cherry tree in her yard.

I think the best I ever had was when I lived in Alabama. Homemade peach cobbler, from a friend's traditional southern recipe, and the peaches from a nearby orchard farmstand. Topped with homemade Ben & Jerry's raspberry ice cream, the raspberries coming from my own back yard.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

MadisonMan said...

You won't get Macoun Apples from it. Apple trees don't breed true -- but on the plus side, maybe you'll get something interesting.

I'm aware of that, which is why I specified the type of apple the seeds came from, but did not specify the type of apple tree I'm growing. Since they are genetically unique, they'll have to update the estimate of the number of varieties grown in North America to 17,002.

Sydney said...

We had a tart cherry tree in our yard growing up. I miss them. Can't find them in the store or the farmer's markets around here for some reason.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

We used to have a large and rather old sour cherry tree. Made the very best cherry pies and cobblers. Sadly, it got a fungus and died. Since then we have planted 3 Black Tartans and a Montmorency Cherry tree. They are still young (about 3 years old) and haven't really fruited yet.

We have in our orchard in addition to the cherries: apples (pippen, granny smith, golden delicious, two red varieties which I don't know, very old red delicious), bartlett pear, santa rosa plum, 3 greengage/italian plum, 3 wild plums, and a very old quince. Very old means over 30 to 40 years. Some of the trees were on the property when we bought it 28 years ago and were already very mature. Others we planted over the years.

Not all the trees bear fruit every year. Timing is everything. If we get a freeze at the wrong time....zap....no Santa Rosa plums. This is a good thing since last year we were up to our hamhockers in those plums. THIS year lots of Italian plums... yay!

The bad part about a bumper crop of fruit is that you can't give any away because everyone else also has fruit in excess.

Birches said...

There is nothing better than a sour cherry pie. I might eat the whole thing.

sane_voter said...

Anybody like black cherry?

Paul from Decatur, GA said...

I was born in the Warwick Valley of Orange county, New York. It was long an apple growing area with many varieties that are now hard to find. Now, the orchards have been turned into communities of NYC commuters.

tcrosse said...

As long as pies have entered the Topic.... Having moved out of the Midwest to the Southwest, I really miss rhubarb. It doesn't grow here, but we used to grow it in our back yard. My wife made wonderful cakes and pies with the stuff. Sigh.

Tim Wright said...

I planted a "bala" sour cherry tree from mckentley in my yard and, as it was tissue cultured, was true to the roots. About a dozen other cherry trees have sprung from its roots, so I have an orchard of sour cherry trees now! Even though they self pollinate I added a montmorency too. We haven't made a pie, but we do make cherry crumbles during the short season, and lord they are good. Picking the cherries is easy enough, but pitting is the pits. I bought a machine from Lehmans tha t was supposed to make it easy but no go, I've got to do it by hand. Tim

Marc Puckett said...

That was the only article in the Times I read in its entirety first thing this morning. There are lots of small parts of orchards that survive here in the southern Willamette Valley, too.

Rick Turley said...

Ignorance is Bliss said...

"I'm growing apple trees from Macoun seeds. I've also just gotten some walnuts to sprout."

I wish you all the luck but, as it's a hybrid, the chance of you getting anything like a Macoun apple are vanishingly small. It's not a great apple for the amateur orchardist, either.

Rick Turley said...

Ann Althouse said...

"Meade planted 2 apple trees this year: Gala and Honeycrisp."

Seeing the products of Meade's labor, I assume hes' done the homework on appropriate pollinators for those varieties. Most apples are not self-fertile as I recall.

The more apple trees the merrier. The advice I've gotten is to plant as many fruit trees as possible because many are not that much more work than one and you have to buy the equipment and pesticides, fertilizer, pruners, anyway.

Rick Turley said...

sane_voter said...

"Anybody like black cherry?"

Yes! And Wild Cherry, too!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pHT9yYFdZg

Viejo Loco said...

FYI for all, I have been reviving 220 year old recipes, mostly pies, with Heirloom apples. Apple.ME in Plattsburgh, and Scott Farm in VT have Heirloom apples. Plattsburgh has Winesaps, which I hadn't baked since the 1950's, and Northern Spy, great for pies.
Scott Farm has about 120 variety of Heirloom apples, including 6-8 pie apples. One4 of them, named only "20 oz", wh4en full grown is the size of a soccer ball.
My father started Wisconsin sour cherries in the 1940's for my Mom, and I buy them now for pies. Yummy!

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Rick Turley said...

I wish you all the luck but, as it's a hybrid, the chance of you getting anything like a Macoun apple are vanishingly small.

I know.

It's not a great apple for the amateur orchardist, either.

Well then it's a good thing I probably won't be getting anything like it. :)

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...

I more or less actually do eat an apple a day.

Don't know the names. Not a big shopper re such stuff. But, my standing rule is that folks should buy whatever it is that is the most expensive. Sorta dumb and embarrassing. But, seems ta work, mostly.

Darrell said...

Alarious.

David said...

Lots of blooms on the apple and cherry trees in Door County this year. After a long decline, the orchards have consolidated into a few strong (but local) hands and new orchards and plantings are springing up everywhere. My understanding is that some of this is due to development of trees that are more cold tolerant, lower growing (ease of harvest) and overall more robust.

khesanh0802 said...

I hope Meade does better with the Honeycrisp than I have with mine. 5 years in the ground on a B-9 root stock; very slow growing and no sign of blossoms yet.

Rick Turley said...

Darrell said...

"Alarious."

Meryl Streep doesn't think it's very funny but I say "Well played, sir!"

traditionalguy said...

Gravenstein Apples are the best. And they make good apple brandy, too.

Earnest Prole said...

Gravenstein Apples are the best.

They are indeed, and they don't keep (which makes them even more precious).

traditionalguy said...

Gravensteins trees are smaller trees perfect for landscaping yards and they do well in cold climates. They flower in April. And they first came to the USA from Denmark 200 years ago.

D said...

Variety is the spice of life. Cortlands for pies. Gravs for pies. Galas for eating. Macs for eating. Golden Delicious for the little one. Honeycrisp for the old man if he visits down this way in the fall.
At work, i have convinced my lovely co-workers to celebrate "national pie day" for the last two years as a fundraiser, god love 'em. I am prepared to eat 6 or 7 pieces that day. I generally start with lemon, and bring the day to a close with apple.
I don't think much of -------'s politics, but there wasnt anything wrong with --- apple pie. Too bad national pie day wasnt monthly. Sad!!!