Text by Vicki Ingham / Photography by Mac Jamieson
Crisp, crunchy apples are showing up at farmers’ markets and waiting at you-pick orchards. It’s the perfect time to discover new tastes, textures, and varieties.
Compared to other fruits, apples boggle the mind with their dizzying diversity. Because any given tree needs to be pollinated by a different variety to set fruit, every apple seed carries the potential to produce a new variety. If the seedling’s fruit turns out to be good—tasty for eating fresh, perfect for pies or sauce, or a good keeper—it can be propagated by grafting a cutting from the seedling to a sturdy rootstock. Our great-grandparents enjoyed as many as 16,000 named apple varieties with monikers like Limbertwig, Rusty Coat, and Bishop Pippin, each with its own distinctive flavor, texture, and use.
After World War II, apple production became large scale and commercialized, and most of those old varieties disappeared. Renewed interest in the rich possibilities of heirloom apples has inspired orchardists across the country to track down and save the ones that remain. Look for you-pick orchards that offer antique varieties, and add some tasty diversity to your fruit bowl.