I've heard of heirloom tomatoes, heirloom melons, and heirloom squash, but until recently I'd never heard of heirloom apples. Like everyone else, I read The Botany of Desire a few years ago, but somehow I didn't think about the fact that there must be lots of old varieties of apples, since apples have been in cultivation for many centuries. Then I heard about an heirloom apple tasting in Venersborg, WA, last Saturday, and decided to do some research. According to an article on the Slow Food USA site, over 500 varieties of apples were cultivated in the US by 1850, yet only a handful are grown commercially now. Much like tomatoes, commercial varieties are often selected for appearance and durability in shipping rather than taste. Veggie Gardening Tips posted two articles on heirloom apples: Heirloom Apples and Antique Apple Varieties. The Washington State University Clark County Extension site also offers a great article on heirloom apples.
We couldn't make it to the apple tasting, but Jacqueline at Friendly Haven Rise Farm, who sponsored the tasting, invited us up to visit their farm and purchase some heirloom apple trees. The trees they sell come from an older gentleman who grows over 1000 (!!) varieties of apples, including several that even Google had never heard of. We had a lovely visit, brought home a couple of trees, and look forward to growing our own heirloom apples. If you'd like to do the same and you're within driving distance of Southwest Washington, I suggest you call the good folks at Friendly Haven Rise Farm to see if they have some trees left. You might also check out the heirloom apple tasting in Parkdale, OR, this weekend. If you're out of the area, try Trees of Antiquity, which seems to have a good selection (note: I've never done business with them, so I can't vouch for anything other than the impressive list of varieties on their web site). You too can grow your own little piece of history--a delicious little piece that will taste great in a pie.
Hmm... that last sentence should net me some interesting referral traffic. It might even compete with the infamous deer anus post on my personal blog.
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