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keeping up with the club crowd

Posted by Michael Phillips 
keeping up with the club crowd
February 20, 2021 04:27AM
Trademarked apple varieties are weaving their way into supermarket chains all over. I'd be curious to grow EverCrisp, given it's grower origins through the Midwest Apple Improvement Association – though admittedly even this would be a marketing move on my part just so I could replace finicky Honeycrisp. Otherwise this current thrust of apple patents and club varieties misses the mark for many of us. Real Apple Culture is far more embracing and sharing, like the trees themselves.

You all need to read this Penn State article:Why All the New Apple Varieties? to kick off this discussion. The diagram showing commercial apple sourcing (first published in Good Fruit Grower) portrays a dizzying array of Sweet Tangled Romance... or something like that.

All pizazz aside, it's fun to discover and/or develop regional varieties. The passing on of apple tradition lies in the stories we can tell. A recent member to the network shared his excitement with me about Summer Hill, a cross he made between Rhode Island Greening and Liberty. I was certainly enticed enough to request a few scions. The two apples I've named to date are Bonkers and Delirious... breaking all the "naming rules" in John Bunker's epic tome on fruit exploring. Cidermakers exploring hedge rows are coming up with some truly American bittersweets and bittersharps. One of Eric Shatt's contributions (of Redbyrd Cider in New York) is the Gnarled Chapman in honor of Johnny-You-Know-Who.

Anyhow, consider this a thread about a serious cultural divide. Talk about those new apples if you wish. Share the fun of putting a name to your own vested orb. Tonight is for creating lore.

Lost Nation Orchard
Zone 4b in New Hampshire

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 02/20/2021 05:23PM by Michael Phillips.
Re: keeping up with the club crowd
March 06, 2021 05:59AM
Ok, I will chime in here. Now in the depth of late winter I must buy apples to eat since we have no storage for our own holistic fruit. I find it confusing and disappointing when trying some of these many new varieties - most I find lack flavor and/or crunch that I expect when paying money for them. It's not fun to get home and try these new apples with their fancy names and labels, and find they are lacking. Maybe I'm just spoiled from holistic fruit. So I don't experiment much, just stick to those that most consistently I can be somewhat assured will be decent to eat. In order: Cosmic Crisp, Envy, Pink Lady, Honey Crisp. However, the last batch of Envy I bought were almost terrible. Years ago, I adored eating Cameo when it first came out. Now they taste terrible and look different than at first, they are pale and really lack flavor. Is this a result of it being a club apple back then? Or are they picking them too soon, or does it have problems with storage? It is not restricted to clubs now but I'm not interested in scion from trees that grow the current fruit.

I would grow Cosmic and Envy here except that we are not big enough to join the club and there is no room for any more new trees to be added to the collection. If I could get scion, I would try them on existing trees, even though I have read that Cosmic is tricky to grow and I have not been able to find any info on how Envy may fare. 2 non-club apples that are similar to these: Crimson Crisp and Frostbite fruited for the first time this year and they were very good and grocery store pretty (unlike most of our cider crop) If I were 10 years younger and had more energy to experiment I would certainly venture into breeding. Starting that way and growing them out could lead to finding some that really like our wet climate and taste good, using already proven varieties. Both parents of Cosmic Crisp are easy to grow for us, but the offspring is finicky. Yes, it does sound fun and I do enjoy reading about others' adventures.

Vista Ridge Orchard
Zone 8a in Washington
235 Cider and heritage apple trees, 72 varieties,
Re: keeping up with the club crowd
March 07, 2021 08:05AM
Here's my experience. When I purchased my property 2.5 years ago the PO was in contract with Trout Blue/Chelan. The field man came out one time and told me about Sugar Bee, which they hold the patent for. He told me that they were limiting who and how much they could grow so as to keep the prices up. Interesting, create a demand, limit the supply, and reap profits. So what is the takeaway?

As small, community oriented orchardists, perhaps taking a page from their playbook is in order. One would need to come up with a variety and a name that is not available elsewhere. Then create a local demand for it and keep it exclusive to yourself.

Grab some popcorn and watch this movie.

Fade in to Joe, a small orchardist in Timbucktoo. He grows all the supermarket varieties, but struggles to compete with them. So he orders an old, obscure heirloom variety and 'accidentally' loses the tag to what it is. So he names it 'Timbucktoo Gem' and offers it in October when picked. Curious locals try it. 'Timbucktoo Gem' has a different flavour, and is fresh and crisp, unlike the supermarket club varieties which are all last years crop being dumped on the market. Cut to the next year. Locals are clamouring for 'Timbucktoo Gem', even willing to pay a premium price for it. Cut to the following year. Not only are locals demanding it, but out of area foodies that have heard about it are now requesting it and willing to have it shipped to them. A smiling Joe is enjoying profits from his crop of 'Timbucktoo Gem' and is grafting over his club varieties. Fade out. Roll credits.

Yeah, I know. It's only a movie. But you never know. Maybe people could go bonkers over Bonkers. ;-)

Washington Okanogan Valley
Zone 6b
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