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Pumpkin Sweets, other sweets, and other DNA stuff

Posted by Laura Sieger 
Pumpkin Sweets, other sweets, and other DNA stuff
January 08, 2021 05:59PM
Hi all,

A word on Sweet apples– which seem to have created much confusion over the centuries. Pumpkin Sweet/ Pound Sweet from CT is an old standard, but with new DNA tests we've been able to confirm that Pumpkin Sweet of Newburgh, ME and Pumpkin Sweet of Mt. Vernon, ME are different from the classic Pumpkin Sweet/ Pound Sweet of CT– not even related. The Pumpkin Sweets of Nbrg ant Mt.V are also identical to Washington Sweet. That's 3 local synonyms for the same apple! Cole's American Fruit Book (pub. 1849) does have a disclaimer in the description of Pumpkin Sweet that there are other varieties that are known by the same name, of a lesser quality. I guess "lesser" is an opinion. I'd take a Washington Sweet over a Pound Sweet most any day.

This seems to happen again and again in Maine. There's Summer Sweeting (introduced to John Bunker by Earland Goodhue of Sidney, ME) which is a variety said to have originated on the farm of Ichabod Thomas in Sidney, ME. Summer Sweet was also called King of Sweetings, King Sweet, Sidney Sweet, Sidney Sweeting or Thomas Sweet. And it was sometimes confused with a different variety, Hightop Sweeting (also called Summer Sweeting), which originated in Plymouth, MA.

And as it turns out, Summer Sweeting is identical to a tree Will Bonsall introduced John Bunker to a while back. Orange Sweet is a tree from the old Ramsdell farm in Farmington, just south of the New Vineyard Mountains. A few years ago when they both fruited at the same time and looked like twin sisters and tasted the same I got suspicious that these might the same variety. John seemed to agree it was possible, and now DNA now confirms that. Perhaps the tree in Farmington was grafted from the Summer Sweet in Sidney? Who knows.

There is a similar story with Benton Red, which is identical to Cherryfield (Collins), and matches with a variety called Salome, which I had not heard of being grown in Maine... Everyone claims to have grown the unique variety form seed, but they are genetically identical. The USDA watercolor collection contains 12 "Salome" paintings from all over Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, West Virginia & New Brunswick. None from Maine. No Cherryfield, Collins or Benton Red from Maine in the watercolor collection, either. Just a variety called Pennock (alternative name: Benton Red) from Penobscot County, ME. Several other Pennock apples are there, too. Mostly from the northeast.

One cluster of sweets I am still not clear on is the "Sweet Red" variety from The Apple Farm in Fairfield. It is home to Gray Pearmain, not found in any records or other farms that I am aware of, until Fedco started propagating it. Gray Pearmain's DNA test listed it as "Child of Hunt Russet. Half sibling with Green Monster via Tolman Sweet." Black Oxford is another whose test came back with Hunt Russet as a parent. But the Sweet Red seemed to be a synonym. John guessed that it may be Wardwell Sweet. Or perhaps Ramsdell Sweet. Eliza said she was convinced it is Victoria Sweet. DNA test says "This is Sweet Delicious. Identical to Pumpkin Sweet or Orland. Deacon Jones x (Red) Delicious" Ok. Enough with the Pumpkin Sweets.

Anyways, what else should we send leaves in to be tested? We have a long running list, but are curious to hear other ideas. Are there varieties you suspect are the same as a synonym from elsewhere? A disclaimer about the current DNA capabilities is that sports do not have different DNA from their original variety.
Re: Pumpkin Sweets, other sweets, and other DNA stuff
January 11, 2021 03:05PM
Thanks for your post. Which lab is doing the testing and what are they charging per sample?
Re: Pumpkin Sweets, other sweets, and other DNA stuff
January 11, 2021 04:06PM
I can't speak for Laura, but I sent my own samples in this year to Cameron Peace's lab at Washington State University Cameron Peace. I sent in 12 samples from clients to see what we were working with since many were old abandoned trees and/or trees with no designation in records and not able to tell just by looks. I have the written info in a document but can't attach to this forum. I could forward to whomever. Cameron spoke several times on the east coast in 2019 including at Maine Apple Camp. Good stuff.

** EDIT: The report I received for samples I sent in to WSU earlier this year has been posted to the library HERE. As I get more updated results, I will post those, as well. But these are the format we receive for preliminary results (or in the case of the first three, final results). The specifics (i.e., code) don't mean anything to anyone except me, the growers and WSU.

***EDIT: The database is quite large as is it is. However, there are still many gaps. For more common varieties, the results are pretty straightforward. For more obscure varieties, pips, etc. there may never be an answer since they could be totally off the radar of the research, being new varieties and all. They can give clues to the parentage, but there may never be an answer. For obscure varieties, as the database gets filled in, the closer you may get to a real answer. The testing program only covers common Malus species.

Mike Biltonen, Know Your Roots
Zone 5b in New York

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/15/2021 04:54PM by Mike Biltonen.
Re: Pumpkin Sweets, other sweets, and other DNA stuff
January 25, 2021 11:00PM
Thanks, Mike! Yes we also send samples to Cameron at WSU. They cost about $100 each. Lots of interesting stuff coming out of it. MORP in Colorado has had a bunch tested, too and they have posted those findings on their website.

Maine Heritage Orchard
Unity, ME zone 5a
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