A man on a mission to save applesJune 10, 2021 by Darcie
Every year in early October I usually post an article about apples that highlights the various ways you can use the fruit in cooking and baking. This year apple season (for the blog, anyway) comes much earlier, because I just read a fascinating article about Tom Brown, a man on a quest to rescue ‘lost’ varieties of apples. Even if you don’t enjoy eating this particular fruit, the story is worth reading.
Brown’s mission began over 25 years ago after a chance visit to an apple stand at a farmers market introduced him to varieties of apples he had never before encountered. He struck up a conversation with the vendor, an orchardist named Maurice Marshall. Marshall had obtained hundreds of varieties of apples from elderly people living in the Appalachian mountains. He also discovered some types on apple-hunting excursions near the remains of old orchards. That part intrigued Brown, who says “I kept thinking: ‘How neat would it be to find an apple nobody’s tasted in 50 or 100 years?’”
And find them he did. He received tips on the locations of neglected and forgotten orchards across the region, collecting examples from Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, both Carolinas, and Georgia. “These apples belong to the [foodways] of my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generations,” says Brown, who was raised in western North Carolina.
The finds are becoming less and less frequent, but Brown is not giving up his hobby, which he has devoted years to in retirement. “It takes me probably 20-30 times more work and a lot more driving to locate one new tree,” he notes. Brown hopes to find at least 100 more varieties before he quits, but will be satisfied if can find just one more during his lifetime.
Below that article on Gastro Obscura, you will probably see a link to another interesting story about a man who has catalogued more than 18,000 varieties of apples and has published a 7-volume set, The Illustrated History of Apples in the United States and Canada, that describes almost all of them.
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