Antique Apples

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Reference materials on apples – List of antique apples – Genetics and Spontaneous Mutation

A Treasury of Antique Apples 
The varieties of apples that are grown today or have been popular in the past is truly staggering, far beyond what most of us are exposed to growing up in the United States. This section is devoted to a discussion of the wonderful antique apples, some of which are staging a comeback in commercial popularity. See descriptions of specific varieties.Among the antique apples there are excellent choices for making apple pies. Several of these are discussed in Apple of Your Pie, and we will be introducing information on more antique apples as a regular feature of this site.What constitutes an antique apple?
When applied to apples, the term antique might at first seem out of place. After all, when harvested they are as fresh and crisp as any “modern” apple. Names like Spitzenberg, Winesap, Newtown Pippin, English Golden Russett and Northern Spy are unfamiliar and hard to locate, but these and many others are the early foundation of our apple-growing heritage. Others, rarer still have all but passed away. Names such as Tolman, Summer Paradise, Granite Beauty, Gloria Mundi, Black Pippin come to us from the pages of history. (Ref: The Apples of Maine).What specifically constitutes an antique apple is subject of debate, even among experts. There is no magical cutoff date or exact style of apple that can be ascribed to the antique apples. However, the following characteristics are generally considered germane when placing apples into antique or modern categories. Antique apples are varieties that, prima fascia, have been grown for “a long time”, some dating back centuries. Many antique apples appeared on the scene in the mid 1800’s others go back to 1600 in France, Holland or England. 
Commercialism prevails?
Modern apples of America have origins that generally date back to the middle of the 20th century. One can assume that in fact modern apples in many cases were in existence earlier, but were commercially popularized at this time due to their extended grocery shelf life, appearance and growth patterns. The so-called antique apples fell out of favor commercially for several reasons: the yield per tree was not as high as other varieties, and their growth was less predictable. Their appearance was not considered to be as attractive as the modern apples. The apple skin was sometimes spotted, rough, and dull, compared to varieties that shined up brightly – especially important to the grocer who puts them on sale. The red delicious and the McIntosh apples became huge sellers, in great part because they looked good in the grocer’s display.
The rise and fall of the modern Red Delicious
A footnote on the discussion of antique apples involves the Red Delicious variety, far and away the largest apple crop in the United States. After a spectacular rise in popularity and numbers of bushels grown, the same popularity and numbers are declining rapidly. As put to us recently by one nursery agent, “as fast as the bulldozers can move, Red Delicious are being plowed under and replanted”. The question is, replanted with what? More research on this topic in coming weeks.
Go to list of antique apples 
Reference materials on apples
For those interested in a schoalarly works on the history and development of apples we recommend three excellent sources:

The Apples of Maine by George A. Stilphen. This is a detailed compilation of the history, physical and cultural characteristics of all the varieties of apples known to have been grown in Maine. Not illustrated, but extremely detailed and comprehensive. It is based on a previous academic work of Charles Bradford in 1911. This book is in print and can be found through your library system or directly from the author’s web site: text that is often referred to by pomologists is The Apples of New York, in two hardbound volumes, by S. A. Beach. It is a report from the New York Agricultural Experiment Station, and was published in 1905. Don’t let the date dissuade you from seeking out this book. It’s an epic tome for those who seriously study apples and their history. It includes many color and black and white illustrations of apples. This book set is out of print but can be found at universiy libraries.A third book, though not as “scholarly”, but much more accessible to most of us is Frank Browning’s “Apples” published in 1998. See the full description on this book (available through our shopping page).
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