I don’t know if you’re like me or not, but when I have a childhood memory or think back to something that really made me happy, I want to repeat it. I guess it just comes with maturing.
My aunt and uncle, by their dairy barn, had an old apple tree. It was a Buncombe apple, which comes from the 19th century. My aunt would pick those apples every fall, peel them and dry them, and throughout the entire winter she’d make the most delicious fried pies. As a matter of fact, she still does. She took budwood off of that very Buncombe tree and grafted some apple trees for me for the heritage apple orchard at the Garden Home Retreat.
Most often when you go to the grocery store these days you see Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala, maybe Braeburns, Fujis, of course Granny Smith, and that’s about it. However, in the 19th century and even before, there were hundreds of apple varieties to choose from, each having its own delicious, unique flavor.
So by selecting heritage varieties for the Garden Home Retreat I can enjoy some of those flavors of the past, and at the same time, preserve the important budwood, or the genetics, of the trees for future generations.
In addition to my aunt’s Buncombes, we chose 10 varieties of heritage fruit trees that are rarely found in orchards today.
Apple ‘Ashmead’s Kernel’
Apple ‘Calville Blanc’
Apple ‘Arkansas Black’
Apple ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’
Apple ‘Hewe’s Virginia Crab’
Apple ‘Magnum Bonum’
Peach ‘Indian Blood’
Apple ‘Transcendent Crab’
I’ve also mixed in a few crabapples with the fruit bearing varieties. Crabapples do produce a tiny fruit in fall, but it’s the profusion of springtime bloom that makes them so desirable.
I was lucky to find one of my favorite crabapple called ‘Narragansett’. It can be a little difficult to locate a nursery that sells these. The fruit persist well into winter for the birds to enjoy.
Apples and crabapples benefit from a later winter pruning. I tackle this job just as the leaf buds are beginning to swell and I don’t do much. A quick clean up of the twigs coming off the trunk is sufficient.
I don’t take out any major limbs. I just try to kind of clean it up, snipping off little limbs that are about the size of a pencil or under.
The other task we do in late winter/early spring is apply dormant oil. This will suffocate any insects and keep the fungal problems at bay.
So the twigs get used in the kitchen for cooking, and, of course, the glorious apples are eaten fresh and also dried just like Aunt Genny.<
Although I don’t know if I can ever come up to making fried pies like she does.