Tag: apples

Can I Grow an Apple Tree from a Seed?

I have some apple tree seedlings that I started as an experiment. I simply placed them in a pot with some potting soil and they came up. The seedlings are about 2 inches high, and I noticed that 2 of them have brown areas on the stem and are not able to stand upright from these areas.

There is one very important aspect to know when propagating apple trees from seeds. The apple trees you purchase in a nursery are produced by grafting because apple seeds are very unreliable. The seeds found in the apple are the result of cross pollination between two different species or varieties of apples. This makes each seedling a genetically unique individual with unpredictable traits; for example, seedlings sprouted from your ‘Macintosh’ apple might produce tiny red crab apples. You will have years invested in these seedlings before finding out if they will produce an edible or flavorful apple.

That being said, experimenting with growing different kinds of trees from seed can be fun and it is a great project for kids as well. It’s a good way to get them connected with the origins of the food they eat.

To begin dry the seeds out. Next sow them about 1/2 inch deep in sterile potting soil. Be sure your containers are
sterile as well. Place the seed pots in a sunny location. Keep the soil moist and at temperatures above 60 degrees.

Tree seedlings require full intensity light. If you cannot place them outdoors, consider using a grow light. They need 18 hours of artificial light per day.

The browning you see on your seedlings is probably a fungus caused by either by overwatering the plants, seed pots that were not sterile or too much warmth. To correct this you will need to start over with seeds sown in sterile containers that have drainage holes in the bottom and use fresh potting soil. Water them only when you can stick your finger in the soil about an inch and it feels dry to the touch.

Once your seedlings outgrow their seed pots you can transplant them to larger containers and move them outdoors.

They can be planted in the garden when they are large enough to not get stepped on or mistaken for a weed.

Be sure to plant your trees in areas of full sun in well-drained, slightly acidic soil.

One last tip. Because the traits of your trees are unknown, the mature height and width are hard to predict. Be sure to plant them in an area where they will have plenty of room to grow.

Apple Tasting Party

To celebrate the season, invite some friends over to enjoy sampling varieties of apples from yesteryear. I invited 5 friends over for a casual sit-down party to sample twelve different varieties. Each apple was sliced and passed around while I shared some of the history about the fruit. Guests had score cards to judge which apple was their favorite. To cleanse the palette between samples, we also nibbled on fresh baked French bread and butter, cheese, and walnuts.

Gather the Apples
To being planning your tasting party, find out if there are local growers in your area. Your county extension service might be able to help you with that information, or visit your local farmers’ market. If a local source isn’t available, order a sampler box of apples from a mail order company. For a group of six people, plan to sample around twelve varieties of apples at the party.

Before Guests Arrive Apple Tasting Party with Heirloom Apples

  • Make a place card label for each apple variety.
  • Prepare a short description of each apple. Stories about its history and use are always of interest.
  • Provide a 4 x 6 index card for each guest to use as a scorecard with columns for variety name, score and comments.
  • Set the table with a dinner plate, a sharp fruit knife or paring knife, a pencil, and a scorecard for each guest.
  • Set out several wooden bowls for collecting the cores and peeling and cutting boards of cheese, baskets of bread and butter and bowls of walnuts.

Once Guests are Seated

  • Take the first apple and divide it in six slices, one for each guest.
  • Leave the slices intact with core and peel and pass them on a plate.
  • As the apple is passed around, read the description.
  • Give everyone a chance to sample and discuss the flavor.
  • Repeat until all the apples have been sampled.
  • You can either gather the cards and compile the scores or tally the score as a group once the sampling is complete.

You may also want to ask your guests to bring copies of their favorite apple recipe. At the end of the party guests can take the recipes home as a keepsake.

Great Baking Apples
Arkansas Black – sharp flavor and aromatic.
Baldwin – a nice blend of sweet and tart.
Empire – slightly tart, all-purpose apple.
Golden Delicious – mellow and sweet.
Ida Red – tangy and tart, keeps its shape in baking.
Jonathan – moderately tart, and a bit spicy.
Rome Beauty – richly flavored, holds its shape well.
York – Firm, crisp and winy flavor.

Heritage Apple Orchard

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.

Heritage Apple Orchard at the Garden Home Retreat
Varieties Planted:
Apple ‘Ashmead’s Kernel’
Apple ‘Calville Blanc’
Apple ‘Arkansas Black’
Apple ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’
Apple ‘Honeycrisp’
Apple ‘Hewe’s Virginia Crab’
Apple ‘Spitzenburg’
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. 

Bundle of Apple StemsNow, I don’t let anything go to waste. All of these twigs that I cut off are bundled together for use on the grill.  love to cook chicken over fruit wood.  The flavor is excellent.

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.

Heritage Apples

Once you’ve tasted a really good apple, it is easy to see why Eve was tempted by this fruit. My favorite varieties are crisp, sweet and juicy such as Cox Orange Pippin, which is an heirloom variety.

Heritage apples are garnering more and more attention these days and I’m glad of it because there is such a wide range of flavors to choose from. With all the new interest, you no longer have to grow the apple trees to enjoy the vintage varieties. You can order them and have them delivered right to your door! It is fun to try a sampler box to discover which apples are your favorites.

Now, once you start trying all these different apples, you will soon learn that some are better suited for cooking than others. Some of my favorite heritage varieties are Rome Beauty (1820), Rhode Island Greening (1600), McIntosh (1870) and Jonathan (1820) along with Newton Pippin (1700).

It is best to store apples in a cool place such as the refrigerator, just bear in mind that they emit ethylene gas, which can cause other fruits and vegetables to spoil.

Select apples that are blemish free and place them in a tightly closed plastic bag. Poke a few holes in the bag to allow the ethylene gas to escape and place the bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.

If you would like to order some heirloom apples, try the mail order company Applesource at www.applesource.com