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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase


Knowledgebase record #275


Apples of North America by Tom Burford, 2013

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson
Review date: 2016-10-01

Tom Burford has a goal to restore the apple to near the diversity and prominence it enjoyed in America during the early 20th century, when one nursery catalog alone listed 17,000 cultivars. He is optimistic that this return to greatness is happening. To further this effort, he has selected 200 varieties that he regards as “apples of the real world” (not the supermarket), to feature in his book “Apples of North America.”

The A-Z encyclopedia of these varieties is the heart of the book. All are of American origin. For example, ‘Hawaii’ was introduced in Sebastopol, California and has a “distinctive pineapple flavor and is exceptionally sweet when grown in western regions.”

‘Criterion’ was introduced in 1973 from Parker, Washington (south of Yakima) and while it does well in our region, in more humid apple growing areas, such as the author’s home in Virginia, it does not color well and is more susceptible to diseases. It is noted as being one of the best apples for salads as it does not oxidize quickly after slicing.

Many apples do not store well but are delicious for fresh eating. Others are noted for baking, pie-making, cider-making, or even frying. Some don’t look that great. ‘Kinnaird’s Choice’ is mottled red with purple spots, and would like be rejected by most shoppers. However, it was a mainstay during the Great Depression because it was dependable and its good flavor worked well for all purposes.

The book concludes with a section on “Planning and Designing an Orchard”, a very detailed look at the cultural needs of apples, from planting, propagation (including rootstocks and grafting), pruning, and dealing with diseases and pests. He even tells you how to properly eat an apple, a “mind-expanding experience.” He finds it “…mildly irksome to see someone eating an apple while walking down the street, unaware that a body sense event is happening, and perhaps focusing on something else entirely at the time.”

Excerpted from the Fall 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.


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