Here is a complete list of the varieties — old and new — of the ever-evolving Gnarly Pippins collection of wild pomes. Though very different, and gathered from a relatively wide geographic range, what these varieties all share in common is that they are all seedlings that display superior qualities of flavor and growth/hardiness to the various diseases and disorders which can befall the venerable pome. Read below an in-depth description of each variety, and be aware that the shop section will offer scionwood and grafted trees seasonally of many of these varieties.
Ed’s Winter – A seedling apple from Thornton, New Hampshire. Discovered 2015, Grafted 2017-present. Mother tree is exceptionally healthy, growing in a hayfield in a mountain valley, one of many pippins in a population of a couple dozen trees. It bears annual heavy crops of apples. Bittersharp quality with strong notes of key lime and nice tannic background. Ripens Late October to early November, fruit often hangs on the tree deep into Winter. Trees grown ex-situ have yielded fruit with much different characteristics. Larger apples measure exceptional sugars (20+ Bx in consecutive seasons) than on the mother tree. This variety grows exceptionally well without any spray and has a strong, open growth habit. Interestingly, Ed’s Winter gives 7 individual blossoms per flower spur, and all fruitlets develop at the same rate as the typical King Bloom. For this reason it is sometimes referred to as ‘7 Kings’ or ‘Ed’s Blessing’. This unique blossom characteristic leads to heavy bearing. Disease tolerant and vigorous. Fruit from the mother tree averages 2″-2.5″, but in ex-situ trials, the fruit shows much larger, 3″- 3.5″, flavor is faithful to the mother tree but extremely pleasant to eat. Phenolics still test high but less astringent, and acids are perceived more as subacid. Stores for several months without refrigeration. A good solid Winter keeper with very rich complex flavor. One of the most promising varieties in the GP catalog. Featured in Pomological Series Vol. 1.
Old Fertile – A seedling apple from Wilmington, Vermont. Discovered 2016, grafted 2017-present. Advertised through FEDCO trees. Mother tree is a huge multi-stemmed beauty growing out of an drainage ditch and embankment in a fallow field near a doctor’s office. Honey sweet apples which sometimes lean bittersweet and measure between 18-20 Bx, Ripens mid to late October. Fruit is golden yellow with generous russeting in the stem cavity. Fruit from the mother tree averages 2-3″ but in ex-situ trials the variety has produced fruit up to 4″ and dwelled on the higher Bx values. Trees have a lateral, open habit; spur-type. Shoots are stocky and strong. The variety seems to grow exceptionally well. No symptoms of disease or other disorders in no-spray settings. responds nicely to pruning and produces annually and remains lush and leafy late into the season. A versatile apple for cidermaking and long keeping. One of the most promising varieties in the GP catalog.
Thornton Brass – A seedling apple from Thornton, New Hampshire. Discovered 2015. Grafted 2016 – present. Mother tree is exceptionally vigorous, growing in a nutrient-poor hayfield in a mountain valley, one of many pippins in a population of a couple dozen trees. Modest to heavy crops of fruit on thorny spurs are typical. Apples are brassy yellow over green ground coat, sometimes developing a red sun spot. Flavor is bittersharp, moderately astringent. Jazzy with cherry notes and dynamic mouthfeel. A promising candidate for SV cider from juice analysis. Fruit maturity in ex-situ trials has been variable. Grafted trees produce ripe fruit in late August to early September. The mother tree drops its fruit in early October. More research is needed. Brix values consistent on all specimens, around 15- 16 Bx. Trees have superior vigor; no other variety in the GP catalog has the same insane zest for life. Grafted trees have vast growth and branch prolifically. Judicious pruning is needed to prevent internal shading and crowding. Fruit primary is formed on spurs and the terminal buds of short thorny laterals.
Thornton Pearls – A seedling apple from Thornton, New Hampshire. Discovered 2015. Grafted 2016 – Present. Mother tree is a multi-trunked tree growing in a nutrient-poor hayfield in a mountain valley. The original tree has a spur habit, low vigor and its many trunks and branches form a neatly organized conic crown. Modest crops of bittersweet crabs are produced annually. The apple is a pale yellow ground with a typical fuchsia pink blush on the sunny cheek. Intense bittersweet with high astringency, notes of vanilla, beeswax or honeycomb, honeysuckle blooms. Awesome textural tannins. Ripens in its state of origin in mid to late October. In ex-situ grafting trials, young trees display medium to high vigor on semi-dwarf rootstocks. Ex-situ trees have not come into bearing yet.
Bae Red – A seedling apple from South Amherst, Massachuests. Discovered 2020, grafted 2021. Mother tree was a juvenile roadside seedling crab growing in the space between a telephone pole and its triangulation cable on Bay Road in S. Amherst, abutting a commercial orchard. Its roots were set in somewhat poor sandy soil. Abundant red crabapples with a thick bluish bloom, nearly resembling bing cherries, hung from its little branches garlanded with intense red Fall foliage. Amazingly deep colored red flesh, juicy, snappy and crisp. Flavors of cherry, Hi-C, and cranberry. Wicked good, less tart than most redfleshed varieties. Ripens mid-September. Just a couple of weeks after scionwood was collected for the first time, the mother tree was bulldozed by a public works crew. A small grouping of trees produced in the Gnarly Pippins nursery, with good fortune, will foster the survival and legacy of this unique variety.
Jean’s Russet – A seedling apple from Heath, Massachusetts. Discovered 1975, introduced and grafted 2019. Mother tree was a volunteer tree growing in a wooded cow pasture where Jean Gran of Heath cleared and built her house in the 1970s. She enjoyed having the young wild apple tree on the property, and so allowed it to continue growing. When first discovered it was only about 6 feet tall, and relatively scrawny with only one trunk. Now, it is a massive behemoth of a tree, reaching 20 feet in height, and having a total canopy spread of roughly 40 feet. Partially to fully russeted fruits are small. bittersweet, balanced, moderately astringent with excellent aromatics of maple and bananas. Spur-type bearing habit. Ripens mid-October.
Muscadet d’Haydenville – A seedling rootstock apple from Haydenville, Massachusetts. Discovered 2019, grafted 2020 -present. Possibly the rootstock of an ornamental planted in a parking lot at a mill building complex. Multiple, relatively young trunks emerge from the ground of a tree whose main trunk has died back. It produces a bittersweet apple, small and dull green with a flat, fire engine red sun spot decorating the typical fruit. The flavor is deeply bittersweet, and very reminiscent of French cider apples, hence the name. The original tree produces modestly, but has suffered under the care of a local landscaper, having hacked it to pieces a few winters in a row. It has been grafted in the Gnarly Pippins nursery since 2020, yielding young trees that put on abundant stocky, thick growing shoots with terrific health. Semi-spur type bearing habit. Ripens early October.
Deerskin Russet – A seedling apple from Danby, VT. Discovered with Ryan Yoder in 2016, grafted 2017-present. A seedling pasture tree, very large. It produces fruit in clusters borne on spurs and terminals. Two to three apples on a spur is typical of the mother tree. She produces somewhat annually, offering a small, fully russeted apple with searing acidity. Yowling sharpness with a salty quality. It is a neat variety of tree. The leaves of this tree are slenderer and slightly more serrate than typical of apples, and the bark of its young twigs is an olive-green or tan color, rather than the typical reddish brown. It is a healthy growing tree in the nursery, somewhat high in vigor and produces branches very readily. Named for the experience of having a hunter surreptitiously harvest a deer while we were wandering around the pasture tasting wild apples startle us with his catch by our vehicle on the occasion of the day this variety was discovered. This apple is the backbone of the ‘Deerskin’ series of ciders by Gnarly Pippins (not commercial) three vintages have been made, showcasing this variety’s impact on a blend. Extremely good cider sharp.
Queen Crab – A seedling variety from Augusta, Maine. Discovered 2016, grafted 2017 – present. A seedling tree at the edge of a wetland on a major highway. A grand dame of a tree – large single trunk divides into hundreds of branches that bear a most noble crabapple. Yellow, golden globes decorated with a small, salmon to red colored blush on the sunny cheek are 1.5″-2″ in size. It is one of the most highly acclaimed crabs to ever be featured at the Wild and Seedling Pomological Exhibition, being awarded silver and gold in Best Crabapple and Best in Show two years in a row. The fruit is subacid to sharp, with electrifying fruity notes. Firm, juicy, breaking, yellow-bronze flesh. Light tannin, yet very snackable. Lip smacking lightning bolt dankness. Ripens October.
Boisvert – A seedling from Hadley, Massachusetts. A seedling tree growing in an old cow pasture on the property of Sunny Brook Farm. This single-trunked seedling has an uncommonly large canopy spread, very robust, stocky growth habit, and is noted as being unusually late-blooming. It blooms in FT 5-6. In Hadley, MA, it blooms at the same time as Dabinett. It has shown itself to be resistant to scab and fireblight, and bears reliably. Fruit are medium to large size, pale red-pink over a mint green ground coat, large blurry white lenticels. Very aromatic flesh with medium to strong phenols. Fennel/aniseed flavor, light bitterness on the finish of the fruit, a lightweight cider apple with a knack to evade late frost. Ripens early to mid-October. Excellent vigor !
Erie’s Bellybutton – A seedling apple from Heath, Massachusetts. The mother tree is the seedling rootstock of a Baldwin tree. Six hulking individual trunks emerge from the ground and encircle the one grafted trunk of Baldwin. Medium in size, 2-2.5 inch fruits are roundish, tending to be globular to slightly oblong. Skin is thick, smooth, slightly textured, dry. Mustard yellow base color with highly saturated red washed and striped over nearly the entire fruit surface. Cavity is utmost small, extremely shallow to nonexistent. Stem is variable, but most often it’s thick, fleshy and formidable. Straight, medium in length. Basin very small, nearly nonexistent, obtuse. Calyx closed, small, with erect convergent loves. Dots are small, prominent raised russet. Flesh is medium-fine, bronze, very juicy. Flavor bittersharp. A piquing acidity prevails at front, with smooth, long tannins emerging. Textural evolution on the palate. Flavor inspires leaps and shouts when eaten right off the tree, but becoming approachable after sweating. A mellow bittersharp of excellent quality for blending in cider or savory cooking. Ripens mid-October in its state of origin.
Nailbiter – A chance seedling from Marlboro, Vermont. Found growing among other wild apples at the bottom of a steep bank alongside VT Rte. 9, competing successfully with a stand of white pine and aspen. Fruit size large, averaging 3”-4”. Strongly conic, waisted form, lopsided. Ribbed-angular plan view. Orange-yellow ground coat with intense burning red wash. Scattered, bronzy russet in stemwell area drips down over the rest of the apple. Flesh coarse grained, firm. Bittersharp. Savory acids and crushing tannins combine giving way to combustion on the palate with a unique, smoky bitterness. After a long period of sweating, it becomes a very palatable bittersharp. Ripens mid-October in its state of origin. Tied 2nd place for ‘Best Quality Cider’. A cider apple of best quality.
Trousers Pear – Roadside seedling pear from Montague, Massachusetts. Growing in the Montague Sand Plains among a small stand of white pine trees. Named for the russeting that fruit from this tree gets often, a clearly delineated line of russet, from calyx to the equator, as though the fruit were dipped in liquid russet partway, looking like the damn thing is wearing khakis. Tree stands about 35′ tall, spur-type bearing habit, branches abundantly with laterals and fruitful verticals. Seems to be disease and drought tolerant. Obovate obtuse pyriform, pale green ground coat with terra cotta blush. Abundant russeted lenticels form a thick haze. Precocious tree, blooms well by 3rd or 4th leaf. Fruit is an exquisite balanced bittersharp pear, astringency moderate, acids velvety, sugars high, and replete aroma of citrus and pomegranate. Semi-melting flesh. One of the very best wild pears i’ve seen. Ripens mid to late September, storage fair.
Gill’s Intrigue – Roadside seedling pear from Gill, Massachusetts. Growing on the edge of a wetland, it is the only pear tree nearby. A very vigorous tree, formed out of a single trunk, moderately sized, spur type bearing habit. Fruit is small to medium size, fully russeted, or nearly so, oblong pyriform. Breaks in the russeting show dull green ground coat and occasionally a rich red splash. Stem is unusually thick. Fruit is complex bittersharp, subdued acid front with intriguing velvety tannins underscoring incredible earthiness and nice sugars. Astringency medium. Balanced flavor, develops beautifully in long storage. A perry pear of first quality. Ripens late September- early October in its state of origin. Good storage.
Walter’s Favorite – A roadside seedling from Jacksonville, VT. Growing out of the edge of a wetland meadow near the parking lot of an electrical utility company’s maintenance facility. Fairly vigorous tree, responds very well to pruning, scion grows with a strong, stocky habit and fruiting habit is semi-spur. Fruit is large, uniform yellow over green ground coat, round-oblate, very firm/dense, with juicy flesh. Flavor subacid to sharp with piquing notes of citrus. Really excellent flavor. First – rate eating and culinary fruit. High quality cider blending. Named for 413-legend Walter Poulsen who declared this apple the best find on a rainy day of foraging in 2016. Ripens early October in its state of origin, but is known to hang onto the tree until later in the month and stores very well.
Juicy Juicy Pineapple – A roadside seedling from Jacksonville, VT. Growing out of the edge of a wetland meadow near the parking lot of an electrical utility company’s maintenance facility (neighbor tree to Walter’s Favorite). Relatively low vigor, full spur type. Very neat rounded canopy typically loads up with round-conic, oblong fruit. The apple is custard yellow ground coat with the occasional salmon to brick-red blush. Fruit is juicy +aromatic with fine-grained, tender flesh. Flavor is sweet to subacid with overwhelming pineapple flavors. Novel eating experience ( akin to Pitmaston, Ananas and other decorated pineapple-apples) but with superior hardiness for eastern US climates. Good results on ex-situ trials from zone 4 VT all the way to Zone 7-8 VA. Ripens mid-September in its state of origin. Storage fair.
Hat & Shoes Crab – An enormous old seedling tree at the edge of a logging road in Colrain, MA. almost at the edge of the North River. The tree was narrowly spared in 2019 after an 85-ft stormfallen white pine tree fell within inches of it. This tree has many trunks dividing and waning into copious amounts of fruitwood, reaching a maximum height of 35 feet. The tree is a semi-spur type crab, which has borne prolific crops of fruit annually (at like 6 bushels of crabapples each year) since 2015. The largest harvest recorded in seven seasons was 8 bushels. Amazing tree. Fruit is small (2″ crabs) round-oblate with a short stem. Uniform coat of dull green with separate patches of russeting at both stem cavity and basin. Firm flesh, crisp, somewhat juicy. Flavor sharp with gentle phenolics. Notes of white wine grape and lemon. A versatile crab that can be hucked into a cider blend for boosting acids, or stored a long time and used as a cooker. The traditional recipe with this apple is to scrub it with salt and butter and then roast whole, at high heat, for a half hour or until tender and golden.
Wilmington Hideout – An elusive, tiny tree growing out of a ditch in Wilmington, possibly related to Old Fertile. The tree is tucked into a grove of aspens which tower above, somehow obtaining enough sunlight to grow well and produce twelve feet of trunk. The tree is a full spur type, and bears well. Low vigor, very fruitful growth habit. Apples are globular with an unusually long, inclined and often lipped stem. 2 -2.5″ crabs, rich red color with stripes and wash. Flavor is very fruity and rich with esters. Sweetness and subtle, mellow bitterness ride front seat unmistakable bubblegum aromatics at finish. Ex-situ grafts have not yet produced fruit.
Gurleyville – A seedling apple from Mansfield, Connecticut. Found growing in a wetland meadow near the Fenton River in the historic mill district of Gurleyville. Medium sized tree, sparsely branched, bearing clumps of fruit tightly on spurs. Fruit size small to medium, averaging 2”-2½”. Round-oblate, regular plan view, sometimes standing slightly oblique. Uniform, ghostly porcelain color, nearly pure white. Sizable russet patch from stemwell running to the shoulder of the fruit. Flesh dense, fine grained, and breaking. Flavor bittersharp. Mellow, subdued acid prevails at front. Long, mild gripping tannin plays in at mid palate, with aromatics of pine. Ripens mid to late September in its state of origin. Stores very well, but tannins dissipate in very long storage. A versatile apple of great quality for cider, especially when fresh, or for fresh eating after sweating.
Cave Hill Pearmain – An roadside apple from Leverett, Massachusetts. Likely to be a seedling of Roxbury Russet. Fruit small to medium size, 3″ average. Small, spindly mother tree is poking out at a street corner across from a field with the remnants of a small homestead orchard in it. Semi-tip bearing tendency Green ground coat with thin burgundy streaks and a hazy russet coating. Skin is thick and textured, flesh hard and crisp, pretty juicy. Flavor is sweet with a distinct smell of roses. Brix reaches 16 most years. Very good storage for all-purpose use. Ripens mid-October.
Acorn Pippin – A prolific seedling crabapple from Heath, Massachusetts. Mother tree sprang up behind a church. The tree has a strange shape, consisting mostly of healthy vigorous upright branching that has been wrenched over to lateral angles because of excessive cropweight. Lots of twists and turns in older wood for this reason. Cluster bearing spur-type. Fruit is small and oblong/conic. 1.5″ average. Yellow ground with reddish-orange blush, medium long stem. Very pretty looking apple. Named for its likeness to the shape of an acorn. Annual bearing, capable of producing ungodly amounts of fruit. Flesh is exceptionally crisp, subacid with medium astringency, very juicy. A complex flavor profile that sort of walks a thin line between bittersweet and bittersharp. Great for use in cider, or as a wildlife crab. Ripens mid-October, and drops off the tree when shaken.
Wicksgrandson – A seedling apple from Sullivan, NH. Mother tree is growing on the edge of the high tension electrical cut. It is a relatively old seedling finding refuge among a thick grove of autumn olive and multiflora rose. Spur type tree with a somewhat pendant habit. Fruit is small, 2-2.5″ crabs, round-oblate, irregular profile. Fire engine red over yellow ground, neat russet splash in the stem cavity. Stem is short and fruit clump up on spurs. Heavy bearing tendency on the mother tree. Fruit is a powerful bittersharp. Acid is all pie cherries, with strong astringency. Very powerful bittersharp. Brix at 19 in the first season measured. Ripens mid to late October, drops off the tree easily when shaken.