Happy New Year, friends! After an amazing, abundant, challenging year of work and play in the world of apples, we have arrived at the helm of a new year, a new chance, a new go-round the sun. I resolve in 2018 to write more regularly, and to better document the work I do for orchards and wild apple trees so that my followers can be better served while reading about apples here at Gnarly Pippins. I hope that I can meet, work, and teach more of you this year, and I wish you all the best tidings.
★★★ FURTHER ALONG IN THIS POST YOU WILL FIND INFO ON THE GNARLY PIPPINS 2018 SCION WOOD ORDER FORM ★★★
I stumbled across this article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette by Sarah Roberston, and was taken by how topical it is to the conversation Gnarly Pippins frequently engages in. The article chronicles some hundreds of thousands of dollars in state-awarded grants to several farms in western Massachusetts, one of which is Phoenix Fruit Farm, an orchard primarily planted in apples. The grants will allow the farmers to — here it is, description provided by the state government — “prevent or mitigate direct impacts on water and air quality and ensure efficient water use.” This is a very honorable cause that the state of Massachusetts has undertaken, but it seems like a huge claim! To prevent impacts on water and air quality due to the production of food in a changing climate is a herculean task. When it comes to orchard management, there are so many more variables at work than those which can be controlled in irrigation, weed control, pest management or any of the other inputs which go into the modern production of tree fruit. There are systemic changes which must be made in order to form a holistic approach in addressing changing climate.
Ellie Vaughan, owner of Phoenix Fruit Farm touches on the more fundamental changes necessary in the orchard regime: “warming temperatures will make the New England climate less hospitable to the region’s traditional apple orchards, but more suitable for southern fruits like the pears and peaches [she] plans to plant,” (Robertson 2017). Modifying orchard plantings to better fit the growing conditions is the first step in the right direction. We’re talking about cultural change here! Big things! However, I disagree with with Phoenix Farm in just how we may best be doing so. Of course some of the more sensitive stone fruits, such as nectarines, peaches, plums, cherries (and more) should be more successful in a warmer New England. Apple orchards can maintain their resiliency and reliability amidst climate instability if we eschew mundane and hackneyed apple varieties commonly grown (and commonly stifled by climatic irregularity) in place of place-based wild varieties that are found to have vigorous tree health, consistent bearing capability, disease resistance, drought tolerance, unique qualities, and usefulness. We must remember that global warming, though it follows a general trend of warming, doesn’t actually surface in that way as regularly as we experience general instability. And it is instability which tree fruit are really unable to manage the effects of.
Inputs for Wild vs. Cultivated Apples
In discussion about sustainable agriculture, I like to quantify crop suitably in terms of volume of inputs. Irrigation, pesticide, herbicide, fungicide, frost prevention, and labor are all inputs. In order to be an environmentally sustainable grower, it should be your mission to minimize any of these inputs that contribute to the pollution of air, or water in carbon emissions or chemical contact with soil and watersheds. So, with that in mind , the reframing of varietal selection is not only a conversation about selection of apples, it’s a matter of considering what inputs may be eliminated in growing crops in a changing climate; not by choice but by necessity imposed by mother nature!
It may seem like a pipedream to have varieties of tree that would seemingly be impervious to the needs that other modern varieties have demonstrated a need for. But it is perfectly clear when you consider that commercially popular tree fruit varieties were developed in conventional, high intensity, high-input growing systems which cannot be considered sustainable. Wild apples, on the other hand, grow in sheer total utter neglect. By virtue of natural selection, many of these genetic lines of apple trees have developed resistance or partial resistance to a number of common maladies or climatic stress. Any diehard apple forager or apple explorer will have stories about their trusty wild apple trees. Just refer to Ch. 5 of the Wild apple Forager’s guide for proof!
WILD APPLE SCION WOOD AVAILABLE FOR ORDER
An opportunity that I’m excited to provide is the ability to grow choice cultivars of wild apples that I have selected carefully over the past several seasons. This is the inaugural year that I’ll be offering scion wood, and I couldn’t be more excited. These trees have been selected for their high quality fruit, disease resistance, and ability to grow and thrive in compromising environments. I am recommending these trees as prime candidates to be grown with minimal- or no-intervention growing practices.
In this catalogue, you’ll find 16 seedling apples, 1 seedling pear, and a handful of cultivated heirloom apples. There are plenty of choices within, you’ll find fruits that are prime for all purposes: fresh use, baking, hard cider, savory cooking, sauce, and storage. Below is the clickable link, ordering instructions, pricing, and shipping information are contained therein. Enjoy.
It is imperative that we consider the impact of the food we are producing and consuming. There is always room for improvement! We can always make our food systems less demanding of resources. Wild apples in orchards big and small, commercial or personal, cider or culinary, make a tremendous difference. It is more important now than ever, when we are facing the (un)foreseen consequences of global warming in our food systems. Apples can make a big dent in how we tackle these issues! I hope that you consider a few sticks or bundles of wild apple scion wood for your 2018 Spring Grafting projects.
CIDER OF THE WEEK
This is a new item in my blog posts, but another regularity that I will continue in 2018. Each post, I will review a commercially available hard cider, ideally made with wild apples. Here’s #1: Shacksbury 2016 Pét Nat Farmhouse Cider
This cider is made from wild apples foraged in Vermont. This type of cider (pét nat = pétillant naturel) is one of the oldest ways of obtaining natural effervescence in bottle: the cider is bottled before initial fermentation has been completed, so the CO2 produced by yeast in the last bit of fermentation is trapped in solution. This cider was let to cellar for 1 year, and in that time, enough gas hadbuilt up that we had a bit of gushing action upon opening! Most would consider this a flaw but I am not one to judge! Especially after we’d tasted it. An aggressively sparkling cider, dark amber in hue, the aroma of ripe apples, a touch of the funk billowed up from the glass. Extra dry, but retaining floral character on top of a pleasant mineral backbone. This is my type of cider: one of the best I’ve tasted in a long while. I give it a 10/10! If you can find one of these bottles (which are becoming a bit rare!), it is worth every penny. Great with a meal, or solo, it stands out as a knockout cider. Coincidentally, one of Shacksbury’s main source of wild apples is Yoder Farm, Danby VT. They have appeared in prior blog posts in discussions about wild apple groves, and it makes this cider so much better to me, knowing the place where it comes from so well.
Be well apple folks. Until next time!
Matt // Gnarly Pippins