has a long tradition of apple growing. European immigrants planted
thousands of orchards in Maine during the two hundred years following
their arrival, first with seeds brought from Europe, Canada and southern
New England, and later with seeds from the Maine trees themselves.
Apple seeds were readily available, easy to transport and easy to
did not matter to the early Maine farmers that seedling apple trees
never grow to be identical to the parent tree and only occasionally
produce high quality fruit. They used most of their apples for animal
food, cider, and vinegar while reserving only a small number for
cooking and fresh eating.
want to replicate a particular variety, say a McIntosh, you must graft
a short piece of a one year old McIntosh twig, called a scion, onto
another tree called a rootstock. Although some early farmers did know
how to graft trees, grafters were uncommon and commercial nurseries
were rare. It was not until after the civil war that Maine farmers
began to plant many grafted trees as we do today. Because of the vast
number of seedlings that were planted, however, many excellent locally
adapted apples came into being simply by chance. The noteworthy were
named. When a grafter was available, these named varieties were spread
around the neighborhood, county, state, and, in some cases, around
the world. In this way, about 200 varieties originated within the
hodgepodge of named varieties were also imported into the state
from other parts of New England, Canada and beyond. Some of these
imports literally could not survive Maine's harsh winters while
other simply did not produce fruit of any quality here in the north.
Some did do quite well, and they and their progeny became important
additions to our pomological heritage.
some of the 30 or so Maine varieties that still remain. Most of
the others are now gone. But the search goes on. These apples and
others we've discovered will all be planted in the Maine Heritage
Orchard in Unity, Maine at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners
farm. Some of these varieties may be of value to the orchardists
of today. Others will be of interest to home-owners. Others are
novelties. All are part of the pomological heritage of Maine. We
can learn a great deal about our ancestors by growing their trees
and eating the fruit they selected, named and handed down to us.
If you know of any Maine varieties we might be interested in saving,
please let us know. We follow all leads!
Left to right:
Summer Sweet - Winekist - Moses Wood