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Apples Originating in Maine

  Browse by Photograph | Browse by Name | Demonstration Orchards

by John Bunker - Fedco Trees
Maine 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 plant.

It 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.

If you 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 state.

A 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.

Below are 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!

Summmer Sweet Winekist Moses Wood

 Left to right:  Summer Sweet - Winekist - Moses Wood

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