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Archive for September, 2012

Two lost Southern apples of the greatest historical importance in America are the Taliaferro (or Robinson) and the Gloucester White (or White Gloucester), which were planted and held in the highest esteem, respectively, by Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, both for cider and for other purposes. Quite a few people in the States have looked for these apples, so far to no avail. In the case of the Taliaferro, the search is additionally hampered by conflicting descriptions.

I have found listings for both the Taliaferro apple and the Gloucester White in the Royal Horticultural Society’s list of trees in its collection at Chiswick in 1864, but these are not among the varieties now in the National Fruit Collection. From the  history of the NFC, it appears most likely that these varieties no longer exist in England. Nevertheless, it would be helpful to know more historical details, such as when and from whom they came into the collection at Chiswick, when and how they may have disappeared, whether there is a chance that anyone in England might still have them, and whether any drawings, descriptions, or other records might still exist relating in any way to these particular apples.

I would be most grateful for any assistance or suggestions that anyone would be willing to provide.

Susan Walker

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I am  new to Georgia (Lilburn –north east of Atlanta) and I am working on the Mayor’s committee to start a Community Garden.

I need help gathering information on the best varieties of fruit trees, especially peaches, apples (although I do intend to plant Granny Smith), and any others that would grow well, taste good and are not prone to problems; and raspberries, grapes. I want to plant dwarf or semi-dwarf to fit well on the site and provide easier access to the community.

Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Pat Kennedy

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Name that Apple!

Page from the fruitid.com web site

Page from fruitid.com web site

The question on many people’s minds this time of year is ‘What is the name of my apple?’  The label on the tree is lost, or they may have moved into a new home and want to know which varieties are growing the garden, or at last decided it was time to find out  the names of the apples trees that for years have proved so rewarding. Answering their question, however, can be challenging, but now there is a web site to help you: www.fruitid.com

This is the brain-child of members of the East of England Apple and Orchard Project identification team and over the past five years or so has grown into a mighty resource, detailing 566 varieties and ongoing.

The process of fruit identification relies on the fact that apples and other fruits have a number of constant features, but which vary slightly between varieties. These differences allow one to be distinguished from another. The features include, firstly, the season of use, size, shape and appearance – skin colour, presence of russet and so on. Then at a more detailed level the nature of the eye and its surrounding basin and the stalk and the cavity in which it sits. The transverse and horizontal sections through the fruit give further information and, of course, the taste. Whether it is culinary or dessert quality is an important pointer that will help narrow down the search. Many eating apples have characteristic flavours that immediately give a clue, such as the taste of aniseed in Ellison’s Orange.

A number of varieties have other distinctive features that any one experienced in fruit identification will recognise, such as the flat-round shape of Queen, colour of Gascoyne’s Scarlet and cross section of Lane’s Prince Albert. But it takes years of practice to master the technique of quickly naming a variety and we all need reference works and notes to guide us. The fruitid.com web site brings all the facts together in its data base, furnishing an invaluable key, that is an education itself in the art of fruit identification. Each step in the search is illustrated with high quality images of the fruits to give an overall picture, plus details of the eye and stalk  and sections through the fruit. Also included are leaves and blossom which again are valuable characters, as are the habit of the tree, its susceptibility to disease and its cropping.

Descriptions of the fruit’s taste are taken from The New Book of Apples. Each variety’s history and background is provided with references to the sources in which it was first and subsequently described. Links to catalogues give information on the varieties popular at a particular time, hence one that might have been  chosen when an orchard was first planted in a particular area and assist in the overall detective work. Everything that might be relevant to naming an unknown apple is being included making fruitid.com an exceptional resource.

As we head into the Autumn and the number of apple events escalates to peak around Apple Day on 21 October, hundreds of samples are brought along for identification to these celebrations, shows and exhibitions. Many prove hard to pin down, but fruitID can help. Its authors are keen to give it a thorough test run in 2012. Feedback has been welcomed from the commencement with a regiment of expert helpers, now it is time to get a much wider response. Try it out first on an apple whose name you know and gain experience on how to make the best possible use of this aid to the tricky task of apple identification, then move on to the mystery apple.

Joan Morgan

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