by Janet I. Martineau
|Jacklynn Earley with antique apples and granddaughters|
Ahh...fall is here and there is nothing like crunching into a crisp and freshly picked Alexander, Dean Watt Scion, Winter Banana, Cox Orange Pippin, Gravensteins, Pearmains, Transparents, Sheepnoses, Reinettes, Codlings or Greenings.
Those are just a few of the antique or heirloom apples Jacklynn Earley will discuss -- and show, with sampling allowed -- during her Wednesday, Oct. 5, Nurturing Nature series program on “Antique Apples.”
Her presentation begins at 7 p.m. at the Green Point Environmental Learning Center, 3010 Maple, and concludes with the serving of apple-oriented goodies.
Earley, a Midland resident whose nickname is Garden Grannie, got interested in old-time apples four years ago when her brother and sister-in-law bought an antique apple farm and orchard in Wheeler.
“I would drop by to see what was being restored and just fell in love with the diversity and history of apples. Each day in the orchard a different apple will ripen and it becomes my favorite, till the next day when I eat a new apple.”
There are, out there in the world, thousands of old-time apples, but Earley has been exposed to only “1,200 or so” at the Eastman’s Antique Apple Orchard her relatives run.
“We consider antique/heirloom apples to be apples grown, developed and remembered but very hard to find or almost extinct. They are dated to the time prior to the ubiquitous used of the refrigerated boxcar. The theory behind this is that refrigerated boxcars brought about the development of fruit genotypes focused on surviving the rigors of travel, not focused on flavor. So an heirloom apple could date to well before the discovery of the New World.
“They also are the apples folks remember from their childhood when most had a tree or small orchard in their yard or nearby.”
And while known for their outstanding taste, she says, their looks are another matter. “They are not always what some consider attractive or beautiful.”
Earley quips that she will talk apples to anyone willing to listen and has done programs and apple tasting events at the family orchard as well as for garden clubs and herb societies.
Case in point, she continues, “the Roxbury Russet is the oldest apple variety of North American origin and was discovered and propagated in Roxbury, Mass., about 1640. Roxbury Russet is still regarded as a fine dessert apple, although no longer found on the commercial markets.
“And Newtown Pippen from 1759 is the best known colonial apple in North America; the known favorite of Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.”
Admission to “Antique Apples” is free to members of the Friends of the Shiawassee National Refuge and $2 to non-members. Support for the series is provided by the Jury Foundation, the Martineau Family Foundation and the Saginaw Branch of the Woman’s National Farm & Garden Association.