A number of the apples sampled at our 77 variety apple tasting in 2018 would be unfamiliar even to knowledgeable apple growers. These are local discoveries and novel varieties from nearby breeding projects, many of which exist only as a single tree each. All of these apples have distinguished themselves in one way or another over their years of existence, enough so to earn a place at our tasting tables, where several of them have performed quite well among the stiff competition. Freddy Menge, grower of a preponderance of the apples at our tasting, has offered some comments on these novel apples which I thought were worthy of pulling aside and illustrating on their own. —Andy Moskowitz
Some of the apples in the tasting will be unfamiliar to most people. There are some very obscure heirloom types, also some seedling rootstocks rescued from abandoned orchards because of their exceptional flavor. Some of the apples are the product of one or another local breeding project. In these comments, I will go down the list and provide what information I can on the rescued and experimental types.
First apples in question are the numbered selections from Jim Rider’s breeding program: C-43-10, A-1-45, C-20-176, C-7-211, C-19-148.
[Number in parentheses indicates vote tally at our 2018 tasting.]
These are all, I believe Pink Pearl seedlings, crossed with various commercial cultivars, Braeburn, Cameo, and others. Jim has been growing out these and thousands of other seedlings for a decade and a half; the A-1-45 is from his first lot of 50 or 100 trees, and is amazingly good. It’s similar looking to Pink Pearl, but larger, prettier, longer-keeping, sweeter, less prone to cosmetic defects like stem-end cracking, and a bit later ripening. The other numbered apples are very good as well. They were ripe much earlier in the season, and so were held a month or so in refrigeration. This put them at slightly past peak, but still so good, they made quite a commotion at the tasting. C-20-176 was quite soft, but so good, can’t wait to taste this one when it’s fresh.
‘Pineapple Crunch’ apple
Pineapple Crunch is a Rubaiyat seedling, open-pollinated, very crisp and intense, aromatic sweet-tart flavor. Productive, compact tree. Reject from my amateurish breeding project, not pink-fleshed, but very tasty.
Stardust is a seedling found in an old pippin orchard on Quarry road in Aromas in 2009. A stunted little thing, we found it peeking out from under an invading oak tree. It was covered with tiny crab-apple sized fruit that looked and tasted a bit like Spitzenberg. On a well-tended tree it produces large handsome 5-pointed, conical, slightly ribbed fruit, dark red in color and speckled with prominent gold lenticels, suggestive of Bellflower, one of it’s probable parents. Great, rich, celestial flavor, crisp texture, very good keeper.
‘Rachel’s Mystery’ apple
Rachel’s Mystery is an apple we picked up at a scion exchange 25 years ago, but lost the tag. When my daughter was 3, it grew on a low branch that was the only one she could reach, hence the name. It is either Empire, or something very similar.
[Having placed quite well over our last years of tastings, and always ahead of Empire, Rachel’s Mystery may prove that a solid name and story can turn a good cultivar into a remarkable and highly desirable cultivar. —AM]
‘Pineapple Candy’ apple
Pineapple Candy is seedling of Wickson Crab, which seems to be a very good parent if conferring good flavor to its offspring qualifies it. No idea what the pollen parent is, but flavor is intense sweet tart, and aromatic.
Cornerstone is a seedling of Grenadine, open-pollinated/accidental cross with Yellow Bellflower, which it resembles. Flavor is very good, sweet and high.
Pinwheel is a seedling of Allen’s Everlasting, crossed perhaps with Wickson Crab. Looks like Allen’s, but brighter and redder and smaller. Late ripening, good keeper.
These just being just some of the interesting and tasty new apple varieties coming out of Jim’s and Freddy’s orchards, I hope we’ll be able to publish photos and descriptions of others in the future. Some of these cultivars remain proprietary or in evaluation, and some have already been preliminary released via CRFG scion exchange circuits. Join the CRFG to be a part of our community of experimental growers and flavor aficionados. —AM
Freddy Menge grows select high-flavor fruit varieties at his orchard in Larkin Valley, Santa Cruz, is one half of the family run Epicenter Avocado Nursery, and has served as Chairman and other roles for MBCRFG.