New Apples and Agriculture

This December a new apple will be available in stores according to a major announcement from Apple. No not that Apple, the real fruit apples. The big news is that after 20 years in development in Washington State a new apple variety has been introduced. The Cosmic Crisp (WA38 variety designation) is an intermixture of Honeycrisp and Enterprise varieties.

These apples are supposed to stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to a year. The price is more then double the cost of the other apple strains, selling for $5 a pound. Washington state farmers have planted 12 million trees in their orchards and invested $40 million in this apple.

Apple detectives: E.J. Brandt, a Vietnam veteran and historian along with David Benscoter, a retired FBI agent and former IRS criminal investigator have formed a nonprofit that tracks down lost apples. They started the nonprofit Lost Apple Project whose mission is to locate and retrieve lost apple varieties.

They race against time hunting down ancient heritage apple trees before they die and become lost forever. This project is daunting. Our continent has approximately 17,000 named varieties of domesticated apples with only 4000 known to have survived. The Homestead Act of 1862 offered 160 acres to settlers on the condition they work and improve the land.

Rugged pioneer families planted orchards with diverse varieties to get them through the long winter months. Varieties would need to ripen at different times, from early spring to early winter. These two apple detectives perused volumes of county land records, land deeds, and rural maps, and located and interviewed the descendants of original farmers.

Last year they located a singular scraggly 100 plus year old tree near the top of a steep hill in the Pacific Northwest and found the Arkansas Beauty, a variety long thought to be extinct. This is only one of thirteen long lost varieties that these two investigators discovered. Once the apple is identified, they take cuttings in a Ziploc bag and eventually plant them in the Temperate Orchard Conservancy in Oregon.

This conservatory is an Oregon nonprofit Corporation 501 founded in 2012, whose mission is to preserve the genetic diversity of trees in their vast orchard. Thanks to the donations from many generous collectors the TOC has grown to become the largest repository of apple tree varieties in the USA. The TOC has donated seeds to the Global Seed Vault.

This vault was established and funded by the Norwegian government and is located 1300 kilometers beyond the Arctic Circle. It contains over 1 million seed samples under the permafrost in the hope of saving the one resource we cannot live without; our food seeds. Go online and watch the movie “Seeds of Time” a film from Academy Award nominated director Sandy McLeod to better understand this amazing project.

I actually like apples and have enjoyed the different varieties including the newer Honeycrisp variety. After all, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.
This new and improved $5 a pound variation would be a very expensive apple pie which should be great with the leftover turkey while watching the Seeds of Time.

About the Author: Jake Tewel holds a Masters Degree from YU. He has been a wine seller, caterer and a million miler for the past 15 years. Jake is a best friend, great neighbor, your go to travel person, father, grandfather and loving husband. He is now focusing his efforts on heart healthy nutrition, exercise and travel.

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