Brighton & Hove Albion

‘It is a thrill to rediscover them’: meet the apple hunter who saves misplaced varieties

‘It’s Exciting To Rediscover’: Meet The Apple Hunter Who Saves Lost Varieties – Positive News

Tom Brown has spent most of his retirement tracking down near-extinct apple varieties that once thrived in the Appalachian Mountains, United States

Tom Brown has spent most of his retirement tracking down near-extinct apple varieties that once thrived in the Appalachian Mountains, United States

There is no bad apple in Tom Brown’s book, only those that are lost.

The 79-year-old from Clemmons in the southeastern US state of North Carolina has spent the roughly 20 years of his retirement tracking down nearly extinct apple varieties that once thrived in the Appalachian Mountains.

He brings them back from oblivion in his own orchards and breathes new life into apple heirlooms with the evocative names found in a Tolkien novel: Brushy Mountain Limbertwig, Mule Face and Tucker’s Everstanding are just some of the fruits of his remarkable work.

0% doom and darkness
By reading Positive News magazine, you can stay up to date on the main stories of what is going on in the world without the risk of bad news ruining your mood. 100% uplifting.
Subscribe now

“A so-called expert said I should only try to find the really great strains,” he told Positive News. “But they are all equally important to me. Years ago they all had their uses – be it for cider, for canning or processing jelly or as animal feed. It’s exciting to rediscover them and to know that I’m doing something unique. “

Brown’s search began in 1998 after stumbling upon a stall with old apples at a farmers market. He admired their unique tastes and textures and set out to research “lost” apples.

The Appalachia cultural region stretched from southern New York State to northern Alabama and was home to around 14,000 orchards at the beginning of the last century. However, only about 100 different types of commercial orchards grew in the United States in the late 1990s.

It’s fun and it keeps me young. I am happy as a lark

“I thought it would be nice if I found an apple that no one has tried in a hundred years,” said Brown.

Over the next two decades, he found not one, but more than 1,200, who often woke up at 2 a.m. for a six-hour drive to – say – Virginia before spending the day knocking on doors and talking to locals, while he was looking for forgotten orchards or even individual trees hidden on remote mountain slopes.

Brown’s detective work has led him to study old orchards, study newsletters from fruit growers’ associations, and search orchard catalogs for descriptions of lost varieties.

“I didn’t always have to go that far,” he recalled with a smile, before describing how he discovered the “mother vein of apples” just two districts west of Clemmons. “Wilkes County had 300 varieties – just an hour’s drive away!

“People have told me that their fathers and grandfathers took pride in growing apples that were different from their neighbors,” Brown said. Image: Skylar-Jay.

“Talking to the locals, I found out why it was so productive: People told me how their fathers and grandfathers took pride in growing apples that were different from their neighbors. There were four apple trees on the lawn of one house, all of different varieties. A few houses down I found three trees, all different again. “

When rediscovering old varieties, Brown uses clippings that he grafts onto trees in his own orchard. His nursery sells rare varietal trees for just $ 15 (£ 11) and encourages customers to create a “mini orchard” in their own gardens.

Unfortunately, the passage of time makes Brown’s Odyssey a literal race against the clock. “Apple trees are not long-lived,” he said. “And the people who help me find them are usually over 80 or 90. A whole generation of them have died since I started. There are still some to be found, but it’s getting harder and harder. “

In the meantime he can no longer be stopped. “It’s fun and keeps me young,” he enthuses. “I am as happy as a lark.”

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are satisfied with it.OK

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button