“I have never seen a reason why every farmer should not have a sugar orchard, as well as an apple orchard.” Thomas Jefferson, July 15, 1808
Since we started growing food on my parents’ land, we’ve kicked ourselves for not planting more permanent sources of food. Each year, our garden at the farm has been annuals, until last year when we planted asparagus and strawberries. We took it a step further this year and ordered some apple trees.
Google helped me find Siloam Orchards in Uxbridge, Ontario. They have Canada’s largest selection of heirloom apple trees. Eric and Sharon who operate the orchard are the apple equivalent to what our friend Linda from Tree & Twig Heirloom farm is doing for tomatoes.
I got in touch with Siloam looking for Tolman Sweet apples. They’re an old variety that has always been my dad’s favourite, and are increasingly hard to find. I thought it’d be a good idea to get him a couple trees for his birthday. They’re little yellowish-green apples with a very unique taste that are good for baking and cider, or how we always used them–eating! I also picked up a variety called Seek-No-Further upon their suggestion for another eating apple.
Looking for a couple (hard) cider varieties they suggested a pairing of Bilodeau and Douce de Charlevoix. The descriptions at the very bottom of their immense apple listing page sound amazing, and I can’t wait to press and taste them… in a few years.
Apples are not true to type when you propagate them from seed. Their tendency is to go sour, so it’s a gamble that takes a heck of a long time to simply find out if it pays off or not… up to a decade, and it generally doesn’t end up tasty.
So when a good variety is discovered, it is “preserved” by taking cuttings and grafting them onto hardy rootstock. If you look at the image at the top of the post, you can see a bud grafted into the side of a rootstock. Once the bud is well established, the rootstock is trimmed above the bud that becomes the “new” tree.
If you have property that you don’t see leaving any time soon, or have a family property, think about growing something that generations can enjoy and that generations have already enjoyed. Buy the tree that Thomas Jefferson raved about (Hewes Crab). The three to four years it takes for one of Siloam’s trees to bear fruit seems like a long time, but that it’ll pass before you know it.