This past spring I planted an apple tree.
I expected it would be simple, even though I had a couple of goals I wanted to meet. I prefer tart green apples -- no mealy too-sweet red delicious types ... or worse, golden delicious. And I was hoping to get something that matured any time other than mid-October -- because that's when the guava trees go crazy and we're inundated with fruit. So, go to the nursery, find a green apple tree that matures at some other time, buy it and plant it. Right?
Turns out apples are complicated. Some apple varieties are triploid, which has to do with how many chromosomes need to group together to produce fruit. Diploid apple trees can produce fruit all by themselves ("self pollinating"), while triploid varieties need another apple tree nearby -- one that flowers at about the same time -- to pollinate them.
In addition, apparently you can't just take a seed out of an apple you ate and plant it. Well, you can, but it won't grow as well. Modern apple trees take branches from varieties that make good fruit, and graft them to rootstock from different, presumably hardier, varieties.
But as long as they're grafting anyway, that means it's just as easy to make a tree that has branches of several different types. Cool! And with any luck, they'll be types that can either pollinate each other, if they don't self-pollinate.
After failing to locate any pippins or other non-granny green apples, I ended up with a little tree with four branches: fuji, gala, granny smith (we'll just have to compete with the guavas) and ... golden delicious. Yes, it turns out that you can't buy a multi-variety apple tree that doesn't include golden delicious. My least favorite apple. I have no idea why they all include it. Maybe it's an exceptionally good pollinator for the varieties that actually taste good.
I planted the little tree, and amazingly, it flourished. The nice man at God's Little Acre said it would bear this year. I raised an eyebrow -- apples from a little tree that only came up to my waist? (Readers who haven't met me, just take my word that isn't very high.)
But a month or so after planting, the tree was a foot taller and covered with flowers. And a few weeks after that, there were three tiny apples growing: a fuji, a granny and a golden. How exciting!
Exciting for a few weeks -- until two of the three little grape-sized apples-to-be vanished. I still don't know if some bird mistook them for a berry, or a mischievous squirrel wanted something to bury. All I was left with was -- doesn't it just figure! - the golden delicious, steadily growing on its branch.
But wait. Apples all start out green, right? This one certainly was. What if I picked it before it turned yellow? Would that give me that early-maturing green apple I'd been hoping for? Maybe golden delicious wasn't so bad after all.
I eagerly watched over the next month or two as my single apple grew and matured. And last week, it finally started to change from a deep pippin-like hue to a more yellowish green.
So I picked it. And ate it for breakfast. It was excellent: tart and firm.
I hereby announce the invention of the "green delicious" apple variety. I definitely recommend it. I'm looking forward to next year's crop ... which I hope will be a bit larger than this year's.
[ 19:54 Aug 18, 2011 More nature | permalink to this entry | ]