Monday, March 30, 2015

Old Southern Apples

Since I've been delving into the southern apple world lately a lot of information has come to light. It's a shame that we southerners have, for the most part, lost a lot of our heritage in the food department.

"The modern fast paced urbanized South has moved so far from its agrarian past that large parts of its heritage have been virtually forgotten. Southerners delight in restoring old houses and urban neighborhoods, and many city dwellers buy old farms and restore the buildings for a weekend retreat. But our unique southern heritage is more than Victorian houses and heart-pine floors, mahogany furniture and Coin silver; it is also Bloody Butcher corn, Red Ripper peas, Ledmon watermelons, Greensboro peaches, upland cotton, Gold Dollar tobacco and James grapes. These are living threads that lead directly back to three hundred years of southern agrarian past." - L. Calhoun

By some estimates, the south had upwards of 16,000 apple varieties. Today there are maybe five varieties in the grocery store, all shipped in from Oregon, and completely useless for nearly any purpose.

Old Southern Apples is a book written by Lee Calhoun in 1982. It was re-issued in 2010. I just received a copy of it. I'm always amazed when I find out things that I didn't know. This book is truly an eye-opener.

Until lately I've always just assumed an apple was an apple, however that's not the case at all. Depending on the variety, apples have specific uses. Some apples are good for eating whole but most aren't. Some apples are perfect for baking because they hold up well and don't turn to mush in the oven. Some apples you wouldn't want to eat at all but make great hard ciders. Some apples are harder than baseballs and don't seem to be good for anything but become perfectly ripe just in time for Christmas dinner. They call these "keepers". Some apples were grown strictly to feed to livestock. There is also apple brandy, cider vinegar, and apple butter.

In the acknowledgements of Old Southern Apples, Lee thanks Tom Brown of North Carolina for his dedication to apple hunting. Many of the apples listed as extinct in the 1982 edition have been found in the latest edition thanks to Tom. His yearly newsletters alone are worth a visit to his website.

I recently bought 8 apple trees from Tom and I can't wait until summer to order some more from him.

I didn't specify which trees I wanted so I left it up to him. Here is what he sent me. Betcha never heard of these before;

Betsy Deaton
Camack's Sweet
Red June
Red Kane
Winter Banana
Magnum Bonum
Jelly Flower

If you start looking for them you'll find lots of websites about southern apples, here's a few:

Big Horse Creek

Century Farm Orchard

Urban Homestead

Vintage Virginia Apples

NY Times article on Lee

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


I took a picture of this sign that is in Publix today. I saw it a long time ago but never had my camera with me before.

Why are fruits and vegetables COATED with wax, resin, or shellac? (Shellac is made from a secretion that comes from the lac bug used for finishing furniture.)

The answer is, because they are trying to fool you. Their belief is that your food must be doctored for you to buy it.

The quality of the food is completely irrelevant. It only has to look good, it doesn't have to be nutritious.

Is it any wonder there is so much cancer today? Even the so-called "healthy" food is airbrushed with chemicals.

Don't eat this crap, just don't.

With the exception of avocados and citrus, everything listed on the sign can be grown in your own yard. It won't look like the stuff in the grocery store but it'll taste a hundred percent better and it won't give you cancer.

Sunday, March 15, 2015


Ison's bare root trees
Over the last couple of weeks a lot of the trees that I ordered in February have been arriving. I've dug many a hole lately. But I enjoy doing it. I used several nurseries that I haven't tried before. The first one was Ison's nursery in Georgia.

I received about eight  2 - 3' bareroot trees and they were all less than twelve dollars apiece. They were mostly plum trees.

It took most of the day to plant the trees and three elderberry bushes. I still have lots of raspberries to plant.

The entire shipment was as follows:

Crandall black currant
Red lake currant
John & Adams elderberry
White Imperial currant
Anne raspberry
Cumberland black raspberry
Dorma red raspberry
Heritage raspberry
Jewel black raspberry
Nantahala raspberry
Polana raspberry
Royalty purple raspberry
Redchief nectarine
Sundollar nectarine
Black ruby plum
Byron Gold plum
Ruby sweet plum
Stanley plum
Orange quince
Smyrna quince

They were out of a couple of things that I ordered and they refunded that portion. They were very easy to work with and the trees seemed very good. Cost $241.

I also ordered some trees from Hidden Springs Nursery in Tennessee. The trees they sent were all really small. I was expecting bigger trees after what Ison's sent. Here's what they sent me:

Apple - Arkansas Black, Black Limbertwig, Hubbardston Nonsuch, Paducah
Cornelian cherry - Bodacious
Gooseberry - Captivator, Sabine
Mayhaw - Big Red, Heavy
Quince - Cooke's Jumbo, Meech's Prolific

Tom Brown Apples

By far the best shipment of trees I got came from Tom Brown of North Carolina. Tom collects old southern apple varieties and preserves them. I sent Tom a message that I wanted some trees and that he could pick them out, the more obscure the better. He got back to me shortly and sent me eight southern varieties that I've never even heard of! They were all about three feet tall and really nice. He didn't even collect any money before he sent them. He told me to just mail him a check after they arrive!

Betsy Deaton, Fleming, Red Kane, Camack Sweet, Winter Banana, Magnum Bonum, Jellyflower and Red June were the ones he sent. I have to study up on them soon. $125

I also like the fact that these trees come from trees that were "rescued" more or less and were on the verge of being lost forever. Apples are not true to type with seeds, so each apple tree is a graft from another tree. Keeping these old southern varieties around is important because they are adapted to our weather whereas most apple trees you see for sale are northern varieties that aren't adapted to the heat we get and the apple quality suffers.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


It seems like every spring and fall all of the big box stores have lots of ornamental and fruit trees for sale that they've marked way up. A lot of times if you buy these trees you will find that they are root bound when you get them home or that they have some sort of disease or they're just poor quality to start with. I've had all of the above happen to me. That's why I stopped getting trees from those places. It's better to order trees from a reputable nursery or go there yourself if it's close enough.

The trees from a nursery will usually be bare root trees. The price will be much cheaper and the quality will be much better. There will also be many more varieties.


Raintree Nursery OR

One Green World OR

Hidden Springs Nursery TN

Ison's GA


Finch NC


Kuffel Creek CA

Tom Brown  NC - Tom Brown seeks out lost varieties of apples in the South and saves them. There are literally thousands!

Bulk Tree Seeds


Root Stock

Forrest Keeling

Lawyer Nursery


Eden Brothers

Bulk Fungi

Fungi Perfecti


Coe's Comfrey


Georgia Olive Farms

Huge List

Persimmons - There's a few more cultivars of American persimmons than I realized!




Sunday, March 1, 2015

Berm seeding

On the left is how it looked earlier in the week. A little snow fell. I guess everyone stayed at home.
It was nice weather today, so I took the opportunity to seed my swale berms, even though I'm rolling the dice a little.

There is rain in the forecast and I need to get the berms mulched over to prevent the compost from washing away.
A big bag of white clover just arrived this week so I made a mixture for the berm from the seeds I have on hand.

The mix contained white clover, two varieties of mustard, millet, parsnip, echinacea, chamomile, dill and cilantro.

After I seeded the berm I covered it with wheat straw which holds moisture very well. It is suppose to rain tonight and warm up a lot next week, into the sixties. I'm taking a risk seeding the berm now and having everything germinate and then lose it later with another bout of cold weather. However I've noticed that when I've sowed seeds at the wrong time they've just sat there and eventually germinated when the conditions were right.

The berms are mostly clay. I've tried planting them before but nothing has gotten very much traction, especially when they dry out. Hopefully the top dressing of mulch will get the process going this year.

I also put in around 30 or so comfrey cuttings that I received this week from Coe's comfrey. So I've probably got around a dozen put into the berm.