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Random Thoughts: The Lost Apple Project – Part 1


April 10, 2020

Recently, we looked at the life’s work of Henderson Luelling who is primarily responsible for the Pacific Northwest being the leading apple-growing region of the United States today.

But apples grow just about everywhere in this country. More than half of the states, in fact, have a commercial apple industry. And why not?

Apples are probably the most popular fruit in the entire world. Have you ever known anyone who didn’t like them? The likely answer is no.

And apples come in all kinds of varieties – sour and sweet; crisp and mushy and everything in between; red, yellow, green, and multi-colored. Some are touted as being ideal for baking while others are more suitable for eating raw.

Apple lovers are always experimenting to produce new hybrid varieties. The possibilities are, apparently, endless. At one time, as many as 17,000 apple varieties grew in the United States alone!

Today, however, the number is down to about 4,000 kinds, only a tiny percentage of which ever find their way into grocery stores or fruit stands. Many others became extinct for one reason or another.

This has sparked an interest among apple aficionados in trying to track down some of the varieties that have been “lost” but which are, perhaps, not extinct after all.

In Washington state, researchers have launched what they call The Lost Apple Project. The enterprise is the brainchild of two retirees who decided that they would engage in the detective work needed to find a lone tree here and there that lives in someone’s back yard or pasture.

They send sample apples or cuttings from branches to scientists who occasionally certify that, indeed, a variety that has long been thought to be “lost” has been found.

The leaders of The Lost Apple Project then use the process of grafting to produce more trees to grow the rediscovered variety.

Thankfully, other people in other states have begun performing the same service for all of us apple lovers – as we will see next week in part 2 of this story.


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