“However, let us add. That where nothing is more facile then to raise new kinds of Apples (in infinitum) from Kernels : Yet in that Apple-Country (so much addicted to Orchards’) we could never encounter more then two or three persons that did believe it : But in other places we meet with many that, on the other side, repute Wildings, or (as they call them) Kernel-fruit, at all adventure, and without choice, to be the very best of Cider-fruit , and to make the most noble Liquor. So much does the common judgment differ in several Countries, though at no considerable distance, even in matters of visible Fact, and epidemical experience.“
John Evelyn, Sylva, or A Discourse of Forest Trees, Annexed Pomona, 1664 edition
I recently started reading Uncultivated: Wild Apples, Real Cider, and the Complicated Art of Making a Living by Andy Brennan, a cider-maker from the U.S. who uses mainly wilding (i.e. self-seeded, rather than non-cultivar) apples to make his Aaron Burr cider.
I have to admit I’ve only read the first section so far, on how he established his wilding orchard, and haven’t tackled the cider-making or making-a-living parts, as those aren’t areas I have a direct interest in just yet. But the orcharding section is rather fascinating.
Andy explains how he came to realise that the land he’d bought in up-state New York on which to fulfil his dream of establishing an orchard turned out to be not at all suitable for growing nursery-raised trees. Yet the local wilding trees were thriving, and fruiting, an their fruit could be made into ciders of great complexity and flavour.
So Andy developed a regular habit of saving the seeds of the fruit he harvested and sowing them in great swathes, then simply seeing which ones survived and thrived. Then, if they produced apples that made good cider, he transferred them to his orchard plots and grew them on from there.
Not so facile after all, eh, Mr Evelyn?