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September 14, 2011

Soup to Nuts: Maine flexes
its (apple) core values

Apple season, it's here, and we have bushels of varieties from which to pick, including many that go way (way!) back.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Marjorie Gallant of South Portland picks apples at Terison Apple Orchard in Cumberland.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

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Connor Terison, 15, helps a customer hit a high spot.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

Orchards enjoying a sweet harvest

Last year was a bad year for Annette and Phil Terison, owners of Terison Apple Orchard in Cumberland.

First, there was frost. Then, in August and early September, "it was so hot that the macs were just dropping off the trees," recalled Annette Terison.

This year is another story. Despite concerns about Hurricane Irene, Terison calls the apple crop at her family's 35-acre orchard "very good." The Terisons grow mostly Macintoshes and Cortlands.

"The warm weather in the summer, with the rain, definitely helps," she said. "Right now our apples are just saying 'thank you' for all this rain, because they're going to get really big." She was worried about hurricane damage, but that never materialized.

Renae Moran, a pomologist and educator with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, says damage from Irene was mostly from wind blowing apples off trees. "Overall, I think we lost 10 percent of the fruit from this," she said. "Some people lost trees from strong winds, but not many."

Most Maine orchards have a large apple crop that is ripening on schedule, Moran said, and most farmstands and orchards are now open. Summer apples have mostly gone by, but Macintosh and Honeycrisp are on deck and ready for picking.

This has been a good year for peaches as well, thanks to the mild winter, and European plums (prune and gage plums) are also in season.


The "apple whisperer" speaks

LEARN MORE about heirloom apples at one of John Bunker's autumn appearances:

FREEPORT, Oct. 2, orchard stroll and discussion at 1 p.m. during Pettengill Farm Day. $5/donation adults; $2/donation children.

ELLSWORTH, Oct. 7-8, speaking and identifying apples at the Downeast Heirloom Apple Festival.

BROOKS, 6 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 11, speaking at 2nd Tuesday potluck at the Newforest Institute, 66 Monroe Highway

SEARSMONT, 1:30 p.m. Oct. 12 at Searsmont Historical Society, 37 Main St. S.

NOBLEBORO, 7 p.m. Oct. 14 at Nobleboro Historical Center, 198 Center St. (Old Route 1). There is no address on the building; it's an 1818 schoolhouse located just in front of Nobleboro Central School.

Sometimes, "new" old varieties simply land on Bunker's doorstep. On the day we spoke last week, he had already taken four or five calls from people who either want to send him fruit to identify or want him to come search their orchard. Another group of people just showed up in their car that day with a bag of five or six varieties to give to the apple whisperer. And apples show up in Bunker's mail, unsolicited, all the time.

Bunker tells people that, when they're searching for old trees in an orchard, look for "the oldest of the old." These are the trees that anyone, even someone who doesn't know an apple from an oak tree, would take one look at and recognize that it's really old. It also helps if the tree is hollow, because they tend to hollow out ovnly after they've been alive for 100 years or so.

Size? When it comes to apple trees, that doesn't really matter. Bunker saw two apples trees in Bremen last week that were both 150 to 200 years old. One was small, the other was large. They were both still producing fruit.

"The big ones, it's sometimes a clue that it's an old tree," Bunker said. "But some old trees are surprisingly small, because big original parts of it have fallen off and are long gone – so long gone that you can't even really see the remnants, and what's up now is maybe even a branch of the original that has sort of turned into a trunk."


For some varieties, Bunker has names but no fruit. For others, he has the fruit in hand but no name for it.

If someone comes to him and says they have a Peabody or Red Luxury or Hurlbut apple tree on their property, "then I think to myself, this is probably somebody I need to listen to, because they're not making up these names," Bunker said. "These are all classic names of rare varieties."

Bunker did eventually find the Marlboro, named after a part of Lemoine, and if the tree is bearing fruit, he plans to bring some to the Common Ground Country Fair next weekend for the apple tasting. He also found the Fletcher Sweet, which is named for a part of Lincolnville called Fletchertown.

"It exists now," Bunker said, "but all it is is a massive grove of sugar maples and long, long, long vacant cellar holes at the base of what was once called Fletcher Mountain, which is now called Moody Mountain, which is right in between Searsmont and Lincolnville."

This fall, Bunker is looking for a variety called Bourassa that originated either in Maine or Canada and was grown down the coast.

"Last year, a woman from Downeast brought me a bunch of different apples from one old farm, but she didn't keep track of which apples came from which tree," Bunker said. "And one of them, I'm virtually positive, is Bourassa, but I don't know which one. When I see the fruit on the trees, I'll know which one it is."

Interested in tasting some of these heirloom apples? For the past couple of years, Bunker has run an apple CSA, but it is sold out this year.

"I think orchards should do CSAs," Bunker said, "because it gives the farmer the confidence to be a little more courageous than they might be otherwise to plant things that are different, because they know they're going to sell them."

The Common Ground fair tastings will be held at the Fedco booth on Sept. 23-24. Bunker also suggests coming to Great Maine Apple Day on Oct. 23 in Unity, where there will be about 100 varieties of apples for people to taste.

The Fedco catalog also publishes a list of orchards with interesting collections where people can go and buy some of the rarer varieties.

"What I recommend that people do who don't have their own little orchard is to find a place and visit it regularly," Bunker said. "See what new variety is coming out sometime in the next couple of weeks, and then go back once a week, or once every two weeks or something, and see what else is there."

Who knows what you'll find?

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: Goad

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Additional Photos

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Angela Delorme of Auburn picks a winner at Terison Apple Orchard in Cumberland.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer


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