|The Roxbury Russet, the oldest apple cultivar in the US|
In the course of my reading for fun and profit this last month I've stumbled upon more than a few articles and books of interest. For instance, I've been hot on the trail of John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed) for MAB and stumbled upon Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of World (2001). I used to feel badly when I discovered a great, topical book a decade or more after its publication, but I understand better now the impossibility of just trying to keep up. Botany is divided into four chapters--apples, tulips, pot and potatoes--and my particular interest was in the first, where Pollan traces the path of Chapman through the Midwest. I grew up with two apple trees in our backyard and probably have had apples in our home refrigerator every day of my life, but this I did not know: apple seeds have an extreme case of botanical variability, or heterozygosity. That means you can be virtually certain that if you plant the seed of, say, a Gala apple, you will get almost any variety of apple except a Gala. Each seed has the genetic material of all the apple varieties ever grown, and then some. If you want a Gala apple you have to graft. The other thing I learned from Pollan is that the Roxbury Russet is the oldest apple cultivar grown in the United States. So, liking all things historical and many things apple--and to my knowledge never having eaten one--that goes on my fall bucket list.