Sunday, November 20, 2011

Old Southern apples

Malus domestica
The Slow Food Clemson University group hosted a delightful heirloom apple celebration this afternoon, marking the planting of a collection of 5 varieties of South Carolina heirloom apples, among them, Red June, an Edisto Island selection (read coastal) that ripens early. 

The whips came from Century Farm Orchards, a NC nursery focused on heirloom apples.

The event was at the Student Organic Farm, where 10 trees are planted.  Ten more are slated for the upper part of the Heirloom Garden at the South Carolina Botanical Garden.

Apples are a venerable fruit, having traveled from their native western Asian homeland (where larger and tastier fruits were selected - through evolutionary time - by Asian black bears) along trade routes, and then taken with settlers throughout the Roman Empire and beyond.

Arriving in colonial America, apples were planted from seed, but around 1800, grafted varieties became much more popular. 

It was fitting that the author of Old Southern Apples, Creighton Lee Calhoun, had selected the apples to plant, and was there this afternoon to provide his thoughts.  He's one of the last descendants of the family that founded Clemson University through the gift of Fort Hill, a 19th century plantation, to the State of South Carolina.

The trees that were planted are semi-dwarf and will reach 15-18 feet tall. 

In the Piedmont, larger trees fair better in our summer droughts, apparently, and will do better in the long term than the smaller dwarf varieties popular in backyard gardens.

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