Login
"The history of every Nation is eventually written in the way in which it cares for its soil."
- Franklin D Roosevelt. Signing the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act.
  You are here:  Home Common Ground Education CenterOrchardsMaine Heritage OrchardApple Varieties   
 Apple Varieties in the Maine Heritage Orchard Minimize

The current Maine Heritage Apple Orchard is located on approximately 1/2 acre at MOFGA's Common Ground Education Center in Unity, Maine. The orchard is comprised entirely of apple varieties that originated in Maine. A few of the varieties planted here are known outside our state, but most are quite rare. In some cases, there are no known mature specimens left. We planted the first trees in 2001. We add new varieties each year as we make more discoveries. See details about each variety below.

MOFGA, with help from Fedco, several historical societies, The Maine Pomological Society, The University of Maine Cooperative Extension, The Maine Tree Crop Alliance, and countless individuals have been working together to locate and save these rare apples. When a variety is found and positively identified, a specimen is grafted and then planted in the orchard. We graft all varieties onto standard sized seedling rootstocks to insure that these trees will be producing apples for generations to come.

Apples have played key role Maine life for 400 years. Not so long ago nearly everyone in Maine lived on farms and every farm in every county had an apple orchard. Apples were the perfect fruit for Maine. By planting the right assortment, a family could have fruit beginning in early August and extending until the next July. Apples were used for livestock feed, cider, vinegar and dozens of different tarts and pies and sauces and chutneys and breads. Even molasses was made from apples.

Hundreds of different apple varieties were grown in Maine, most of which were brought in from other states. About 150 varieties however originated here and there on Maine farms. These were locally adapted favorites that often remained unknown beyond a few miles. Tracking down these apples can give us a tremendous appreciation of our past. It puts us in touch with older people who are the holders of vast amounts of information about our heritage. Local varieties have ties to the Revolution, the formation of communities, ethnic movements, the development of the railroads, the ice harvesting, the canneries and evaporators, the cider mills and more. We create a vivid picture of the history of the state simply by following the stories behind the apples.

The barns are largely gone, and the houses have fallen into the cellar holes. The tracks of the narrow gauge railroads have been scrapped. The schooners no longer move freight around the world, but here and there around the state, the ancient apple trees remain. These are the same trees from which our great grand parents ate. Many of these apples have unique flavors; some show disease or insect resistance; some are excellent in cider or sauce or pie. All have an interesting story behind them, and all are part of our heritage. When we eat one of these apples, we taste the very same fruit that others tasted centuries before us. Unlike an antique piece of furniture or a photograph or a tool, these form a living link with our past. When we graft our own trees with scions from those trees we maintain that link.

Tracking down these old Maine apples is like a treasure hunt. Every year we locate two or three more. Others are out there growing and fruiting, patiently waiting for us to find them. We’d love to have your help. Check your own back yard. Ask your neighbors, knock on strangers' doors, write letters, follow leads, talk to your local grange or church group or historical society. Become a fruit explorer.

If you would like to support this project, please consider making a donation to MOFGA. Specify that your contribution go to the orchard. If you know of rare apples, or if you know of someone who might be able to assist us, please
contact MOFGA.


John Bunker
MOFGA Board Member and Chair of MOFGA's Orchard Committee
john.p.bunker@gmail.com

Variety Descriptions

Benton Red.
Season.  Description.
 
Black Oxford.
Winter. Unknown parentage. Paris, Oxford County, Maine, about 1790. This outstanding apple, a favorite long ago around much of Maine, has been making a huge comeback in the last 20 years. Medium-sized round fruit, deep purple with a blackish bloom. I doubt if there was ever a more beautiful apple. A 200-year-old Black Oxford tree still grows in Hallowell, and still bears large crops. Excellent cooking, superb late cider. Best eating late December to March. Good cooking until early summer. Some insect and disease resistance. Becoming less rare every year! Blooms late. Zone 3-4.
Blake.
Fall. Unknown parentage. Westbrook, Cumberland County. A tart dessert and culinary variety. The medium-sized roundish-blocky fruit is an oddly opaque yellow scattered with gray russet dots and an occasional faint blush. The yellowish flesh is moderately juicy, tart, citrusy, crisp, dense and firm. Blake makes very good fresh eating and  a very good applesauce. The skins dissolve as you cook the sauce. Bears a crop most years. Keeps until mid-January. Blooms midseason. Long ago rather wide spread around the state, but now all but disappeared. Zone 4.
Briggs Auburn.
Fall-Winter. Introduced by John C Briggs of Auburn, Maine, before 1850. We located a tree in Waldo three years ago. Large, round-oblate, clear yellow fruit with glowing greenish shading and a slight blush. All purpose apple with a bright, well-balanced flavor including hints of banana and blackberry and chewy skin. Superior fresh eating well into winter and top-notch cooking. Peel it and it’s highly aromatic.  Produces a thick, creamy, golden yellow, medium sweet apple sauce. No sugar necessary. Excellent in oatmeal. In a pie, the slices lose their shape but the crust won’t sink and pie doesn’t get watery. Medium-large annually bearing productive tree. Zone 4.
Brock.
Fall-Winter. ME 7-492 (Golden Delicious x McIntosh). Monmouth, ME, 1966. Bred in 1933 by the late Russ Bailey of the University of Maine and named for Henry Brock, the Alfred, ME orchardist who first popularized it. The very large conic fruit is yellow and mostly covered with a deep rusty red blush. The white to cream-colored fine-grained flesh is aromatic, sweet and crisp, the perfect combination of its two parents. Outstanding fresh eating and small core makes it excellent for pies and sauce. Fruits over a long period. Tree is vigorous and develops strong wide-angled branches, highly desireable for carrying fruit. Keeps till mid-winter. Zone 4.
Canadian Strawberry.
Fall. Unknown parentage. The only three known mature trees of Canadian Strawberry were planted about 100 years ago in Solon, ME. All three are still producing. No one knows their origin and no books refer the variety. Medium to large fruit is round to conic with a tendency to have a convex stem end. Color is a rich buttery yellow with some green beneath, overspread about 50% with a veil of stripes and spots of vibrant red-orange. The overall effect is red and yellow. The flesh is surprisingly juicy, distinctly tart and full-flavored. Ripens in early fall and keeps for about a month. Magnificently beautiful superb-tasting apple. Medium-sized upright tree. Zone 3-4
Cole’s Quince.
Summer. Unknown parentage. Discovered or raised by Captain Henry Cole, Cornish, ME, about 1840. Presumably called Quince because of what several old books call its “rich, high quince favor,” and also perhaps because of its shape and coloring. Large flattish-conical ribbed bright yellow fruit sometimes has a brownish blush. As the fruit ripens, the blush turns a glowing translucent rusty red through which numerous yellow spots appear like stars. It was a hit in our taste tests where the white flesh was described as “tangy” and “strongly aromatic” having “zesty zip” and “zing with plenty of sweetness.” Frequently recommended for cooking before it’s completely ripe. Medium-sized spreading tree. Blooms early. About as hardy as Baldwin. Zone 4.
Dudley.
Winter/Fall. Probably seedling of New Brunswicker. Castle Hill, ME, about 1877. Also called Dudley and North Star. Long assumed to be a Duchess seedling, we now believe it to be the progeny of the famous Canadian apple New Brunswicker. Orchardist John Wesley Dudley’s daughter Grace planted seeds from a New Brunswicker tree in Dudley’s orchard. The resulting seedling became the most widely planted new variety in the North at the turn of the last century and probably the most well-known Maine apple outside the state. Still grown commercially in Canada. Medium-sized roundish slightly flattened fruit is vibrant, shiny buttery yellow, overspread with radiating and striking red stripes and splashes. Firm but tender, juicy aromatic subacid flesh for fresh eating and cooking. In northern areas—where it reaches its prime—it also keeps into winter. Small vigorous spreading drooping tree begins bearing young, and crops annually. Extremely hardy. Blooms early. Zone 3.
Fletcher Sweet.
Early Fall. Unknown parentage. Jonathan Fletcher Farm, Lincolnville, ME 19th c. Discovered in the fall of 2002 with the help of Lincolnville historians Rosey Gerry and Diane O’Brian. Diana’s newspaper article led us to then 79 year old Lincolnville farmer Clarence Thurlow who took us to the tree, an ancient nearly bark-less hulk at the base of what was once Fletcher Mountain (now Moody Mountain) in what was long ago called ‘Fletcher Town’. According to Clarence, the fruit is juicy, oblate and light grass green. I returned the following winter and took a short piece of scionwood from the last remaining live branch. We got a few takes and have multiplied the tree from those first grafts. The old tree and Mr Thurlow both passed on this past winter. Zone 4.
 
Hayford.
Fall/Winter. Unknown parentage. Maysville, ME, c 1870. Also called Hartford Sweet or Hayford Sweet. A popular sweet apple prized long ago in northern Maine where there were very few decent winter apples. Never recommended farther south. Medium sized blocky, barrell-shaped and slightly conic fruit, colored an unusual light creamy opaque yellow, dappled with red-orange flecks, spots, short lines and a firely blood-red blush. Scattered with brown dots. Fine-grained, rich, sweet but rather dry flesh. You won’t need to worry about the sauce being thin, and no need to add sugar. It’s season is from October to January and perhaps even March in Aroostook county. Rediscovered in Presque Isle a 2001 after decades in obscurity with the help of a Fedco wanted poster and some exemplary detective work by Steve Miller. We rescued the tree just before it was cut down. The distinctive and rather stunning tree is quite large and bushy with uniquely small foliage. Zone 3.
Haynes Sweet.
Season. Description.
 
Judy.
Summer. Unknown parentage. Rome ME. MOFGA’s Executive Director, Russell Libby, discovered what may well be the world's last Judy tree while poking around at a yard sale in Belgrade a few years ago. It originated a few miles away on the north side of Great Pond in Rome sometime before 1873. This particular specimen was likely set out by Carroll Sawyer whose grandson Terry is the current owner of the property on which it stands. According to Terry, the tree was old when he was a kid and the soft red fruit is “earlier than any I know.” Back in its prime it was annually bearing. We’re hoping the old hollow broken tree will put out at least one more crop before it rests for the last time. Zone 4.
 
Kavanagh.
Fall. Damariscotta Mills, ME, 1790. Renowned shipbuilder James Kavanagh brought a seed or small tree from Ireland when he moved to Maine. Once quite popular locally, but never known much beyond Damariscotta Mills. We gathered our scionwood with historian and Kavanagh enthusiast George Dow from what we thought was the last living tree, although we’ve since discovered three more. Extremely large yellow-green partially russeted fruit. Also called Cathead because of its distinctive shape with large stem end tapering to a small calyx end, typical of Irish apples. Not for fresh eating, but excellent for cooking and drying. A treat fried: core and slice thickly, with skin. Fry in pork fat. Add water as necessary till soft. Then add “a few dollops” of molasses. Serve with biscuits. Grows to be a huge long-lived tree. Blooms late. Zone 4.
Legace.
Late Summer-Early Fall. Probably a Duchess seedling. Possibly Duchess x Wealthy. Van Buren, Aroostook County ME, before 1907. This is one of the best tasting apples I’ve sampled on my fruit exploration trips to Aroostook County. So far I’ve located it on three separate farms. Perfectly fits W. M. Munson’s 1907 description in Preliminary Notes on the Seedling Apples of Maine. Ripens in September and keeps for at least another month. Medium-small size roundish-slightly conic fruit. Warm buttery yellow skin, over spread with striking red stripes, dots and splashes radiating out from the stem. Slightly waxy. The very juicy, yellowish flesh has some red along the core line and has a subacid flavor. Not a sweet apple. No scab. Medium sized, annually productive tree. Zone 3.
 
Moses Wood.
Summer. Unknown parentage. Winthrop, ME, before 1847. Moses Wood was an itinerant grafter. The apple in thought to have originated on his farm in Winthrop, but perhaps he picked it up on his grafting adventures around the state. It is a tart, late-summer dessert and cooking apple, medium-sized, roundish-conic with distinct ribbing and lobes around the calyx end. Light yellow skin with a pink blush and red stripes. White medium- to fine-grained tender very juicy flesh, pleasantly subacid. Excellent tart fresh eating, also makes a delicious pie. Vigorous upright productive tree. Zone 4.

 
Newt Grindle.
Late Summer-Early Fall. Chance seedling. Blue Hill, ME, about 1936. Newt Grindle, while working as caretaker on the Byers Farm in Blue Hill, discovered a wild seedling and decided to cultivate it as a pig apple. Before long he realized that the fruit was too good for the pigs. The large picture-perfect aromatic fruit is oblate and noticeably ribbed, overspread with a translucent red-orange wash and stripes. Color is reminiscent of Northern Spy. Has a waxy coating which seems to deter insects naturally. The medium-coarse juicy greenish flesh has a mild taste with hints of cherry and cinnamon. Keeps remarkably well for an early apple. The tree has a naturally low and spreading habit and bears heavy annual crops. Zone 4.
 
Nutting Bumpus.
Late Summer. Duchess of Oldenburg seedling. Perham, ME, 19th c. Introduced by James Nutting (1839-1893), orchardist, printer and state legislator, who was dedicated to developing apples that would thrive in northern Maine. No one seems to know where the apple got its curious name, though a Fedco customer suggested the James Fenimore Cooper hero, Natty Bumppo, as the source. (Bumpus can also be slang for large.) Large, roundish-conic fruit. Light yellow ground color with a faint washing and penciling of dull red on the sunny side. Juicy mildly sub-acid fine-grained yellow-white flesh for fresh eating and cooking. Mild sweet subacid taste. Tree has small upright slightly spreading habit. Zone 3.

 
Red St. Lawrence.
Early Fall. Branch sport of St. Lawrence. Newburgh, ME. 20th century. A superb, early fall, all-purpose variety with high dessert quality and excellent sauce. Not a storage apple. Originated as a spontaneous mutation (sport) on one branch of Roger Luce’s old St. Lawrence tree in Newburgh. Although marked with St. Lawrence’s typical striking dark red lines and thin bloom, the medium-large sized round-oblate apples also have a unique, rich red ground color. The dark red stripes and the lighter red background is visually stunning. A real knock-out. No other apple looks like it. Once you see this apple you’lll never forget it. Flavorful and colorful sauce. Tender sweet mildly sub-acid flesh, tinted with red. Moderately vigorous long-lived healthy medium-sized tree. Good to heavy annual crops, ripening unevenly over several weeks in early-mid fall. Blooms Midseason. Zone 3.
Rolfe.
Early Fall. Blue Pearmain seedling. Abbot, ME, about 1820. First called Macomber and later Rolfe. Although it was Jeremiah Rolfe who recognized the value of the apple which now bears his name, it was the Reverend Thomas Macomber who gave him the seedling tree, and it was Betsy Houston who originally planted the Blue Pearmain seeds. Perhaps we should call it Houston. The dazzling rosy-red apple became hugely popular in the nineteenth century in most cold regions, filling the fall McIntosh niche before Mac’s rise to fame. The medium-large uniform symmetrical scab-resistant fruit is firm, sweet, mild and well-suited to fresh eating and cooking. The hardy tree is very productive and the annual crop seems to set the whole tree on fire. Zone 3.
 
Starkey.
Fall-Early Winter. Seedling of Ribston Pippin. Vassalboro, ME, 1820. A superb fresh eating apple that originated on the farm of Moses Starkey, a Quaker minister in North Vassalboro. Well known around Augusta in the 19th century, but never got much notice outside the immediate area. Its medium-sized roundish fruit is rosy red, covered almost completely with fine lines, shades and stripes of darker reds and sprinkled with pronounced white dots. The fruit is excellent fresh eating, the perfect combination of crisp sweetness and tartness. Best eating about Christmas. Moderately bearing tough medium-large tree. Zone 4.
 
Striped Harvey.
Mid-Late Summer. Oxford County, Maine. First documented in 1852 when it was exhibited at the Oxford County Agricultural Society. Very large, round fruit. Pale yellow-green overlaid with red streaks turning solid red in the sun and covered with a bluish bloom. Moderately crisp, juicy, white flesh. Superior fresh eating. Zone 4.
 
Summer Sweet.
Summer. Originated on the farm of Ichabod Thomas, Sidney, ME, about 1800. Also called King of Sweetings, King Sweet, Sidney Sweet, Sidney Sweeting or Thomas Sweet. Sometimes confused with Hightop Sweeting (also called Summer Sweeting), which originated in Plymouth, MA. One of several rare varieties introduced to us by long time collector and orchardist Earland Goodhue of Sidney. Small to medium-sized 2" roundish-conic-truncate yellow-green fruit with a beautiful golden apricot-orange blush. Firm somewhat juicy yellowish flesh with a mild sweet distinctly interesting and strange flavor. It is the first apple of the season for fresh eating. Also suitable for sauce and baked desserts. Vigorous upright compact productive tree. Not a long season. Zone 4.
Sweet Sal.
Summer-Fall-Winter. Seedling of Northern Spy. Winthrop, ME. Maine orchardist Morris Towle (1911-1993) named this discovery for his daughter. Only one mature tree remains alive today. The medium-sized roundish fruit is dull yellow, washed with vibrant purple-pink, overlaid with stripes of deep rusty red and covered with pink dots. The flesh has no acidity, perfect for those who do not like or cannot eat tart apples. No acidity also means Sweet Sal can be harvested over a long period, because there’s no waiting for the tartness to abate. Can be eaten from August to March although at its best in October. Like its parent Northern Spy, it comes into bearing later than most varieties and keeps extremely well. In fact, I’ve been surprised at what a good storage apple it is. Tree is vigorous and upright growing. It was a treat to meet Sally Dawson, Sal herself, a few years ago. She told me there was also a Sour Sal, but that one seems to have disappeared! Zone 4.
Thompson.
Summer. Unknown parentage, seed from Barre, MA. Mercer, Somerset County, ME, 1816. Great confusion and passion surrounds this apple that was introduced by John Thompson one of Mercer’s earliest settlers. Some claim that the fruit is synonymous with the Massachusetts apple, Williams. (They are quite similar.) Others claim it’s synonymous with John Thompson’s other introduction, Somerset of Maine. Not! Early season eating and cooking apple, ripening in August. Round-conic shape reminiscent of Red Delicious, solid red overspread with stripes of darker red. Glistening crystaline firm white flesh with a pink hue just below the skin. Sweet flavor with hints of plum and pear. Does not keep. Zone 4.
 
Washington Sweet.
Fall-Winter. Unknown parentage. Possibly from Sidney, ME, Kennebec County, 19th century. This apple is unknown in the literature and may be a pseudonym for Bailey’s Golden Sweet which originated on the farm of Paul Bailey in Sidney and is descibed in Cole’s American Fruit Book (p.123). It has a strong, distinctive sweet taste in the same class as Tolman Sweet. The apples are distinctly conic and medium to large sized. They are yellow, mottled with bronze and a slight orange red blush. There are small grey dots. The stem is medium in length and thickness. The cavity is deep. The basin is small and the calyx end is very slightly lobed. The flesh is fairly a yellowish white, fine grained and dry. Zone 4.
Winekist.
Summer. Unknown parentage, Winthrop, ME, 20th c. Introduced by the late Morris Towle (1911-1993). Medium-sized red-fleshed apple with quite decent, though extremely tart, flavor. Leaves have a dark reddish cast to them. Blossoms are red. Wood, when you cut into it, is pink. Fruit is medium-sized and wine red with areas and stripes of darker red and very small white dots. The overall effect is dark red. Very juicy coarse flesh is almost solid beet red: a real eye popper! A great addition to cider or sauce. Tree is bushy, only around 15' tall. Zone 4.
 
Winthrop Greening.
Late Summer-Fall. Ichabod Howe Farm, Winthrop, ME, before 1800. Ichabod Howe (1731-1810) laid out many of Winthrop’s roads, organized construction of its first church, was an accomplished trapper and hunter, served seven terms as selectman and was, appropriately enough, Winthrop’s first orchardist. One of the few Maine apples to receive attention from outside the state over the years. Quite popular throughout central Maine as late as 1920; now all but unknown. Large flattish-oblate beautiful fruit, light green with a red-orange wash, small greenish dots and splashes and ribs of russeting, usually with a patch of russet radiating from the stem. Very sweet interesting flavor, medium-low acidity, with a crunch. Zone 4.
 

    

Home | Programs | Agricultural Services | The Fair | Certification | Events | Publications | Resources | Store | Support MOFGA | Contact | MOFGA.net | Search
  Copyright © 2014 Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association   Terms Of Use  Privacy Statement    Site by Planet Maine