Archive for June, 2009

Anna Apple Pie
June 29, 2009

Anna Pie

I’ve grown Anna apples for several years now, but this is the first time I’ve baked them in a pie.  Being an early summer apple I was afraid it would be bland and turn to mush, but it was OUTSTANDING!  The slices stayed firm and baking it really waked up the flavor of this already good apple.  TONS of juice in these things- next I’ll have to try cider!

I’m continually impressed with the insane productivity, adaptiveness, and quality of this apple from Israel, truly a gift from God.  Funny though how this low-chill apple that is grown all over the tropics cannot be grown in most traditional apple-growing areas, as spring frosts would wipe out the January blossoms.

June 20, 2009

Anna Tree

Speaking of over-achievers, this little Anna tree is about 4′ tall, but I have to tape sticks to prop up the branches loaded with huge apples.  The tree grows lots of fruit-bearing spurs and I thinned 3/4 of the little apples off or it would be filled with substandard-sized apples.

Anna was developed by Abba Stein in Kibbutz Ein Shemer in Israel in the 1950’s by crossing a local plum-sized crab apple with Golden Delicious.  It is prized the world over for being extremely productive in warm and tropical climates.  It it thought by many to be a parent of another great low-chill apple, Dorsett Golden.

When picked at just the right time the apples are crisp and tender (but not soft or mushy), a nice sweet-tart, and just a bit of astringency to make it interesting.  Reportedly, they hold up surprisingly well in pies and make a tolerable cider.  Don’t leave them on the tree too long or they get soft and mealy. 

The tree bears huge crops like this reliably every year, and even gives a smaller second crop in the fall.  We started picking the highly-colored apples this week and the harvest will last for about two weeks more, and then we’ll have nothing until Williams’ Pride and Gala are ready in mid-August.

Instructional School Orchard
June 17, 2009

SchoolyardThis Dorsett Golden was planted along with about 60 other apple trees at a local elementary school about 5 years ago.   They had their problems with vandals pulling off apples and breaking branches off the trees, but the trees have outgrown all attempts to hurt them and now are bearing bumper crops.  Indeed, we could use a few vandals pulling apples off, as thinning these trees is quite a job now.

Before this the teacher in the portable classroom next to the orchard would have a paper tree on the tackboard and would pin blossoms to it in the spring, leaves and apples in the summer, make the leaves brown and falling in autumn, and bare in the winter; all just to demonstrate the seasons (that’s what city living does to kids).  Now they just take the class out and watch the bees pollinating and other lessons that can be learned by having an apple orchard on campus.

The school also has a community garden, but will be first to tell you that the orchard is almost zero work compared to a vegetable garden.  People are shocked first of all to see apples growing here, and then the size and productivity of the trees.  I think this has been a wonderful use of the formerly weedy and forelorn space between a couple portables, and one of the cheapest learning spaces a school could install, much cheaper than even a picnic table.

Pollination (and lack thereof)
June 7, 2009

Seedless Dorsett

One of the questions I often hear about apple varieties is “is it self-fertile?  Does it need a pollinator?  The answer to both is “yes”, but maybe not for the reasons you’re thinking.

The above photo is of a Dorsett Golden apple, and the contents of the core.  You’ll notice there are no viable seeds, just little specks where the seeds should be.  These are seeds that did not get pollinated; and yet, it still produced an apple.  But I could have told you that there were no seeds in this apple before opening it, as the shape tells all. 

If it had indeed been pollinated, the apple would have been much fatter and almost square as in the photo below; instead, it has this skinny shape. 

Pollinated Dorsett

For an explanation of this, I turn to NAFEX (National Association of Fruit Explorers) member and retired pollination contractor Dave Green’s explanation from a recent post in reply to another member’s question:

“I’m wondering if you are under a common misconception. Trees being loaded are not necessarily a sign of good pollination – if fact loaded trees could be a sign of inadequate pollination of the king bloom.

 The only way to truly evaluate pollination is by seed count. Slice the fruit crossways and count the seeds. Low seed counts indicate a pollination problem – and the fruit will not be top quality.

 If the king bloom is not well pollinated (and that’s the one we want fruit from), oftentimes the fruit will then set in clusters of three – which may or may not be well pollinated. It’s a complex thing with a lot of variables – bee populations/rain/cold/wind/pollenizer availability, etc. but it’s important to rely on accurate evaluations by seed counts rather than simplistic assumptions.

 A lot of people think like computer scientists – that pollination is a binary act – an on/off switch. Pollination with multi-seeded fruits is progressive. The more grains of viable pollen carried into the blossom the better, and that usually means many bee visits, not just one.”

It is not unusual for Dorsett Golden to set a whole tree full of fruit, and not have a single viable seed in the bunch.  That’s because it blossoms so early in the year and the only other tree blossoming at that time that could cross-pollinate it would be Anna.  And so no Anna nearby, no pollination (the same goes for the Anna tree that needs pollinating too).  Having both these trees together will increase the quality of fruit for both, but you will still get fruit from them even if planted by their lonesome.

Apples in Southern France
June 5, 2009

French ApplesThese beautiful apples are from the catalog of French landscape architect Cochet Frederic.  I was referred to his site from a hopeful warm-climate apple grower in Sicily.  It seems that folks in Southern France, who’s climate is remarkably similar to Southern California, want to grow apples.  And why not?  Continental Europe has a fine tradition of apple growing with thousands of varieties.  Surely some of them will produce outstanding fruit in the low-chill climate of Southern France, just as some do here in Southern California. 

Gee; it would seem this calls for a “fact-finding” trip to Southern France, as well as the Tuscany region of Italy and Sicily, don’t you think?  Yes, it will be a rough trip, but no sacrifice is too great for my craft. 

To see the catalog for yourself, click on

Adam’s Apple Blog
June 3, 2009

OpalescentWhat better pastime for an apple geek to do than to read other apple geek’s blogs?  Adam makes apples seem cool however, and has a wonderful blog at He is not a grower or nurseryman, but a amature taster, and follows the apple harvest season giving dozens of reports on apple taste and appearance.  He gave my blog a shameless plug and I’m returning the favor with gratitude.

First Apple of the Season
June 2, 2009

First DorsettFound the first apple of the season on the ground this morning, off the Dorsett Golden tree.  It’s odd that this tree is ripening first, as Anna usually beats it by about two weeks; but this year it appears two weeks behind.

The Dorsett was sweet, crisp, tender, and a bit coarse.  It tasted a bit “green” and could have used another week on the tree, but was still good enough to make me want to eat half of it.  The creamy yellow flesh had a nice aroma even a bit green.  Thinning them out a little harder definately helped the size, and the tree is loaded.  Its a bit weird to be picking apples about the same time the first of the nectarines are ripening, as well as the blackberries. 

This starts our apple season out, and it will continue until the end of February when I pick the last of the Lady Williams.