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Chelsea Green Blog

He Keeps Ancient Apples Fresh and Crisp

Anne Raver of the New York Times wrote a feature article yesterday on Creighton Lee Calhoun, author of Old Southern Apples. Purchase the book at 25% off in our bookstore now!

Pittsboro, NC: On a cold sunny morning last month, Creighton Lee Calhoun Jr. stood in his orchard, surrounded by 300 heirloom apple trees, and took some cuttings, or scions, to graft onto rootstock for new trees.“You have to have new growth, something that grew last summer,” said Mr. Calhoun, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, pointing out the smooth reddish bark of a young shoot on an old West Virginia variety named Jugg.

He snipped it off with his sharp Felco pruners, cut the supple branch into 10-inch lengths (each with a few buds) and wrapped them with masking tape in a bundle marked “Jugg.”

“Old-timers would bury them under the leaves on the north side of the house,” said Mr. Calhoun, 77. “But I put mine in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.” When the danger of a hard freeze is past, these scions can be grafted onto young rootstock.

The practice is lost to most Americans, who think an apple is a Red Delicious, which tastes like white sugar, or a Granny Smith, often picked too green and stored so long it tastes like the bottom of the refrigerator drawer.

“They’re strange-tasting, gummy, probably from long-term controlled storage,” said Mr. Calhoun, who would no more eat a supermarket apple than an old shoe.

Mr. Calhoun is the author of a recently revised compendium of 1,800 antique apple varieties, called “Old Southern Apples.” He is also one of a cadre of collectors across the country who are passing on their own rare apples, through scions and grafted trees, to younger men and women starting nurseries or preservation orchards, or simply planting a few trees in the backyard.

Continue reading this article at the New York Times website.

Learn more about Old Southern Apples by Creighton Lee Calhoun.


New French edition of The Resilient Farm and Homestead available

Great news for French-speaking fans of Ben Falk’s The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach. The French language translation is now available from Imagine Un Colibri, from French booksellers, and on Amazon.fr. Falk’s book is a technical manual that details the strategies he and his team have developed for […] Read More

How to Make Biochar

Doing some spring cleaning around your property? By making biochar from brush and other hard-to-compost organic material, you can improve soil—it enhances nutrient availability and also enables soil to retain nutrients longer. This excerpt from The New Farmer’s Almanac, Volume 3, explains how to get started. To make biochar right in your garden, start by […] Read More

Generosity as Activism, and Other Homesteading Principles to Live By

“Like everyone I know, we occasionally find ourselves faced with a decision to which there is no obvious answer,” says Ben Hewitt, coauthor of The Nourishing Homestead. “Do we borrow money to build a bigger barn, or do we keep getting by with what we have? Do we spend our meager savings on trees and […] Read More

Pass the Walnut Syrup?

Everyone knows and loves maple syrup, and in some states (like Chelsea Green’s home state of Vermont), it’s big business. However, it’s a widespread myth that maples are the only trees that can be tapped to produce sap, according to Michael Farrell, sugarmaker and director of Cornell University’s Uihlein Forest. Sap can also be collected […] Read More

4 Books for Growing Food in Winter

Don’t let cold weather stop you from producing and enjoying your own food. For many, the coming of winter simply means cultivation moves indoors or under cover. Small farmers, homesteaders, home gardeners, and commercial growers can extend the growing season with techniques outlined in these essential books. There’s no need for urbanites and small-space dwellers […] Read More
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