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Heritage varieties

Old Orchards, New Discoveries

Yesterday we visited a rural neighbour whose grandparents-in-law planted a small apple orchard on the property a century or so ago. We had ridden our bikes past those venerable trees this summer; one day, I knocked on the door and asked if their owner would mind our picking some of tempting-looking fruit. She not only kindly agreed but also gave us a tour of apple varieties in the orchard–Duchess, Astrachan, Alexander, and King– names which rang many ancestral bells for me. These old names are so familiar to me from listening to my grandmother’s stories about her childhood in an apple-growing family in the Annapolis Valley, remembering her careful distinction between “cooking apples” and “eating apples,” and her favorite early and late varieties. Many of these names have fallen out of the popular vocabulary (like Victorian men named Eleazar or Alonzo or women named Beryl and Gertie) and are no longer to be seen at farmers’ market tables or roadside stands. Many lovely old Nova Scotia apple trees…

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