Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tolman Sweet **

I had a tiny tantalizing sliver of this antique apple on a walk at Tower Hill. Now I've got a whole Tolman Sweet to eat.

Somewhere between small and large, this yellow apple is streaked with green, stippled with a light blotchy blush, and decorated with russety scars. Note the green seam running vertically down the left side of the apple.

Small lenticels are prominent only when darkened with russet (which is not unusual).

Tolman Sweet is round with a slight suggestion of ribbing. The peel is more matte than glossy. The apple gives just a little bit when I squeeze it and has a faint sweet fragrance.

Despite the "give," Tolman's flesh is crisp and delicately crunchy, a yellow off-white, fine grained, and only moderately juicy. Its flavors are sweet and refined. A little balancing tartness behind the scenes puts this in the range of the great eating apples.

Its tastes feel somehow high pitched, by which I mean that they are subtle and clean, white table grapes and flowers. Maybe some berries. It's very pleasant.

There's also something very clean and satisfying about chewing and swallowing this fruit. It just feels good in my body, and leaves a lovely sweet aftertaste in its wake.

This is an old-fashioned apple of excellent quality. Try one to see what kind of flavors were in vogue in the 19th century.

Tolman originated in Dorchester, Massachusetts, now (like Roxbury of russet fame) part of the City of Boston.

Various alternative names, according to Beach's Apples of New York, revolve around sweet variants for "Tolman" (Tallman's Sweet, Tolmn, Talman Sweeting, and Douce de Talman, for instance).

Beach (344) also says this hardy apple is "often marked by a suture line extending from the cavity."

A few commercial orchards continue to grow Tolman Sweet today, and Fedco sells Tolman trees.

May their number increase!

Update: A Mr. Peter Tallman has some family-historical information about this apple on his web site. His research suggests several alternative origin stories.

Also check out this charming 83-second video review of Tolman Sweet from Suzan Poizner at Orchard People. Nice job!


  1. The Talman Sweet planted in my orchard dates back to the late 40s and it had a great crop this year. On our farm in Southern Ontario, Dad used to call it the "medicine man's apple". Eat it when you have a cold trying to get the best of you. A colicky horse eats this apple to feel better. I can remember giving cows these apples before calling the vet about "off her feed". Frances

    1. That is a great story about this apple, thanks!

      I did not get any this year, alas.

    2. I'm trying to find orchards that carry this apple in Toronto area.

    3. Go to Cricklewood Farm between Cobourg and Brighton along old Highway #2 in eastern Ontario.

  2. I just finished kicking a bunch of fallen Tolman fruit against the trunks of my six trees (total of 70 trees in the orchard). The fruit are all over the ground because the porcupines just love them. Every year at this time they climb the Tolmans, chew off the branches, knock half the apples out of the trees, then spend the night chomping on them. These trees I have found are good mostly for feeding the pigs and adding sugary fruit to cider blends. Hard to sell them. They're like sugar balls.

  3. I tried to like this apple, but it was too bland. Very sweet, but with no tartness at all, and very little apple flavor or aroma. it tasted like pure cane sugar. like a bad supermarket Red Delicious. Maybe I got a bad batch, or it was a bad year, but mine were insipid and dull.

    1. It certainly can happen! Also, there are probably places in the world where these just do not grow right.

      But you might give them another try sometime, if you get the chance.

  4. I have one in my backyard it has to be over 80 yrs old and still produces. I used to climb it as a child.

    1. That is a charming story, Patricia, thank you. Tolman should be grown more widely.