Saturday, April 14, 2018

Five apple names with stories to tell

I love how every apple has a story. Sometimes the stories come with titles, in the names of the apples.

Here are five of them.

Nodhead. This amiable old-style apple with cider and watermelon notes originated in Hollis, New Hampshire, in the eighteenth century.

A local historical website records that the apple, developed by by Samuel Jewett, "was locally known as Nod-head from the fact that Jewett nodded his head when walking or talking."

None other than Jewett's several-times great grandson has chimed in on this story. The apple is also known as Jewett's Red.

Empire. What could possibly be the significance of the name "Empire" for this product of New York State's famous fruit-breeding program?

This relatively modern variety dates from a time when New York named its apples for upstate towns (Lodi, Cortland) or pomologists (Macoun). I turn to this McIntosh x Red Delicious cross in the spring.

Cox's Orange Pippin. Richard Cox was a brewer living west of London when he brought this marvelous variety into the world around 1830.

The name is a typical quotidian descriptive name (yes, a pippin with an orange tint from Mr. Cox) of the Victorian era. It nonetheless achieves a sort of poetry while at the same time sounding like a patent medicine.

EverCrisp. Don't be lulled by the markety modern syntax for this very crisp keeper apple. This name is weaponized to take down the mighty HoneyCrisp.

EverCrisp invokes HoneyCrisp (both three syllables, ending with "Crisp," identically inflected), and then tops it by asserting the value of its keeping qualities, a HoneyCrisp weakness.

This is a technique in advertising know as positioning, in which one product seeks to define itself by redefining its competitor.

Hubbardston Nonesuch. I have already waxed rhapsodic about this marvelous moniker, which dates from Age of Bombastic Apple Names. See also Nonpareil and Westfield Seek-No-Further, but Hubbardston is so great to say aloud.

The Hubbardston originated in the Massachusetts town of that name. It's a pleasant snack, balanced and with interesting, almost nutty, flavors.

The best part? You could do this for scores, if not hundreds, of apples.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Beth! I sometimes feel a little guilty mining my old material, but it's April and there is not much else going on.

  2. I love reading the descriptions of apples on this website and I need to remind myself to send you some apples out of my now 1,200 varieties that I grow to read your description of them. Some cool other odd names are Duck's Bill, Forty Shillings, Hangy Down, Jackets and Waistcoats, Kill Boy, Bloody Butcher, Black Irridescent Cabbage Apple (translated from German), Slack Ma Girdle and more but these are just off the top of my head.

    1. Hello, Derek! How have you been?

      I am personally enamored of those old names that sound like a Morris Dance tune. LIke most on your list!

      I think I've said this before, but growing 1,200 varieties is impressive to say the least.

    2. Hello Adam,
      I am doing great thanks and how about you?

      I actually just went through my spreadsheet of when varieties ripen and made notations by different ones to send them to you!

      I could start in July with Discovery which I do not see on your list or if I get enough of them in late June with White Joanetting which fruit for us the last two years.

      And in August I will try and send Estonian Wine Apple which I think is fantastic with a nice sweet tart flavor. And that is my lacking in that I can say yes that is sweet or sweet tart or really tart but on only a few can I distinguish something like spicy as in Moyer's Spice or balsalmic as in Farmer's Wife Apple or anise like Fennouillet Grise.

      Hawaii is suppose to have a pineapple flavor well we cannot tell that but it is delicious and so much so that I grafted more trees of it last year because of customer demand.

    3. @Derek, pineapple is not unheard of in the apple world.

  3. I, also, love the historical information. Each apple has a biography to tell. Frequently the names themselves add to the fascination (Aurora, Bonkers and Nonesuch just sound interesting).

    1. @Copper: you may know that "Bonkers" is not an official name, though it is catching on. Aurora's full name, Aurora Golden Gala, is misleading because its form suggests that Aurora is a sport of Gala (not so).


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