Home Orchard Fanatic

It's been pretty quiet on the house front lately, as the foundation work crawls to a close. So on Saturday we went to an apple tasting.

The tasting was held by a representative of the Dave Wilson Nursery, at the Regan Nursery in Fremont. We tried about eight apples, five figs, a couple jujubes (an odd little fruit from Asia that looks like a date and is crunchy like an apple), and a persimmon.

This was all in the name of deciding which trees to plant in the garden this winter. For us, the big winner was a Flemish apple called Belle de Boskoop. It has a brown, potato-y skin, a good crunchy texture, and a complex flavour. Definitely not an apple you would find in a supermarket, which is sort of the point of having a home orchard.

Another nice apple was the Akane, formerly known as Tokyo Rose. It has a really nice flavour, and a texture that stood up well. With those two in mind, plus the Jonathan that was already planned for the third spot, we have one more apple tree to pick. Unfortunately, they didn't have samples of any of the contenders for that spot: Spitzenburg and White Winter Pearmain. If I can't find samples of these in time for buying, I figure I'll just get the White Winter Pearmain, which is a good, steady artisan apple. Our neighbor wants us to plant Cox's Orange Pippin, but that ripens at the same time as Jonathan.

We also were talked out of our choice of fig, the Desert King, on account of it apparently being an unremarkable fig chosen primarily if you have trouble growing figs, which we should not. The guy running the tasting gave us some ideas, and now we have some figs to track down. I'm only planting one fig tree, though, so the decision doesn't have to be made now. The apple trees are being planted four in a hole in order to maximize our fruit choices on a relatively small lot (about 1/6 of an acre, a quarter of which is covered by the house). Planting like that means you have to choose them all and plant them all at the same time, or you run the risk of hurting the growing trees by adding another one the next year, or later that winter.

Planning a small orchard is a fairly complicated task. You want to be sure that you're growing varieties you like, of course, but you also want to be sure that you don't have four thousand apples in September and none in July or November. This means working with ripening dates and charting out when the varieties you like will come ripe, so that you can stagger the trees you plant. So far we've only worked out a few of the varieties of trees we'll be growing. I planned the nectarines and peaches based on reviews and a chart, because the season has really passed for them. I planned the asian pears based on the few I knew and their required pollinator. Now we're almost done with the apple choices. There's still some citrus choosing, cherries, and blueberries to work out. Not to mention the eternal question of the quince, which we're mainly growing as a preserving fruit, though there are some varieties that can be eaten straight up.

Tune in in January for the massive digging of holes.

posted by ayse on 10/24/05