Farm To Fork Wyoming – Wyoming Apple Project

August 23, 2019

(classical string music) – There’s a lot of
apples in the world. It’s amazing how many
have become extinct. – I’m the Indiana
Jones of apples. The other holy grail was
called the Fremont apple. To me, they’re just beautiful. – Wyoming’s Heritage apples
on this Farm To Fork Wyoming. – I know that they’re out there. (classical string music) (lively music) – Production of Farm To Fork
Wyoming is made possible with the generous support of
the Wyoming Business Council Agribusiness division and
viewers like you, thank you. (light pleasant music) – And there is something
rather special about this. So many people come out
here, and they just, oh, this is paradise. There is a special
feeling out here. (light pleasant music) – When you think of the Rockies, and Wyoming in particular, apple orchards are one of the
last things that come to mind. – When I came out west,
I was looking over at the neighbor’s yard,
and I was just like, that does look like apples, and it never occurred to
me that in the mountain, less the Rocky
Mountains, apple trees. – Yet the apple is no
stranger to Wyoming. – Yeah, so I went over and
talked to the neighbor, and he’s like, oh no, it’s like really good for the
trees and the garden. – And there’s just such
a level of complexity. – Just cross-pollination, the
bees love it, and it keeps everything happy, and blah,
blah, blah, blah, blah. – There’s room and
place for just about anything that’s out here. Can find food, shelter,
nourishment, water, protection, so I think it’s kind of
a magic place that way. – The apple trees and
fruit trees, you know, in general, are
like very necessary, and they’re a very positive part of the whole little
microcosm of a large scale or small scale agricultural
thing, you know, they’re supposed to be there. You know, they’re actually
really supposed to be there. (slow string music) – The apple has accompanied
us for thousands of years now. – There are crab apples
native to North America but no sweet apples, so
every single big apple tree that you see in North America
came from somewhere else. – This Malus sieversii from
the Tien Shan mountains of China, Kazakhstan, the
high mountain areas there, is probably the ancestor
of the modern sweet apple. From there, it moved
along the Silk Road, moved along all of
the trade routes. It eventually ended up
into the Middle East, and then into Europe,
and then of course, when we came here from Europe, one of the 1st things that we
brought was also the apple, and so many of the cultivars
that you find on the East Coast area actually
European in origin. There’s also another
route from Spain into South America
and up through Mexico, and so some of the
apple cultivars that you find in the Southwest, probably originated
in a different place than the ones that we
have more northerly areas. (soft pleasant music) – Thanks to hardworking
generations of homesteaders, the remains of 100
plus-year-old orchards are scattered across Wyoming. – Just about everywhere
in the state, there is at least
one big orchard that people would know about. – You discover all these
things about all these people that have an apple
tree and planted it, what they did with it,
so it’s just part of this wonderful history that
we have here in Wyoming. – You know, the 1st
orchard in Wyoming was the Ed Young Orchard and was planted in about 1872. – He was king of apples for
quite a number of years. – I suspect that Ed
Young had the sense with where the river was with the surrounding canyons and the wind direction
that this would be just the perfect
place for the orchard. – He had over 3,000
trees at one point. – Located just a few
miles outside of Lander, Ed Young had a good customer
base for his sizable orchard. – Lander was one of the largest but most isolated
cities in Wyoming. – It was all local, you know, and then of course they used, sent a lot of apples by
the, via the mule trains that went up Red Canyon
Road to South Pass. – That was an added market that others joined him in doing. – He picked and sold
apples in a bushel, and he made the cider. – He took his apples to
the state fair in Douglas. – He did well at the state fairs with his Wealthies,
I know especially. – He gave lectures on
where to plant trees, how to plant trees,
and also the varieties. – It’s interesting, there are
very few apple tress out there that are like any of
the others out there. There’s, we have one
row of Wealthies, and then we found
three identical ones over on the other side
of the manager’s house, but the rest are all
practically their own apple, so whether he saved seedlings, whether he got a scion from
somewhere else and grafted it, but there’s very few
duplicates out there. – Picking up on the already
established orchards around the Lander area, the University of Wyoming
established its own experimental orchard
in nearby Sinks Canyon. – They planted the
orchard in 1892, and they did their 1st fruit
bearing assessment in 1895. – The whole idea behind
developing the ones for Wyoming was very important because
people wanted to have things that were developed specifically
for the Rocky Mountains, specifically for the bad winter, specifically for
the dry, you know, summers and things like that, so inherently, people
were very interested that, to have cultivars
developed in Wyoming. – This tree came from a seed,
so it’s like the seedlings that they were
trying to propagate down at the Field Station, and this produces
a beautiful apple. – Okay. – And I think, just like
in those early years when they were trying to develop
new varieties for Wyoming, that they would have selected. – This would be a winter. – A seedling like this,
it would be a winter. – Yeah. – Yeah, that was
one of the goals, is to have apples that we keep for long periods of time. Course now, people
don’t generally do that. – This is a Heritage. – Oh, what is it? – 20 ounces. – That’s what’s called? – And so we don’t find
our apples at the market from these Heritage trees. – Reliable, locally grown food was needed for Wyoming’s
growing population, and the University of Wyoming saw the apple played
an important part. – Aven Nelson,
who’s the namesake of the botany building here, was the secretary of the
State Horticulture Society. He wrote a very impassioned
plea about orchards, and he was very emphatic. It’s really, really
interesting to read, you know, if you don’t have an
orchard, plant one! If you have an orchard,
make it bigger. If you don’t have a good
orchard, make it better, you know, and he just went
on and on and on about, you know, the value
of the orchard. – A lot of the pioneers
that came here, the early homesteaders,
brought trees with them or they ordered
them quite quickly because there was
no fresh produce. – Ranchers all over the state,
for one reason or another, would start an orchard. – You can actually trace
ranches in progression where there is
ranchers, farmers, adopted farmer ranch orchards. – There were a lot of commercial orchard enterprises up
around Sheridan, for example, and there’s still a lot
of remnants up there. I know about three or
four that are very large. – And that was very common
because this in the old days was their own source
of fresh fruit, and apples do keep well. – And then when the different
irrigation projects moved in, that allowed allowed
people to grow things that they couldn’t grow before, and apple orchards was
one of the 1st things. Powell, I know four, five
big orchards up in Powell, very old orchards, not
only from homesteading but also from a
commercial enterprise. They would grow
apples and sell them or squeeze cider
and sell the cider, so there was a big
orchard up in Ten Sleep. It’s now operated by a
church camp up there, and you wouldn’t think
you want, you know, that Laramie would be the best place to grow
apples at 7200 feet, but apples are so
important to people that they would find a
way to grow the apples. (lively string music) (light pleasant music) – It’s remarkable
how a simple tree could answer so many needs
and deliver so much pleasure. – My favorite pie. – Really. – This apple. – There is such an
extraordinary satisfaction to run out the back
door, grab a few apples, pull a few onions, maybe
find a few new potatoes, with, say, a piece of deer
meat that you got last fall. – Apples are like one of the
greatest seasonal products because everything
that goes with an apple is representative of the
season they’re grown. Whether it’s apple and parsnip
or apple and sweet potato or apple and dried berry,
you know, it’s just they’re, they’re this great little
sponge of all that is fall. (light pleasant music) – And for all its pleasure, the apple came with a
practical side as well. – So they make this one little
thing amazingly diverse. The uses of the
apple for the pioneer was much more important. One of the best cleaning
agents and disinfecting agents that you can come
up with is vinegar, and so they, in the process
of making apple cider, they would make some
that turned to alcohol, some that would turn to,
you know, lactic acid and other things, and
vinegar, so you know, we used to not be able to
buy pectin to make jelly. If you wanted to make jelly,
you had to have apples, even crab apples because
you could extract the pectin by cooking it and straining out, and so you could add
that to preserves and make a jelly
out it, so there’s all these really neat
applications if you’re, if you take the time
to think about it and look at it
and understand it. (classical string music) – They are juicier
apples, you know, so for cider pressing
and juice pressing, there are apples that really maintain a lot of
moisture on the inside. You know, there are apples
that have better cider. – See, this one
makes the best cider, and you put this with
a couple sweet ones, and the complexity
just, it would be. – The flavors that they
have are a little tangier or a little, a little
sweeter or whatever. – There are apples
out there that are, have the same sort of character than say a Meyer
lemon, less acidity, which a lot of
times could be good but can still do
the exact same thing that everybody wants
to do with lemons, you can do with
fresh apple juice. There are pie apples that
get soft fairly quickly. Some apples, don’t ever cook. Some apples, you really
only want to cook ’em. Honeycrisp you can cook, but I actually think
you lose a lot of what makes a Honeycrisp a
Honeycrisp when you cook it, you know, leave those raw. Like Yellow
Transparent, it’s been one of the best ones
for apple sauce because, I mean, you pick that apple, and it’s nearly apple sauce
right in the beginning. It’s got really good flavor, but it doesn’t have
much of a texture. It’s not that good for eating. It’s kind of soft and
that sort of thing, so it’s good to eat,
but they’re best for cooking like apple sauce
and things like that. And then there’s even how
you fabricate some of them due to density, so Macs,
you know, McIntosh, you can put on a slicer
and go paper thin because the cell
densities are so small, the cells are so
tight, that you can make these things paper
thin, almost translucent, whereas Braeburn, not so much, you know, because they’re, the cells are a
little bit bigger, and you end up slicing
through the whole thing, it goes brown really fast,
falls apart, it starts flake up. – Other uses for it would be
animal feed, dried apples. You know, some apples hardly
have any juice, baking apples. I can run them
through the juicer, and all I get is
this pile of dry pulp and about four little
drops of, you know, juice at the bottom of the cup. That can make those really good or stewing them or apple sauce, apple butters because you
could still caramelize them, and they actually
caramelize a little faster ’cause you’re not
waiting for all the water to evaporate out of ’em. They’re also a lot
of times good dry. – And some just
inherently store better. There are apples that I’ve
stored for nine months, and they’re just as good as
the day that I picked them. There are other ones that
don’t last really that long, so before the
presence of, you know, Safeway and other
big box stores, you know, you just got
out to your apple orchard. (pleasant music) Most people don’t know the
biology of the apple that much. You know, you go to
Upstate New York, and you eat an apple,
and it’s just to die for, and so you secret
away the seeds, you come back and you plant ’em and you baby that
tree for 10 years and finally get an
apple, and you taste it. Doesn’t taste anything like
what you remember, why is that? Well, that’s because it’s not the fertilization event
that causes the taste. The fertilization even
causes the fruit to develop, but it’s the tree
itself that creates the taste in the
flesh of the apple, and that’s why we have to graft because if you want this
apple and this flesh, you have to take
it from the tree rather than from the seed. You know, grafting
goes back 3,000 years, so they knew how to graft
a long, long time ago. – Not only did
grafting perpetuate the desired flesh of an apple, it was a way to control
how large or small the cultivar would grow. – I never recommend that people
grow dwarf trees around here because they’re dwarf because
the roots are not very strong. Okay, so physiologically,
they’re not capable of providing
the nutrients and the water and stuff
to make it a big tree, so that it stays
small, and that means that they’re just
naturally weak. – Wyoming surviving apple
trees owe their endurance in part to the large root
stocks favored by the pioneers. – When they’re on the,
this Russian root stock, they can grow,
for the most part, 20, 30 feet tall without
batting an eyelash, and they’re so hardy, and the roots go down
and they survive. We went 11 years
here in this drought, and the orchard didn’t get any
water, we still had apples. – These tall growing trees
offer an abundance of fruit, but that only comes
with ongoing care. – Apple trees have to
be renewed with pruning. They just grow like
anything else to maturity, and then they sit there, and
then they gradually decline. – The thing about
pruning standard trees because they’re no
longer really planted, all of the commercial orchards
are dwarf or semi dwarf, and they require
very little pruning, and pruning these kinds of
trees is totally different than what you would
do on a semi dwarf. You can see there’s
multiple large branches. You tend to head ’em back,
so they don’t get way out, and then you open up
the center of the tree, so the sunlight will come in, so that you get
a nice red apple, and if you don’t,
then you end up with apples that don’t
have the kind of color you would like to
have to, the peel. I mean, if you were
doing this commercial, you would much rather have this apple to sell
than this apple, and the other thing
that pruning does is it, it helps increase the size. You would get apples, a
lot of apples like this, when the trees are
properly pruned. If they’re not, you end up
with a lot of apples like this. – It’s just astronomical now. It’s about $300 a
tree to bring in a, a professional
arborist to do it. – So it’s become a
lost art, really. Very few people
really understand how to prune these trees. – It’s no wonder we’ve
neglected these old friends. – We lost all but
two in this row, and then there’s two more there. We’re losing a lot of ’em. – Between the time that we
settled this country and now, I’ve read that there are almost
16,000 different cultivars, and now, we’re down around
four, five thousand, so we’ve lost 10
or 12 thousands. – Well, these apples won’t ship. You know, I can barely
get in the house and plunk a bucket down,
and there’s some bruises, so it, but the skin is
fragile and wonderful that I never take the skin off, and that’s where the
mineralization occurs. It gives the apples
sometimes a special flavor. Some of the red apples, it’ll
turn the applesauce pink, and that’s kind of a
jolly thing to find out when you cook it up. – Old apples are
really quite rich in all kinds of vitamins
and antioxidants in the skins and so on. – I really think we need
to be seriously considering what we’re gonna do
with these apples. We need to have more
interest locally and eating local
apples, even though they don’t look as
shiny and pretty as they do in the store from Washington, Oregon, and California,
and so forth. – And if you’ve been
lucky enough to enjoy old fashion apple varieties
right off the tree, you never forget the
wonderful flavors. – It’s just like the human
beings walking down the street. Everybody is different,
and the flavors, you know, one apple you
think, huh, I don’t like that, and somebody will come along, oh my God, is that ever good. You know, it’s a personal thing. – It’s no wonder that people
don’t like to eat apples. Most apples that you
buy at the store, 14 to 18 months old by
the time you get them. Even in the best of times,
an 18-month-old apple is not gonna be the
same as, you know, a fresh apple, so the grow local is very important to me, and
apples fit right into that. (classical string music) – That’s one unique thing,
when Yellowstone went off, you know, it spread all
this wonderful mineral for thousands of miles,
and we have that here, so I think that
contributes to the flavor. The French call it
terroir of the soil, and so what we have
here tastes so good. – Look, there’s no doubt that the same varieties planted
in different locations produce apples
that sometimes are totally different in flavor. – I want to go to farmer’s
markets anywhere in the state and eat the local
apples that they have. – Also, you know, everything
sort of has its taste. There’s more uses for it. I’ve got apples out
there that you can slice, they never turn brown,
they dry beautifully. – Sometimes the
apples are salty, sometimes the apples are sweet, sometimes they’re juicy, sometimes they’re a little sour, but I want to go
and be able to buy, in every community, I want
to buy the local apple. – The flavor’s there,
the health is there. The goodness is there. – And the proven survivability
of these adapted breeds is important also. – A lot of those trees
are the same trees that were producing, you
know, back in the late 1800s. – Seems like the selection for
those old Heritage varieties involve the ability to
withstand cold, wind, sun scald, and snow load. – I think this is Haralson,
and it was developed specifically for
winter hardiness and
disease resistance. In those days, the
didn’t have chemicals that you could spray
to prevent diseases, so they did it primarily
through breeding for resistance. – And it’s amazing
how much cider you can make out
there on good years, and of course, you never
know from year to year ’cause sometimes we
get these late, late hard freezes and snows
when the blossoms are full, and the bees don’t pollinate. I have encouraged the
little small mason bees, and they will fly during cold
weather and windy weather, where the honeybees won’t. So pollination does
happen, surprising. It surprises me how much we get even when I think that we’re
not gonna get anywhere. – And thankfully, there’s
a handful of stewards working to rescue Wyoming’s
remaining survivors. – And that’s one of the reasons
why I started this project. You know, apple trees can grow. There are some in Europe
that are 300-years-old, but they have been
meticulously maintained and pruned and cared
for, and you know, all of the pests and
stuff taken care of. Most of the orchards
around here, you can say, almost with certainty, that they have been abandoned
at some point. Some of them for
maybe as long as a hundred years or 90 years. Those trees that are surviving
now are 130-years-old. They survived drought,
they’ve survived bad winters, they’ve survived all kinds of
natural pests and everything, and they’re still alive, and so, that’s why I
started the project, to try to save and identify
some of the cultivars because they have to be
the most valuable ones for different areas in Wyoming. One of the things
that I want to find, and I know that the
paperwork exists, but this director, George
Steinbreck, from Lander, kept very meticulous records. He kept all of that stuff,
and shortly before he died, he donated it to a
museum up in Lander, and they can’t find it, okay, but in those records somewhere, are all of the apples that
he sent to particular farms. – And spread across the state are some dozen unique,
market worthy cultivars that Steinbreck had developed
some hundred plus years ago. – I know that they’re out there, and so what I’ve
been trying to do is to talk to people
that have big ranches, and I gave a grafting
workshop up in Powell, and these two gentlemen, an
older gentlemen and his son, came up afterwards and had
this old piece of cardboard, and he said, you know, this
is my grandfather’s orchard. I’m not sure if you’re
interested in it. He opened it up, and the 1st
three names that I saw were names from that
list from Wyoming. – And this Brechstein, Dr.
Miller said as far as he knows, that’s the only one
left that they know of, and then this
Cortland, Margaret, and here’s another Cortland. – As far as I know,
they’re the only ones that people know
specifically about. The other holy grail was
called a Fremont apple. That was one of the cultivars
that they developed there, and it may still be on
the place, you know. Our molecular work will tell us, we’ll be able to match up
with Heritage cultivars that are already
in the database, but if we don’t, aren’t
able to identify it, it could be one of
those novel cultivars, and it could be
the Fremont apple, you know, we just don’t know, but that’s, I’m spreading
the word as far as I can, you know, if you’ve ever
heard of the Fremont apple, if somebody on your, you
know, ranch or in your history may have talked about
a Fremont apple, I’d really like
to know about it. – Those gifts from the past are kind of pointing
the way to the future, if we really stop
and think about it. How much longer are we
going to want to depend on all of this stuff coming
in from California, who’s struggling with
water and drought and fire or the Pacific Northwest,
when we can grow it here. – I want nurseries in
Wyoming to be selling apples that will grow in Wyoming
and produce in Wyoming and last 130 years, that’s
really what I would like to do. – When anybody plants a tree,
it’s for the next generation. (lively banjo music) (light pleasant music) – This episode of
Farm To Fork Wyoming is available for $25. Order online at This program was
produced by Wyoming PBS, which is solely responsible
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