Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
John Bunker (left) and Nat Pierce with the rare Winn Russet apple. Photo by Cammy Watts
John Bunker (left) and Nat Pierce with the rare Winn Russet apple. Photo by Cammy Watts

By John Bunker

2019 in shaping up to be a good – maybe even great – apple year in central Maine. We had excellent bloom, good fruit set and decent rain this summer. Many of us will explore, pick and collect apples all fall. Some we’ll know well; others we won’t. Do these apples have names? What are they? How can we find out?

Some apples have names while others do not. The latter are the wild seedlings planted by birds and deer, or by motorists tossing cores out the window. Those that do are the grafted trees, propagated by nurseries or by old-timers on the farm.

Some of us have been good about making orchard maps and tagging our trees. Others, less so. Some of us inherited or purchased old trees or even entire orchards with no idea what varieties we have. Is it a Mac? A Cortland? Could it be the long lost historic apple that MOFGA’s been searching for all these years? Learning the names and learning how to identify apples can seem daunting, but it is something you can do.

Fortunately a select group of apple geeks has been tracking down and identifying Maine apples for many years. The (unofficial) Maine Heritage Orchard Sherlock Holmes Apple Society is assembling once again for this year’s Fair. Bring your mystery apples with you to the Fedco/Hayloft Tent, and we’ll help you find that missing name. Check out the display we call “Apples You’d Find in Old Maine Orchards.” Compare your apples with those. “I think I found it!”

The apple Sherlock geeks will be at the tent all three days. We want to see, hear about and get to know your apples. We will help you with identifications. There’s no charge but we do have a few suggestions.

First, bring three or four apples per variety. With several specimens, we should be able to tease out the commonality among them and get an accurate picture of the apple.   

Second, bring apples in paper, not plastic. Apples in plastic bags sweat and begin to rot almost immediately. Apples in paper bags keep in good shape surprisingly well.

Third, be patient. It takes time, and we may need to take your apples home with us and get back to you. We’ll do our best!

So please bring your apples to show off and ID at the Hayloft Tent. See the huge apple display, pick up some handouts, attend apple tastings on Friday and Saturday afternoons and listen to a talk by one of the many interesting speakers at the tent. Hang out with the unofficial Maine Heritage Orchard Sherlock Holmes Apple Society and tell us about your ancient apple trees. Our goal is to track down and preserve all the ancient apples of Maine, including the one in your backyard or just down the road. See you at the Fair!

For more about IDs at other times of the year, please contact [email protected].