November 10, 2017.
It was early in 2013, the previous book, Churches of Old Durham County, was almost ready to go to the printer and I was wondering what to do for my next project. There was a lot of talk, at that time, about the upcoming centennial of the beginning of W.W. 1, but I knew I had nothing to contribute about the war. It had been done a dozen times over, and all were far better accounts than I could muster. But then it dawned on me…. when my husband and I and another member of our local Legion Branch had written Service in Three Centuries in 2008, I had drawn the straw marked First World War. This book was about the military service of our local men and women here in Bowmanville, from the time of the Napoleonics to present day peace keepers, etc. In that book I had found a core of four WW1 nurses from Bowmanville, and I thought to myself that it wouldn’t be that hard, surely, to go and find the rest from the old county.
November 21, 2017.
Well, I’m back at the
keyboard to tell you about the next book I wrote. It took me about 2
years to research this book, which is titled, Identifying Heritage Apples Across Ontario.
Wow! That’s a little different from what you normally do, I hear people say, when they hear about the book.
Well, not really – it’s still history. Only this time its part of our
agricultural heritage, and Ontario was founded on agricultural pursuits,
and in many parts of the province, agriculture is still the main
employer and main source of income for many folks.
Have you ever found an abandon apple tree and tasted the fruit, and wondered why apples don’t taste like that anymore?
you ever listened to a senior wax poetic about a Wolf River, or a
Tolman Sweet, or the pies their mother used to make from Northern Spy? I
have to tell you, those old apples were delicious!
why aren’t they around anymore? Unfortunately, technology hadn’t caught
up with our heritage apples. In their day (pre WW2) the storage
facilities were poor, and the packing techniques had not yet been
refined. Most apples were dropped down into barrels for storage – the
barrels being rolled into place (yikes! instant bruising!). Apples
that are bruised when they reach their destination are no good to
anyone. Apples that are not kept cold enough go all soft and dry out
becoming quite spongey. So between the two foes of apples, it was
necessary to develop apple varieties that would ship better, and store
Too late we learned to make better storage and packaging.
Along came the children and grand-children of the MacIntosh.
Interbred, these apples stood up against bad practices. There are about
13 varieties of apples in our stores these days – all but two or three
are descendants of the Mac. And they all taste like a Mac too – not the
best tasting apple in the world, but people today don’t know the
difference. AND a Mac can be used for multiple purposes – eating out of
hand, baking, drying, sauce – it is actually a very versatile apple, as
are its descendants.
I go out foraging every fall for
apples. I have a few favourite places to look, but I try to add one new
place each year, just in case I find something extraordinary. In the
fall of 2015, as I wandered the byways of Darlington Township, I decided
I’d like to know what variety of apple I was eating (I always eat at
least one of each apple variety I find on forage day). And that was the
moment my ‘Apple’ book was born.
By the time I had
finished putting it together I was exhausted! Again, no one wanted to
know about Heritage Apples. They were dead and gone – have you tried a
Mac lately?? No one wanted to talk about them either. One man I phoned
(a member of the Ontario Fruit Growers Association) wanted to know if I
was trying to start trouble, or something! Dah, no, I just want some
information about heritage apples! Needless to say, I got no help from
I even sent an e-mail to EVERY councillor across
Ontario – Regional, Township, Municipal and County councillors – no one
escaped my research! About 4% responded. Sad!
despite everyone’s refusal to help out, I managed to produce a
manuscript and have it ready for our first spring Home Show on March 4th
of 2017. It was my first 150th Birthday Project. I will tell you about the 2nd project on my next post.
It is laid out county by county, west to east. Within each
county it is laid out by the old townships – even those counties that
are now Regions with no townships – the old apples grew in specific
townships and that is how they are listed. They are listed by season –
Summer, Fall and Winter apples.
I know I missed a lot of varieties, but I HAVE featured 75 of
them (didn’t miss too many, really). In the back of the book you will
find full colour photos and/or drawings of each one and as full a
description as I could find about each one and when you should find it
ready to pick, depending on what county you are in – each area of
Ontario has its own particular eco-climate and each variety of apple
grows differently in each climate.