When you think about apples, the typical kinds — Granny Smith, Fuji and Gala — probably come to mind.
For the amateur apple botanists of The Lost Apple Project, they take it a step further.
And during last fall’s search through the forgotten pioneer orchards of the Pacific Northwest plains, the organization discovered 10 types of apples that experts previously thought were extinct.
“The Whitman County Historical Society Lost Apple Project seeks to identify and preserve heritage apple trees and orchards in the Inland Empire,” the nonprofit says on its Facebook page.
Retired FBI agent David Benscoter and Vietnam War veteran EJ Brandt met up in the fall of 2019, as has been their custom since 2011, to hunt for rare apples.
The two retirees combed through “long-forgotten” orchards, some dating back 140 years, that were hidden in the canyons and forests of Idaho and Washington state, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.
While North America is believed to have been home to 17,000 types of apples at one point, there are only 4,500 known varieties currently in existence.
After the organization’s season of apple sleuthing was over, they sent the fruits off to the Temperate Orchard Conservancy to be identified by experts.
They recently received their results from the October and November search, and learned they had discovered 10 different varieties of pioneer-era apples that were believed to have been lost to time.
“It was just one heck of a season. It was almost unbelievable. If we had found one apple or two apples a year in the past, we thought were were doing good. But we were getting one after another after another,” Brandt told the AP.
“I don’t know how we’re going to keep up with that.”
Ever since Brandt and Benscoter embarked on their mission to preserve pioneer-era apples, they have rediscovered 23 different varieties. That includes the 10 from the fall, which originated in areas across the nation and around the world.
The AP reported that some of the most recent types of “lost” apples the gentlemen found include an ancient apple from Turkey known as the Sary Sinap, an apple called the Streaked Pippin that can be traced back to mid-18th century New York, and the Pennsylvania Butter Sweet, which has a lineage that dates back to 1901 in Illinois.
With more finds this season than ever before, the men were excited about their two largest annual events, which typically end up funding a large portion of their $10,000 apple extravaganza budget each fall.
Each spring, they host a fair where people can purchase the apples that they rediscovered during their hunt from the fall before. They also offer a grafting class in which they teach people about what they do and how to grow a new apple tree.
However, the nonprofit announced last month that the events were canceled (as are most public gatherings across the country right now), making it difficult for the two men to have confidence in how they will cover the financial obligations for their yearly apple search.
“Two months ago, I was thinking: ‘This is going to be great. We’ve got 10 varieties that have been rediscovered,’ but … right now, we couldn’t pay our bills,” Benscoter said.
The two men told the AP that even though their future endeavors are unclear at this time, they aren’t letting the cancellations discourage their efforts.
The AP shared their story on Twitter, and the reactions it received were almost universally positive:
I would love to taste them. There were so many varieties before some decided only a couple were needed for some reason.
— TheLadyinhislife (@Ladyinhislife2) April 15, 2020
finally some good news
— Pokie (@PokieLynelle) April 15, 2020
Why do I love this story?
— J. Lang Wood (@JLangWood) April 15, 2020
Though their classes and fair are canceled for this year, the two apple enthusiasts are helping spread some good news at the most opportune time.
You have to apple-aud those kinds of efforts.
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