We named Golden Earl after our next-door-to-the-orchard neighbor, Earl Ruehling, who helped us in such a gracious, solid-gold way as we city boys tried to plant and grow an apple orchard. What a true friend, guiding light, and helper! He died in 1985. This very hard, yellow apple is one of the very best to come from our breeding program at Minnesota Harvest. In fact, if this were the only one, we’d consider all of our work worthwhile and the entire effort a success.
When I first saw Golden Earl, I was astounded that we had come into two such firm, dense yellow varieties as this and Sponselli in our lifetime. In general, golden varieties tend to be tender and susceptible to bruising, but these two belong in the hardware department. I knew right away that I wanted to be dealing with large crops of both of these varieties. Sponselli was found first. We have three plantings of Sponselli that have been giving us saleable quantities for some years now. We have two plantings of Golden Earl, and they’ve caught up to the production of Sponselli. We’re delighted with both of them!
The flesh of Golden Earl is very coarse (the kind that makes a lot of noise in your eardrums when you chew) and dryish, very similar to Northwestern Greening in both regards. The flavor has components of both Honeygold and Haralson, and I’ve always thought that was the cross: Honeygold x Haralson. Lately I’ve felt that Northwestern Greening was involved, but there’s no way in my mind that either Honeygold or Haralson could be ruled out. But you only get two parents. So I thought, well, it must be Northwestern Greening x Honeygold, but what happened to Haralson? Then it dawned on me that the known parentage of Honeygold is Golden Delicious x Haralson by the University of Minnesota. There it is! That’s how you get all three! Northwestern Greening and Honeygold could be parents, making Haralson one of the grandparents through Honeygold! There are at least 150 varieties that are possible parents under our circumstances, so it’s all conjecture. But I think the geneology will become clear soon when DNA testing becomes applicable. One side note is that you can get red apples sometimes by crossing two yellow apples, and you can get yellow apples by crossing red apples. It’s just what’s hiding in the genes.
My favorite characteristics of Golden Earl are the ripeness bumps and deep calyx. Some varieties, like Red Baron, must show ripeness bumps to be at their best. Others seldom show them, and still others never do. Some growing seasons produce the bumps more readily than others. We like to pick Golden Earl with ripeness bumps. In that condition, they’re spectacular.
The deep calyx basin is always an attractive feature. We’re showing many angles in the photographs here so you can see the bumps, the deep basin, and the rich, nearly fluorescent yellow color. Bumps of this magnitude are not seen in any other commercial variety, but bumps aren’t the only distinguishing, unusual markings. Scratches and protrusions are the norm. When I saw the first crop from first generation trees, I was thrilled with the appearance. The apples looked like they had been on the trees since the Civil War! I suspected then, and it has proven to be true: the gnarlier they look, the better they taste. I dreamed of days ahead when I would be looking at bins full of gnarly-looking Golden Earls, and now I’m seeing them for real.
One day in the early ‘70’s, Earl asked my brother Ritchay and me to help with the corn harvest. We were to be at the corn cribs, which are on the orchard property, and, when the tractors would pull in with wagons full of the hard field corn on the cob, we were to open the tail gate and run the elevator to carry the corn to the top of the cribs, about twenty-five feet up there. Cool. Piece of cake. So we brought Ritchay’s harmonicas and my mandolin to play between loads. What else would there be to do?
Well, I suppose we played about ten notes. We were so busy, I mean, those wagons never stopped coming! You know, we’ve always been hard workers, so that doesn’t scare us. But we had to get the management of that system down and then just crank it. For instance, the tractor and wagon drive right over where the elevator collector has to be dropped as soon as the load gets there, and it better be out of the way when the next one comes. Then you better keep gas in the tank and the engine oil full. Clean up the dropped corn before the next wagon runs over it. Hurry! Get this stuck corn out of the wagon! Hey, there’s corn stuck ‘way up there on the elevator! Oh, oh, the elevator shifted and the corn isn’t dropping into the crib! Hey, here come two more wagons!
So Earl ran over the mandolin, and we just kept working. The crew stopped for lunch, and, as usual when neighbors help neighbors with harvest, we ate over at Ruehling’s. Verna made GREAT lunches. After we said grace, it came up that Earl was sorry he ran over the mandolin. (Ritchay had purchased this mandolin and a classic guitar in Spain and carried them when he walked across the country, playing his harmonica to thrilled crowds in little towns. He is certainly one of the best harmonica players ever. When he got home, he gave the mandolin and the guitar to me.) So Ritchay and I both said it wasn’t Earl’s fault. Earl said, “I know it wasn’t my fault.” It was the most emphatic thing I ever heard him say.
We have a variety we call Doc, named after our father. You can read the description about Doc. It’s absolutely, entirely red. A beautiful apple. When our niece, Kristi, and Charlie DeRueil got married in Minneapolis in October a few years ago, we brought Doc and Golden Earl apples for everyone. We had also made mini-baskets of them, and Susan had them delivered to the hotel rooms of the out-of-town guests. They were a great big hit, those gorgeous red and yellow apples.
Doc and Golden Earl. What a complementary pair.