Jon Savoye, our stone mason, found Plum Crabbie one September or October day a few years ago in a row of trees with seedling rootstocks. The Haralson tree that had originally been grafted onto this particular rootstock had perished. Then the rootstock grew to be a tree and produced apples. It’s a similar chain of events that led to the Delicious apple tree Jesse Hiatt found on his farm in Peru, Iowa. Since his discovery, far more Delicious apples have been grown than any other variety. And all of them are generations from that one tree!
Many other new varieties have come about in this way, very unintentionally, and have become famous, as well. So growers know to keep an eye out for this sort of thing. And just so you don’t think we fall in love with any old thing that grows and calls itself an apple, I’ll tell you that we’ve discarded many because they were no fun at all. By nature, I think everything has value. But we’ve tasted some junkers, and, wherever their value is, we don’t presently have the wisdom to find it.
So Jon had discovered this fabulous-tasting, unique-textured, long plum-shaped crab apple on a tree that had grown bigger and bushier than the Haralson trees that surrounded it. We came up with a description of its flavor almost immediately, saying it was like licking the inside of the lid of a Welch’s frozen concentrated grape juice can. That’s right, concentrated Concord grapes. What a kick!
Now, we know they’re a little strong for most people. There’s a lot of acid in there, and a wallop of concentrated, purple grape-ish flavor. I claim it’s at least 5x concentrate. Maybe 7x. The texture of the flesh is refined, super-crisp and delicate to chew, and wet with juice. The skin, too, is the easy-to-chew kind, which I find most enjoyable.
We’ve propagated a hundred or so Plum Crabbie trees and planted them in the orchard. I picked my pockets full from the young trees at just the proper harvest time when we passed the new planting on a wagon ride with friends. I’m still holding some in the fridge, but the ones I ate were some of the best apples I’ve ever eaten.
Yes, I did give everyone on the wagon one to try. Like I say, they’re too strong for most people, which is what we’d expect when we’re so far to an extreme. But some of us really like it over here on this edge.
Another variety with flavor similarities to Plum Crabbie is our Nectarapple.