“Tiger” should technically be called “Tiger Red Haralson”, because it is a sport of Red Haralson, which is a sport of Haralson. This means that the “wood” Tiger came from was from a Red Haralson tree. Nurseries take “scion wood” and “budwood” from source trees to propagate maiden trees which are then planted out in orchards. They call it wood, even though it is the new, flexible shoot growth from the current year. Only a grower wood call it wood. Wood you? I remember when I first called it wood. Then I was a grower. That was important, because I grew up in Edina, an affluent suburb. There was an established Minnesota apple grower who didn’t think growers should come from Edina, and at a big international growers’ meeting in Michigan he gave a presentation saying, “Being in a garage doesn’t make you a car.” I knew I was his main target when he added, “And owning an orchard doesn’t make you an orchardist.” I thought I was doing pretty good when I called it wood.
Most growers are real nice people, so don’t take it personal.
Anyway, the single bud that came from a Red Haralson tree and grew into Tiger was not genetically the same as Red Haralson, even though it was a clone. It was supposed to be like all of the other 2,300 Red Haralson trees we planted in 1974, but it was different. I first saw Tiger when it first fruited in 1978, and I noted to keep an eye on it. Pretty soon I figured I should take some cuttings in case the original tree would happen to die. From those cuttings we grew 400 Tiger trees (our standard plantings of experimental varieties contain exactly 35 trees, so we were thinking highly of Tiger), and the pictures we’re looking at here are apples from that first generation planting from scions off the original tree. Somewhere in there you start to get out of the garage and become an orchardist, don’t you think?
Tiger was our second proprietary variety, after Pineapple.
I’ve always thought Tiger was pretty cool. Lots of apples stripe, but Tiger has such wide bands of color and then wide bands without color, you’d have to call it variegated. It colors like a gourd! Every apple is different from the next one.
One time, on a school tour, I was showing a Tiger apple to a wagonload of kids. I asked why they thought we decided to name an apple “Tiger.” Of course, I expected the usual, “Because it has stripes!” But this time a little boy said, “Because it has teeth!” It obviously wasn’t the answer I was looking for, but somehow I had the good fortune to ask why he thought it had teeth. (After all, if an apple has teeth, I should know about it. Don’t you think?) So the boy told me to turn the Tiger until the bottom faced him, which isn’t the way I’d normally show an apple. “See? There they are!” he said. And there they were! I was stunned. As the stripes come around the bottom of a Tiger apple, they converge on the calyx, coming to sharp points, like fangs, where they nearly meet. They’re ferocious! Whichever way you turn the apple, as long as you’re looking at the calyx, it looks like Tiger’s teeth. “Watch out! Let’s get outa here!” There aren’t many apples that, if you don’t eat them, they’re liable to eat you.
Do you see how I said “calyx” twice? I must be a grower.
We’ve grown Tiger for years now, and it has been really fun to answer telephone inquiries in September and October asking, “Are the Tigers ready yet?” They were nothing, and now they’re something. It really hit me when I first came to realize it was someone’s favorite apple. I had originally thought they were a novelty for kids, or for a decoration. They do look great in a fruit bowl. But Lonnie Vandervorste, who used to work in the orchard office, kept asking me when they’d be ready to pick. After a while I asked why it was so important, and she said Tiger was her favorite apple. I asked, “What, you mean you like the stripes?” And she said, “No. I’ve eaten everything we have, and Tiger is the one I like best.” She has such a cute way of saying Tiger. It sounds like Tayger. That’s the only way she can say it. Then, the other night, Nicole Cermak was here with her kids Whitney, Buddy, and Angelina. I asked her what kind of apples she wanted. “Keepsake? Honeycrisp? Golden Earl?” Nope. Nicole liked Tiger, and Tiger was the only one Whitney would allow. “Tiger, Topper! TIGER!”
The flavor and texture of Tiger is a lot like Haralson, of course. But it differs from Haralson in some ways as much as the stripes differ from the blush of Red Haralson. The apple has less sugar than Haralson and is noticeably more tart. Haralson is plenty tart for a lot of people, and here Tiger is even more tart . And Haralson is a great long-keeping apple, and Tiger is even longer-keeping. Tiger, like Haralson, is a terrific pie apple, also.