Autumn in Southeast Tennessee means two things: a stunning display of autumn leaves and the taste of fall’s favorite fruit, the apple.
Here’s a little history of the esteemed apple. The wild ancestor of the domesticated apple likely originated in the ancient apple forests of Kazakhstan in Central Asia. The Silk Route passed through Kazakhstan, and travelers in the area spread the fruit east and west, thereby making apples one of the world's most popular fruits.
European colonists brought the apple to North America (where the crabapple is the only native apple) in the 17th century. By the late 19th century, scores of apple and other fruit trees were planted in farmstead and kitchen orchards across the country.
The Red Delicious and Golden Delicious varieties are the parents of about 90 percent of the apple hybrids people eat, scientists say. The Red Delicious was hybridized into the Fuji and the Empire, and the Golden Delicious into the Gala, the Jonagold, the Mutsu, the Pink Lady and the Elstar.
In the 20th century, market pressures on commercial apple growers reduced the diversity of apple trees to only a handful of commonly marketed apple varieties. Today, the primary varieties grown for sale to grocery stores and fruit and vegetable markets are Red Delicious (41 percent), Golden Delicious, Romes and Winesaps.
In recent years, however, growers have become interested in heritage apples of years past, and many varieties that were thought to be extinct are being rediscovered in abandoned orchards all over the country. Many apple growers who are concentrating on direct sales to the consumer through on-farm markets are emphasizing production of apple varieties not commonly found in stores, such as Gala, Empire, Jonagold, Melrose, Arkansas Black and Fuji.
Typically, Tennessee produces close to 9 million pounds of apples between June and October. This year’s heavy rains have been a blessing for area apple growers, and many orchards will have late-season apples (Pink Ladys and Black Arkansas varieties) available through mid-November.
So celebrate the season with a culinary adventure to some of the region's apple orchards to reap the rewards of locally grown fall goodness.
(Call before you visit for produce availability and hours of operation.)
956 Wheeler Rd.
Dunlap, TN 37327 (on Fredonia Mountain)
6351 New Harmony Rd.
Pikeville, TN 37367 (on Dayton Mountain)
351 Weese Rd. SE
Cleveland, TN 37323
245 County Rd. 603
Athens, TN 37303
2204 Fairmount Pike
Signal Mountain, TN 37377
Visit Pick Tennessee Products for more information about apple orchards in Tennessee.
Jenni Frankenberg Veal is a freelance writer and naturalist living on Walden’s Ridge. She enjoys writing about the natural world and exploration opportunities found within the southeastern United States, one of the most biologically and recreationally rich regions on Earth. Visit her blog at www.YourOutdoorFamily.com.
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