The apple harvest is in, and the crop has gone to storage. Most of it, that is. Some apples, “winter apples,” linger on the trees. One such apple tree grew in a field across from my house when I was a youngster.

This was a bright-red apple with lots of tiny, white dots. The flesh was snow-white and very sweet. The best part of this was the apples continued to hang on the tree until early winter, even after the first snowfall, and they remained good.

I recall one cold, snowy November, walking past that apple tree on the way home from my deer-hunting stand. I filled the game pocket of my hunting coat with the hard, spicy apples and we all enjoyed them later, and through that week.

The pedigree of that apple is uncertain. It’s been well over a half-century since I enjoyed these apples, but if I ever see them again, I’ll certainly recognize them.

Wolf River

I’ve always had a fondness for old-time apple varieties. One type in particular, Wolf River, was a favorite of my grandma’s. Come hunting season, Grandma would always put in her “order” for a bunch of Wolf Rivers, so that she could bake some apple pies.

Wolf River apples are very cold and hardy, which explains how I was able to pick them in hunting season. Remember, this was long ago, when cold weather set in around mid-October and by November, ice and snow covered the ground.

Wolf Rivers are mostly used for cooking, but I used to eat them out-of-hand and found them to be moderately sweet and quite satisfying. The most distinguishing aspect of Wolf River apples is their size. These are nearly as big as a softball; giants of the apple clan. It didn’t take too many of these supersized apples to make a pie.

The Wolf River apples I picked back then came from an old orchard, one that was no longer kept up. Other apple types might become gnarly and barely usable without proper care, but the Wolf Rivers didn’t suffer much at all. That’s because they have great resistance to apple diseases such as scab, mildew and fire blight.

Fortunately, Wolf River remains a well-liked apple today and trees are available from nurseries. If you ever entertained thoughts of growing a rather unique, yet useful apple, I suggest giving Wolf River a try.

Wild Apples

In an earlier time, Midcoast Maine abounded in reverting farmland. After World War II, many farmers sold out and got jobs in towns and cities, leaving the land to slowly turn back to its wild state. Consequently, countless small orchards went to ruin through lack of upkeep. Many of these orchards contained apple varieties the likes of which we might only guess at today.

Also, some of those old varieties appear to have hybridized with each other, creating totally unknown types.

It was commonly thought wild apples are no good, wizened and worm-riddled. Perhaps so, but not all of them were valueless. Every once in a while, far back in the woods, I would find a tree, or trees, that bore totally delicious apples. These warranted annual pilgrimages for their tasty fruit.

One old, overgrown farm even sported a pear tree, with pears the likes of which I have never before, or after, encountered, sweet beyond belief. But it was the apples that drew most of my attention.

Things have changed dramatically from those Halcyon days of yore, and what old orchards that haven’t been cut down to make way for houselots, are riddled with no-trespassing signs. But the days of freely roaming the woods in search of sweet, abundant wild apples remain entrenched in my memory.

Macintosh History

The Macintosh apple was New England’s most popular apple in the 20th century, and despite competition from other varieties, it remains immensely popular. But did you how the Macintosh came about? It may surprise you to learn that the now-famous “Mac,” was originally a wild, or uncultivated apple, from which all Macintosh apples today come from.

In 1811, a farmer in northern Canada discovered a wild apple on his farm that showed promise and he began cultivating it. Thus, an obscure, wild apple variety came to be one of today’s better-known apples.

Perhaps you have some old, forsaken apple tree on the back 40. If so, it’s worth a shot to prune it and cut the trees around it to let it grow. And who knows, it might turn out to be the next Macintosh.

At the least, give some of those old, overlooked apples a try. You just might find one you like.