Don’t you just adore apples? They’re one of our favourite fruits, and we think they’re one of the best backyard fruit trees, for all these reasons.
We’ve travelled to Tasmania quite a few times, often to visit fellow organic orchardists and friends Matt and Coreen from Our Mates Farm.
Visiting Tassie (the Apple Isle) in apple season means being surrounded by apples, so we’re kind of in heaven.
In particular, we always keep our eye out for locally grown, certified organic produce. We also look for opportunities to learn more about fruit wherever we go, and they inevitably seem to find us!
Learning about heritage apples
We’ve now visited the apple museum at Willie Smith’s Apple Shed in Grove numerous times. It’s probably a bit hard to read the poster (below) explaining its history, but try clicking on it to enlarge it.
The apple museum is very close to the old Grove Research and Demonstration Station, which played an important role in apple R&D in Australia. The museum is funded by local growers rather than the government these days. It continues to house Australia’s biggest collection of heritage apple, quince, and pear trees.
The most fun part is the amazing heritage apple display in the museum.
If you love fruit it’s a fabulous place to visit – we can highly recommend it. If you’re planning to visit, aim to go during the fruit season, when the apple display is full of real fruit.
It’s a fantastic opportunity to see some apple varieties that you’ll probably never see in the flesh anywhere else.
The museum has space for more than 390 different varieties of apple! Fresh specimens of the different varieties are put on display every season. It’s wonderful.
We resisted taking photos of ALL the varieties (it was tempting…). We restricted ourselves to (a) the varieties we’ve planted in our heritage apple orchard, (b) varieties we’ve heard of but never seen before, and (c) varieties whose names were just too cute to leave out!
Honestly, you couldn’t make these names up!
Apart from being fun to look at (if you’re apple nerds, like us), it’s also an important reference collection.
Preserving heritage varieties
One of the best way to preserve these old heritage varieties is by bringing them back into fashion.
That’s why we also grow and sell unusual varieties through Carr’s Organic Fruit Tree Nursery. (This year’s trees aren’t available yet, but will go on sale in the next few weeks.)
We grow some very unusual varieties you may not have heard of, like Roundway Magnum Bonum, Bess Pool, and Elstar. For most of them, we’ve never seen the fruit, let alone tasted it.
Quite a few of the varieties in the Grove museum are ones we’ve planted on the farm in our heritage orchard. None of them are large enough to have fruit yet, which is why we love to see the actual fruit in the museum.
Our idea is to continue to expand our collection so that we can grow our own grafting wood to use in the nursery. We want to be able to produce a steady supply of these old heritage apple varieties that would otherwise potentially just disappear from view.
So far we’ve managed to expand the collection of heritage apple trees for sale to more than 30 different varieties. It’s been fun slowly expanding our collection, and we’re planning to keep going, because 30 is still a long way from 390…