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Heritage apple trees will produce 700 bushels annually ~
The persistent blank spot on Joe Rowell Park’s east side is set to blossom into a vibrant apple orchard producing heritage varieties.
This fall the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project planted 70 trees in the Dolores park as part of a partnership with the town. Native grasses will be planted as cover for the orchard floor.
“It is here for the community to cherish, a beautiful asset that will be enjoyed by generations,” said MORP co-director Jude Schuenemeyer. “We purposely planted the rarer varieties. It will be a real place of activity where people can learn and be a part of something.” read full story in The Journal
The Colorado Orange apple was thought to be extinct until now
Though Washington state’s apple growers recently made headlines with the introduction of the crunchy new Cosmic Crisp variety, Colorado has a long history as an apple growing state. Now that history has resurfaced with the discovery of the rare Colorado Orange apple, thought to be possibly extinct.
The discovery comes from Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project (MORP), an organization that “works to preserve Colorado’s fruit- growing heritage and restore an orchard culture and economy to the southwestern region.” Co-founders Jude and Addie Schuenemeyer started the organization to preserve the apple-growing history of Montezuma county, the Southwestern corner of the state that borders Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.
According to MORP, Colorado was a prolific apple producing state starting in the 1860s, winning three gold medals for its fruit at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. Since then the many grown in the state have fallen out of favor in the marketplace; luckily many of those orchards still exist, with 100-year-old trees still producing fruit. Read more in Sunset.com
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:As the decade comes to a close, we can now report that, in fact, you can mix apples and oranges – well, kind of. In the western United States, apple anthropologists are excited about the rediscovery of an apple variety that was believed to be extinct. It’s called the Colorado Orange apple. Jude Schuenemeyer of the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project in southwestern Colorado helped track down the orange apple. We asked him what makes it so special.
JUDE SCHUENEMEYER: So the Colorado Orange is a mix of sweet and tart. Being a winter apple, the flavor opens up over time. So winter apples, like the Colorado Orange, you wouldn’t even think of starting to eat until Christmas. You’d go through all your summer apples, all your fall apples. You’d have these in the root cellar. And then starting Christmas, you’d start to pull these out. And month by month, the flavor would open up. A little bit of the sweet would go – a little bit of the tang might. But they were still going to be very flavorful. They have some of the most complex flavors of any apples you’ll ever have. Culinary-wise, they have some of the most complex flavors you’ll ever have in anything.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The Colorado Orange was popular in the late 1800s. But around the 1940s, it started to disappear.
SCHUENEMEYER: The biggest thing it had going against it was that it was a yellowish-orange-ish-glowed apple at a time when America was going into monoculture where shiny, red apples were considered the only apples worth buying. It wasn’t because it was bad quality or didn’t grow well. It lost out, like so many of the thousands and thousands of apple varieties that have gone extinct. It lost out because it wasn’t the shiny, red apple.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Schuenemeyer says locals around Canyon City, Colo., cherished the orange apple.
SCHUENEMEYER: They knew it was a really high-quality apple, winner apple, good keeping apple. And in Canyon City, the memory of it was kept alive for a long time. And the old timer’s like, oh, yeah. I used to have a tree. It died. But we kept thinking there was still going to be one around. We felt like we could still find one.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And so he and his wife, Addie, started combing the state.
SCHUENEMEYER: Two years ago, we were in Canyon City in this orchard in December. And this person, Mr. Diana, said, hey. I’ve got a tree also. And he took us to a tree. My wife Addie and I looked at it. And lo and behold, on the ground underneath the tree in the duff, there were these orange-blushed apples. And then on the tree, there were some of the apples still hanging. And it had that really good, sub-acid, flavorful taste that you’d expect from a winter Apple. So yeah. It was a a big moment for us.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: But the Shuenemeyers have been careful and taking their time. They did cutting-edge DNA testing and compared their find to some archival wax apple replicas at Colorado State University. They wanted to make sure they’d found the actual orange apple of memory.
SCHUENEMEYER: Because it’s considered extinct, there’s probably never an absolute. But we’ve got as close to an absolute as we can. Between this newest new DNA technology, the historical purveyors of the orchard itself and the waxed apple to compare it to, that’s an extraordinary amount of information that most people would never be able to have to compare anything.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And so in a couple of years, once the young trees get going, keep your eyes open in the produce section for something new. And please restrain yourself from asking Jude Schuenemeyer about mixing apples and oranges.
SCHUENEMEYER: (Laughter) Yeah, yeah. People – when they hear of the Colorado orange, they definitely wonder what we’re talking about. That’s for sure.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
The Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project compared the fruit of a tree found near Cañon City to botanical illustrations and wax castings of award-winning apples to identify the lost treasure. Read the full article in The Colorado Sun. DEC 18, 2019 5:07AM MST
Using DNA testing in southwest Colorado, the Montezuma Orchard Restoration project welcomes back apple varieties like Winter Banana, Blue Pearmain, Ben Davis and Esopus Spitzenburg — and businesses are sprouting around them.
MCELMO CANYON — The apple orchard on Jude and Addie Schuenemeyer’s farm in a squiggle of a canyon in far southwest Colorado is a wild place. Turkeys gobble around on the hunt for bugs in native grasses that grow nearly as high as the gnarly limbs of the apple trees. Those trees are set hither and thither instead of lining up in typical tidy orchard rows. They bear apples that few fruit fans have likely heard of: Winter Banana, Blue Pearmain, Ben Davis and Esopus Spitzenburg…read the full article in The Colorado Sun.
PUBLISHED ON NOV 28, 2019 5:05AM MST
The historic Gold Medal Orchard, located in McElmo Canyon where it joins Trail Canyon, represents one of hundreds of remnant historic orchards located in Montezuma County and across Colorado. First planted in 1890 by James Giles, the orchard soon earned its name by winning a gold medal for the quality of its apples and peaches at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. Remaining on-site are several old apple, pear, and quince trees, portions of the historic orchard fence; and under the grand cottonwoods are two historic homes with sheds and a privy.
When you visit, close your eyes and imagine what you would have seen while standing here at the turn of the 20th century. Fruit trees spread across the canyon floor, pink, white, and red blossoms snowing down in the spring, limbs heavy with crops throughout the summer and fall. Apples, peaches, apricots, pears, cherries, and plums ripening in the warm sun and cool evenings in the perfect location to grow beautiful and flavorful fruit.
Time passed, the trees grew into their grandeur, and then slowly faded into the landscape. Over 100 years later, only a few historic trees remain, hardy remnants of the orchard’s former glory. Heritage fruit varieties were lost, and the story of the Gold Medal Orchard and its prize-winning fruits was nearly forgotten.
Today, the story of the Gold Medal Orchard is remembered by the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project (MORP) through its work to preserve Colorado’s fruit-growing heritage. In 2015, the orchard was listed as one of Colorado’s Most Endangered Places by Colorado Preservation, Inc. (CPI). MORP works with the Kenyon family to have it become a Saved Site. In 2019, this project was awarded an Endangered Places Progress Award by CPI at the Dana Crawford & State Honor Awards.
When you are at the orchard, open your eyes wide and take a good look at the roughly 400 fruit trees growing before you. They represent rare fruit genetics (primarily apples) that were grafted by MORP from this and other historic Colorado orchards. Envision these young trees of old genetics reaching their prime, and then still growing another hundred years from now. Gifts of our fruit-growing pioneers passed down by MORP for future generations to taste and preserve.
The gates to the orchard are opened during scheduled MORP events, but you can view the site anytime from outside the fence. If you are a Sustain-a-Tree member you can contact MORP (via email) to schedule a visit as well. Interpretive signs paid for in part by History Colorado, State Historic Fund which will be installed by year 2020.