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And John Bunker is determined to save as many as he can before they, and he, are gone.
apple varieties is that apples do not come true from seed.
There was a gnarled little yellow thing called a Westfield Seek-No-Further; a purplish plum impostor called a Black Oxford; a massive, red-streaked Wolf River; and one of Thomas Jefferson's go-to fruits, the Esopus Spitzenburg.
Bunker is known in Maine as "The Apple Whisperer," or simply "The Apple Guy," and, after laboring for years in semi-obscurity, he has never been in more demand.
Country Fair, the Lollapalooza of sustainable agriculture, John Bunker sets out a display of eccentric apples.
Last September, once again, they covered every possible size, shape, and color in the wide world of appleness.
There is a bent old Black Oxford tree in Hallowell, Maine, that is approximately two centuries old and still gives a crop of midnight-purple apples each fall.
In places like northern New England, the Appalachian Mountains, and Johnny Appleseed's beloved Ohio River Valley—agricultural byways that have escaped the bulldozer—these centenarians hang on, flickering on the edge of existence, their identity often a mystery to the present homeowners.
And, indeed, some of the old apples have genes for resistance to apple scab and other scourges of the modern orchard that are proving useful.
(Apples require more pesticides than any other crop, and it's exceedingly difficult to grow modern apple varieties organically.) But don't discount romance.
If you like the apples made by a particular tree, and you want to make more trees just like it, you have to clone it: Snip off a shoot from the original tree, graft it onto a living rootstock, and let it grow. Every Mc Intosh is a graft of the original tree that John Mc Intosh discovered on his Ontario farm in 1811, or a graft of a graft.