CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Great Heirloom Apple Adventure: Part II of…?

Posted by: Deryn Davidson, Boulder County Extension

The first entry of this adventure blog left us having learned a bit about the history of apples in Colorado and the folks who were instrumental in bringing them here. As I continue down the path of knowledge, I have met some very interesting folks who are instrumental in keeping the memory of these old varieties alive.

At the ProGreen Expo in January 2015, I attended a talk titled, “Heirloom Fruit Trees of Colorado”.  The speaker was Jude Schuenemeyer of Let itGrow Nursery and the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project (MORP).  Jude gave a great presentation advocating for these old varieties and telling stories from his own orchard and the work he is doing to preserve them.  He asked the audience, “Why don’t you eat Colorado apples?” (Hmmm. An interesting question. Perhaps one that I will get into more in Part III.) If you go to the MORP website, you will see:

“The MORP is working to preserve rare fruit genetics, revive historic orchards, plant new orchards, research the history of heritage orchards, provide orchard education, and foster the blossoming of a new fruit economy in Montezuma County.”

How fantastic! These folks are passionate about heirloom varieties and keeping the history alive. Their interest lies not only with apples, but also peaches, cherries, pears and plums. Their location in southwest Colorado  is great for this project since at one time it was noted as being “the most  favored district in Colorado” for fruit growing potential. 

John Chapman
a.ka. Johnny Appleseed

The next character in this story is Scott Skogerboe. Many of you may know Scott, he is the Head Propagator at Ft. Collins Wholesale Nursery working with all types of landscape plants, including Phellodendron...but that's a story for another time. One of Scott's passions is old apple varieties. Back in February I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with him walking around looking at some of his trees and listening to his stories. He is a true plantsman and historian. One of the things that amazed me about talking to Scott was how he is able to remember all of the many, many stories that go along with each variety. He has traced the history of the Hung Hai Tung crabapple back to a Buddhist temple in the Yinshan Pagoda Forest near Beijing China and the Goodhue apple to T.E. Perkins in Goodhue County, Minnesota (just to name a few). All of these stories are fascinating to listen to. When you know the history of these trees, it makes your connection to them more personal. Speaking of personal, Scott is responsible for preserving the lineage of one of the trees that Johnny Appleseed himself planted!! How cool!!

One of the properties owned by Masonville Orchards
Finally, I spent some time with Walt Rosenberg, another local apple expert (I don't know if he'd call himself an expert, but I do). Walt owns and operates Masonville Orchards. They have several properties along the Front Range, the first of which was in Masonville, CO (hence the name). I visited their  Ft. Collins nursery out east of the Budweiser Brewery. This orchard is in a pretty idillic setting with incredible views of the mountains. He specializes in "antique, heirloom and unique apple and pear varieties". Walking through the orchard with Walt was a huge lesson in all the different varieties that he grows. As we walked he explained some of the business side of owning an orchard that focuses on heirlooms and how that differs from a grower who only has 5 or 10 more conventional varieties (he has 150!!). His really is a niche market, and one that suits him well. As we passed each variety, he told me about the unique characteristics and why he likes them all. The Pristine has a lemon taste, the Prisilla tastes like licorice. Yellow T makes good sauce and the Scarlet Surprise... well, Walt called it the coolest apple on the planet. Apparently, when you bite into it, it fizzes, as if it were carbonated!! I can't wait to get to the Farmer's Market this year to wait in line for one of those!! Maybe that's the next step in this adventure...finally getting to EAT some of these apples!!


  1. Walt is a vendor at the Larimer County Farmers' Market in Old Town (he also sells in Boulder and Longmont) and each week he gives us a bag of apples to snack on while we run the market. One of my favorites is Akane, which is one of the first he brings in the season. To me, it's amazing how he can grow so many different types and knows the flavor profile of every one. Now I also want to eat apples!

  2. Between Scott and Walt, we have an amazing amount of apple knowledge in northern Colorado. Walt brings different apples every week once he begins selling at the LC Farmers' Market and will tell you the story behind each one he sells. I like his Ginger Gold...and Akane is right up there too. Great blog Deryn!

  3. Very interesting discussion on Johnny Appleseed in Michael Pollan's 2011 book The Botany of Desire.

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