Why Your Supermarket Only Sells Five Kinds of Apples

In the mid-1800s, there were thousands of unique varieties of apples in the United States, some of the most astounding diversity ever developed in a food crop. Then industrial agriculture crushed that world. The apple industry settled on a handful of varieties to promote worldwide, and the rest were forgotten. They became commercially extinct — but not quite biologically extinct.

Even when abandoned, an apple tree can live more than 200 years, and, like the Giving Tree in Shel Silverstein’s book, it will wait patiently for the boy to return. 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 home owners. And John Bunker is determined to save as many as he can before they, and he, are gone — via redwolf.newsvine.com

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