Today, I finally ordered a budstick of the elusive Henry Clay apple of Kentucky.
Temperate Orchard Conservancy saved it from the Botner collection over the past few years. Their new mother tree was finally big enough to spare a twig for my grafting ambitions.
Supposed to be one of the more acceptable of the super-early eating apples. Purportedly superior to Lodi, Red Astrachan, and Yellow Trans. It won Tim Hensley’s taste test for that season before he passed away and his nursery went defunct.
One of the few varieties - like Calville Blanc - with highly pronounced ribbing.
Stark Bros pushed Henry Clay hard for decades. Then it mysteriously dropped off the face of the planet.
It shares the name of Senator Henry Clay - known to history as the Great Compromiser of the U.S. Congress - ALSO associated with Kentucky. Serving as Speaker of the House… and then Secretary of State… and later as Senator… Henry Clay led a life of endless historical interest vis-a-vis the development of the United States in that very formative and tumultuous time period-- however noble or controversial it might be viewed.
Strangely enough-- the apple itself was not named after Senator Henry Clay (at least not in a direct fashion). The apple WAS discovered in Kentucky, but legend says it was named after another local man: a Mr. Henry Clay Hunter of Caldwell County (Perhaps Mr. Hunter was named after Senator Henry Clay?). The apple was known to be in the possession of a Mr. W. H. Knight of Hopkins County, Kentucky no later than 1890… or at least so-says apple historian Mr. Lee Calhoun:
We’ll see if it’s any good… or if I’m just a sucker for all the hype.
With a name like Henry Clay-- I just have to try it.
I like a good early-season apple. They are refreshing on a hot summer day. Like “eating” your canteen’s worth of freshwater… if you can find one that isn’t too sour.