Blue Pearmain apple


#1

I discovered this variety growing on three trees at a neighbor’s farm about 10 years ago. One tree measured 152" in circumference! They hadn’t been tended to in decades, but still produce a crop of large, attractive fruit. A solid old-time cooking and cider winter apple. A legacy of my town’s agricultural past- apples were exported from here to England in the 1800s, and BPM was a mainstay variety along with Roxbury, Winn Russet, Stevens Gilliflower. These apples captured my imagination, and I decided to learn how to propagate them by grafting scions from the historic trees onto volunteer crabapple saplings around my house 6 years ago. This started me down the orchardist/nurseryman path that I still am following. For the first time, one of 5 top worked trees is bearing a handful of these, and now they are ripening and developing the blue hazy bloom they get their name from. I learned from reading old agriculture reports that BPM is slow to begin bearing- ‘You will harvest ten bushels of Baldwin before one from Blue Pearmain’.
One of the old trees got knocked over and killed by Irene a few years back, and another one doesn’t look to healthy either. I am glad to be continuing this variety for the next generation.


#2

Jesse, as you may know, I became full time walker of this path about 25 years ago. I’m in SE NY. Where are you?

Incidentally, Baldwin in my area are very heavy bearers.


#3

Alan, I am glad to join you on this journey taken in partnership with trees!
I am in western Maine, in a town of 400 named Sweden.
There is a very healthy historic mostly untended Baldwin in another section of town that I have picked and collected scion from, it is often biennial, but puts out massive crops of 20-30 bushels at least every other year. I will be visiting it in the weeks to come…


#4

Ripening fruit, catbird pecks say it is getting there…

Cleft graft union, now I’ve learned to leave both scions on for a full season and this prevents the stubbed trunk from dying back.

Ladder is around 8’.


#5

Jesse,

Beautiful apples. I’m jealous.

Blue Pearmain was Henry Thoreau’s favorite apple.


#6

Here is Thoreau’s essay on his favorite apple, the Blue Pearmain:

“THE LAST GLEANING”

By the middle of November the wild apples have lost some of their brilliancy, and have chiefly fallen. A great part are decayed on the ground, and the sound ones are more palatable than before. The note of the chickadee sounds now more distinct, as you wander amid the old trees, and the autumnal dandelion is half-closed and tearful. But still, if you are a skilful gleaner, you may get many a pocket-full even of grafted fruit, long after apples are supposed to be gone out-of-doors.

I know a Blue-Pearmain tree, growing within the edge of a swamp, almost as good as wild. You would not suppose that there was any fruit left there, on the first survey, but you must look according to system. Those which lie exposed are quite brown and rotten now, or perchance a few still show one blooming cheek here and there amid the wet leaves. Nevertheless, with experienced eyes, I explore amid the bare alders and the huckleberry-bushes and the withered sedge, and in the crevices of the rocks, which are full of leaves, and pry under the fallen and decaying ferns, which, with apple and alder leaves, thickly strew the ground. For I know that they lie concealed, fallen into hollows long since and covered up by the leaves of the tree itself,—a proper kind of packing. From these lurking-places, anywhere within the circumference of the tree, I draw forth the fruit, all wet and glossy, maybe nibbled by rabbits and hollowed out by crickets and perhaps with a leaf or two cemented to it (as Curzon, an old manuscript from a monastery’s mouldy cellar), but still with a rich bloom on it, and at least as ripe and well kept, if not better than those in barrels, more crisp and lively than they. If these resources fail to yield anything, I have learned to look between the bases of the suckers which spring thickly from some horizontal limb, for now and then one lodges there, or in the very midst of an alder-clump, where they are covered by leaves, safe from cows which may have smelled them out. If I am sharp-set, for I do not refuse the Blue-Pearmain, I fill my pockets on each side; and as I retrace my steps in the frosty eve, being perhaps four or five miles from home, I eat one first from this side, and then from that, to keep my balance.

Excerpt from “Wild Apples: The Last Gleaning” by Henry David Thoreau. Atlantic Monthly. 1862.


I got my scion wood from USDA yesterday
#7

Beautiful Apples Jesse, and your landscape is lovely too. You can feel ‘Autumn’ in the air through your photographs.


#8

There is a pear tree in the national forest here at an old home site. A very old man told me the best pear that he ever ate he found late one fall buried under a pile of leaves beneath that tree.


#9

Wow, I’m surprised the old Baldwin survives there. What does a test winter send it? You must somehow be in the banana belt for Western Maine.


#10

Very nice apples Jesse. Thankfully there are people like you preserving history.


#11

Hmmm, wonder if I finally found a match for a “mystery apple”. Do these look anything like yours?


#12

Thanks for posting that passage by Thoreau, it inspired me to go visit one of the historic BPM trees and glean fallen fruit from within the bracken, bittersweet, and blackberries which surround that tree. I found quite a few decent fruit, most cider grade with some nibbling or bruising from the impact. When I get a chance I will take a pic or two.


#13

Possible, the basin end of those pictured seems a bit different, as well a the color which is more uniformly red on yours, more stripey on mine.


#14

Very cool Jesse. I have BPM in my young nursery but like most of the heirloom varieties in my collection, I have never tried one. I fell in love with antique apples solely from pictures and descriptions like your post. I’m sorry to hear it’s slow to bear. Thanks for sharing the photos. I can’t wait to see it flower and try one.


#15

Is the bloom on your mystery tree blue?


#16

Well, gray actually. But it is very heavy and the result is to make the apple look blue.

Here’s photos of them off the tree.


#17

My Liberties are very like that this year, Kevin.


#18

Went picking with my son at one of the historic trees, this one could have been planted by the original settlers of my town, Samuel Nevers, around 200 years ago. Still making apples, give that tree a hug! <img src="//growingfruit-images.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/original/2X/6/69678ed483d34633ba4c92c3047337678733e4f3.jpg" width=“1000” height="562

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#19

Wow. What a blast!


#20

I visited an old farmstead the next town over whose absentee/seasonal owner had asked me to look at an old neglected tree to see if any thing could be done for it…a pleasant surprise, it was a BPM with still a decent amount of fruit on the lower limbs. The tree itself rests on a trunk that is half gone, and rotted out on one side with some suckers and other random tree seedlings growing up into the canopy, we will do what we can for this historic specimen in the winter. Coloration of the fruit was a bit lighter than mine due to the shaded positions that most grew in, lovely in an antique sort of way. These make the best baked apples.