Fruit from the old days

Hard to believe many of us are still growing fruits they grew hundreds of years ago! I love articles about these early fruit growers ! This is one such article on a grower from 1847 ! Here is another story about the origin of Kieffer pears you may already know


Yes, Luelling and Mr. Bing are well-know around here by fruit enthusiasts.

Last summer, I attended a slide presentation at Portland State University, the slides were old hand-colored glass plates depicting turn-of-the-20th century agriculture, harvesting, and food processing. The slide projector was a 1940 Bell & Howell with a 1000-watt bulb, manual feed of slides from each side of the machine. There was a narrator on-stage reading from industry and news accounts at the time.

An apple tree planted in 1826 is still living in Vancouver, WA.

A book, “The Apple Woman of the Klickitat” is a good read of apple growing near Mount Adams by a New York lady in Washington and social life near the Columbia Gorge, circa 1920.

“Hoboes: Bindlestiffs, Fruit Tramps, and the Harvesting of the West” is another interesting read. My favorite line was about people that were so down on their luck that they were “starved into berries” (harvesting of caneberries).


Black Cherry flavor comes from Seth Lewellyn’s Black Republican cherry. (He was a Quaker and abolitionist.) I stumbled upon two of the trees in an orchard just north of Spokane last year. I missed the window of ripeness this year, but sure hope to pick a lot of them next season! Smaller, softer and blacker than Bing, it is unmistakable once you take a bite. Once having done that, I can taste reduced BR flavor in Bing.


One old variety of apple seems worth trial here, in addition to the two others in my yard proven to do well Out West: Court Pendu Rose. CPR was considered ancient when Louis XIV’s orchardist made note of it in 1617. I figure it must date to at least 1300 to deserve that estimate - 300 years before the note. I grafted it onto Lord Lambourne, which is of similar low vigor, saving the use of a root.

Since I cannot read French well I have not attempted to read a copy of the source document, but understand Court Pendu Plat, which is better known, was thought back then (1617) to be even older than CPR. I hope for what small crops this may offer, as it is a light bearer.

The others I am trying that are quite old and do well in the West are Rambour Franc (first noted 1535) and Edelborsdorfer (1175, and well-documented in German on Wikipedia, of all things! I understand the German better than had Google Translate, which left me in helpless tears of laughter.) Rambour Franc is a hit at Trees of Antiquity in Paso Robles, CA and Edelborsdorfer was recently noted as successful by Arboreum, also in CA.
Years passed before I bent to include more recent cultivars simply because they show greater promise than some of the older cvs tried and found wanting. Still pretty stoked about these three!


I really enjoy this topic. By growing our own fruits, we can savor the flavors and textures that delighted our ancestors. Each winter I review scion from Fedco for types that I might like from long ago. I grow figs that Thomas Jefferson was said to grow - White Marseilles, and figs from the old South - Celeste and Brunwick. An apple that was enjoyed by the Founding Fathers and Queen Victoria - Newtown Pippin. That one will bear its first apple this year. This year I will have my first taste of Baldwin Apple - first grown about 1740, and Gravenstein Apple - 1600s? and first taste since my childhood of Jonathan Apple, first grown about 1826. Scion that took this year included Fameuse apple - first grown before 1700. Last year I tasted my own Sutton’s Beauty Apple - 1848. According to wikipedia, the history of Montmorency Cherry goes back to ancient Rome. There are lots more examples of fruits we csn grow that were enjoyed by previous generations.


I have a fig tree variety called Croisic, if it’s really the same variety as Roscoff like many people think then I have a variety that was in France since at least the early 1600s, some people believe that Roscoff has been in France since the 11th Century. I should know if Roscoff and Croisic are the same years from now since they are being grown together in the USA at a USDA test field.

Roscoff was planted by Monks in 1634.


From the 24 July 1917 Oregonian:

A Bing tree yielded 1,500 pounds of cherries that sold for 6 cents a pound for a total of $90.

Personal comment: That must have been a large tree as 1,500 pounds is 100 15-pound (half-bushel) lugs.


Why so inexpensive?


What cost $90 in 1917 would cost $1715.38 in 2016. $1.14 a pound.


Oops missed the date! :upside_down_face:


Checked a Rambour Franc/Summer Rambo windfall with worm inside yesterday. 12 and a half Brix and still starchy; not a seed left by the worm to look at. Ripe here in two or three weeks. Little reddish stripes appearing just like in old depictions. Quite exited about this debut crop!

Rambour Franc was first recorded in northern France 1535; was brought over the Oregon Trail 140 years ago to the area, but now I seem to be the only one growing it.


Actually annually they hold a celebration of the oldest apple tree in WA state here in Vancouver, the Measles Capitol…and they give away free tiny tree starts made from cuttings of that very tree. It is thought to be a parent to later WA varieties. Oddly Vancouver is banned from apple exports due to a catepillar that is invasive and causes a deformity.

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When I wrote, “but now I seem to be the only one growing it,” I meant growing it anywhere in the Spokane area. 18 months later I still don’t know of anyone growing Rambour Franc around here. Nearly all the fruit from that tree dropped before picking - except maybe 6 - and bore few viable seeds. I had thinned it by more than two-thirds of the fruit set, yet it did not push a single bloom in '18. It has plenty of bloom buds swelling as of this writing, but I think I’ll top-work most of it. Two others likely to come ripe in the same window of time are Maiden Blush and Discovery.
Neither of these are as old as Rambour Franc. Discovery dates only to 1949 England and Maiden Blush to maybe 1770. It had spread thickly into PA & MD from NJ by 1817.

Another tree to be top-worked was mislabeled from the nursery. I hope to establish Glockenapfel on the stock. Translated “Bell Apple” it dates before 1600.
In reading the article clarkinks included (thank you) about Luellings, I noticed Henderson Luelling brought White Winter Pearmain with him to Oregon in the year 1847. I had thought WWP dated to about 1849 Indiana, but this indicates it is older by maybe a decade. (Some people speculate WWP is the same as the ancient British Winter Pearmain, but that is a squat, all-red skinned apple.)

Hunt Russet dates to 1750, Concord, Mass. I tasted two debut fruits from it later in '17 and was bowled over by the tastes: tangerine & rose finish. I dug it up, mangled the roots while burying the graft union so it would begin making its own roots, and it simply established roots last year. This year I must not let it grow fruit. Maybe next year.


The earliest citation for the White Winter Pearmain in Beach’s Apples of New York is to the 1849 Transactions of the New York Agricultural Society. That source indicates that E. Harkness, from Peoria, Ill., was awarded a premium for the best exhibition of apples (61 varieties, one of which was the WWP) in Syracuse. That would support NuttingBumpus’s speculation for an earlier introduction of the White Winter Pearmain.

John Warder, in American Pomology, 1867, suggests the WWP “was brought to Indiana by some of the early pomologists, in the days of saddle-bag transportation.” In 1825, the Lewelling family (spellings differ over the years), Meshack, Shadrach, and Abednego, was one of several Quaker families who moved from North Carolina to Indiana. Henderson, Meshack’s son, was then aged 16, and ten years later moved to Iowa. The family maintained orchards in NC, Indiana, and Iowa. It is quite possible that given the year 1825, they may have traveled by “saddle-bag transportation.” So, who knows? They could have been involved in the introduction of the WWP.


Henderson Lwelling was quite a character. In addition to being a pioneer orchardist in the Pacific Northwest, earlier in Iowa he was active in the Underground Railroad. He moved his fruit operation to take advantage of the gold rush in California and created Fruit Vale, from which Fruitvale Station in Oakland is named. He had one wife for more than 20 years, with whom he had 11 children. Then he had three wives in four years, before abandoning his last to found a short-lived free-love colony in Honduras. After he returned to California, for the next 18 years he lived in obscurity. He died of a heart attack while clearing brush.


Going out clearing brush sounds pretty good! An orchardist dream really is to pass in their orchard.


Nuttin, I have Summer Rambo on a 4-on-1 tree I think I bought from Starks. It hasn’t fruited yet, and I’m not sure if the varieties are labeled on the tree. I’ll have to look next time I go out to my land.

Our first Summer Rambo died a year after it first bore fruit. Just planted its replacement this afternoon.

I wrote to the folks at Trees of Antiquity, asking about their soil. They are in Monterey county, south of where I once lived, Salinas, Calif. They have lots of calcium in the soil. I have little to none, so I’ve been keeping all eggshells and breaking them up in a blender. That, and dolomite, and “Super Sweet” another calcium source, have all been added around Rambour Franc to compensate.
Part of the problem it faced in '17 of setting seed was the youth of most of my apple trees. Bardsey can bloom at the same time, if it isn’t tweaked by strange weather, & which has taken 8 years since the graft onto EMLA26 (Raintree) to come into full bloom.
If I had a chunk of land in which to experiment, instead of a back yard, I might just leave it alone and await developments. As things stand, I have two others to graft onto it, as mentioned above, and will keep a nurse limb.
RF may prove to do well in years to come, and I may have a better base upon which to graft a real orchard someday.

Where did you find this information? It tallies with what I’ve read about Henderson’s brother. Seth stayed in Oregon, Willamette valley, and continued to produce fruit for pioneers. He also bred newer varieties, which is probably not news to most folks reading this forum.
Sounds like Seth stayed the course and Henderson became an apostate Quaker.

Thanks, also for the other sources regarding White Winter Pearmain. Sounds like an all-American apple. Hope to give it a try some day.