We planted a Newtown Pippin as one of our first trees, but it died a year after it first bore fruit. After a long hiatus with no Newtown Pippins, I successfully grafted two. One of them blossomed for the first time this year, and there are now a couple of little fruits emerging. In honor of the new fruits, I looked up some more history of the apple, using some sources other than fruit books and website. I found some things I didn’t know and thought I would share. (I was going to post this in the Lounge, but that wasn’t an option.)
The Newtown Pippin originated as a chance seedling on the Gershom Moore farm in the village of Newtown, in the colony of New York a decade or so before the American Revolution. Newtown was already old, since it got its name back in the mid-1600s because the old settlement at Maspat had been destroyed by some unhappy former residents – a whole tribe of them. It was an English settlement chartered from the Dutch within the colony of New Amsterdam. In 1652, Reverend John Moore led a group of 54 English Colonists seeking a place to settle for religious freedom and made a deal with Governor Peter Stuyvesant. The neighborhood is now called Elmhurst, and it is in the borough of Queens. The Moore property is located in the vicinity of what is now the intersection of Broadway and 45th Avenue. The original house, built in 1661 and much modified, was pulled down in 1933 because part of it rested over a new subway. Elmhurst is one of the most heavily populated parts of the country, but there is a triangular park there to commemorate the Moore Homestead. The poet credited with writing the “Night Before Christmas,” Clement Moore, grew up on that homestead, but he was not directly related to Gershom Moore. A different author is directly related to the discoverer of the Newtown Pippin – Mark Twain. There was a long line of Gershom Moores beginning with the son of Reverand John Moore, but the one who discovered the Newtown Pippin was Samuel Langhorne Clemens’ grandfather.
The original tree may have grown near this spot, but a several feet above.
Newtown Pippins were the only consistently great apples available commercially in Northern California in the 1960s. I couldn’t stomach the spongy tasteless Red Delicious. I was dismayed when Granny Smith replaced them in stores.
NPs are very versatile, making a great apple pie, holding their shape. I love to keep the pie slightly tart then eat it warm with vanilla ice cream. I so look forward to a good crop of these having grafted a tree over last year! I believe they keep well too.
Yes, one of the big super market chains marketed them as “the ugly apple that tastes good” and it was also my fav during that era- not that the options were great. It continues to be grown or be contracted by the Martinelli Juice Co around Santa Cruz who considers it an integral part of their distinctive tasting apple juice products, including sparkling cider.
They take a long time to come into productivity here in NY on the 111 rootstocks I grow them on- probably about 50 miles from the original tree. Frozen out this year- boo hoo.
We have in part that wily Tom Jefferson to blame. He knew a good apple and planted around fifty Newtown Pippins in his orchard at Monticello — but not before changing the name to a more Southern-sounding Albemarle Pippin.
I’ve commented on this book before. I love it’s humor and wild descriptions of apple taste. On the Newtown Pippin he writes
Like Forrest Gump, the Newtown Pippin has managed to intersect with an improbable number of historic personages and places over the course of its career, and has shown a knack for effortless success at whatever it was called upon to do.
An unassuming smooth green apple the color of a Florida field tomato, with a few white dots. Medium sized and utterly forgettable. Over the winter, the green skin develops a jaundiced edge or sometimes a pink blush. Often, Newtown Pippin is mottled and lopsided. Not a looker.