I’m expecting fruit in the next year or two off what was the #1 apple in the 1800’s and early 1900s . what was the variety you may ask? It was a Ben Davis an apple most people have never even heard of. My understanding is its mildly sweet and keeps in storage about 5 months. I’ve been told the flavor was very bad in the north because they lack enough days to properly ripen the apple. They shoveled them on train cars with scoop shovels which may account for it reportedly not bruising easily. When I grafted it years ago the wood was very black and reminded me of Arkansas black a great deal.They may have a common parent but so far i’ve had trouble getting much info about the apples let alone its parentage. I know just the basics about the apple and have asked in forums previously. I suspect the good old apple varities really are not that great sometimes and fell out of favor for s reason. Certainly there are some that just could not be commercially grown which is different. I will let you know when I eat my first ever Ben Davis. Has anyone ever eaten one? I plant a lot of these old varities because I want to know how they really taste. My prairie spy can’t be purchased from the grocery store but its a very good apple. What are your thoughts were the older varities really better or are the new ones truly big improvements?
I might have to get some Ben Davis scion from you. It was a top apple for a reason. I am a big fan of York Another top apple back in the day.
Sure it might be one we really like. I have just one tree of it at this time and its another that does not have much small wood on it. I think we could come up with enough to start you a couple. It grows like a weed.
My favorite Ben Davis apple story:
“There was a joke going around when I was a girl about a fellow who claimed to be such an expert in recognizing apples by taste that he could identify any kind, even if blindfolded. He was challenged, of course, and given apple after apple to taste—and he kept identifying each correctly. Finally, one of his challengers, in desperation to fool him, grabbed a large piece of cork and carved it into the shape of an apple. The man bit out a chunk, hesitated, bit out another, then finally said, “I’m not real sure…I think it’s a Ben Davis…But if it is, it’s the best one I’ve ever eaten.”
“Only the peddlers from Mississippi would take our Ben Davis, only the trucker-peddlers from the Deep South would still buy our Ben Davis apples. Cotton with red skin wrapped around it, that’s what folks at Dix called the Ben Davis apple. Cotton with red skin around it. You could grind up Ben Davis apples, put the pummy in the cider press, and folks would claim the Ben Davis soaked up cider from the press!!”
Im looking forward to actually trying one. Of all the brief stories ive heard noone has actually tried one. I think my scions came from big horse creek if i remember correctly. I figure worse case scenario i can top work it. Im curious why would the most popular apple grown taste bad? Wolf river by many accounts was a tasteless , juiceless apple but ive heard to the contrary when its grown until fully ripened on the tree its very good. I got scions of wolf river this year to make a cross with my other seedling apples and wickson.
I think it was yesteryear’s Red Delicious. Sweet, mild, and looking good on the shelves during a large part of the year. But, even RD (Hawkeye?) can be good when grown in the right circumstances, so I’m also interested to see how BD turns out.
How did the Ben Davis apples turn out?
Hi! Black McIntosh is a good apple? Thank’s!
It’s … large.
Light weight, though. Bakes well because it’s dry. It’s kind of unique that way. In savory dishes it soaks up flavor of meat drippings just as is claimed for Ben Davis.
It’s one of a handful of apples originating in Wisconsin. If you’re in Wisconsin, you’ll be glad you planted it because everybody asks about it.
Many old apple varities are still popular Ben Davis Ben Davis just being one of them.
" well-known and very famous old southern apple noted for its rapid growth and excellent keeping qualities. Originated in the South in the 1800’s and was quite an important commercial variety praised for its durability and ruggedness during shipping. The fruit is so durable and hardy, Northern-grown apples raised for shipping were often hand-shoveled onto railroad cars without incurring any significant damage! Known to apple growers in the 19th Century as a “mortgage lifter” for its reliability in fruit production and ability to hang firmly on the tree late into the season. Though historically never considered a very high-quality fresh eating apple, Calhoun in Old Southern Apples (2011) believes the apple does not qualify for the widespread condemnation it received in older books and references. He says these early bad reviews resulted from apples grown too far north to ripen properly. A USDA bulletin from 1910 states that Southern-grown Ben Davis apples were “generally more juicy and of notably better quality” than Northern-grown apples. Medium size with waxy, bright yellow skin mottled with dark and bright red blushing. Ripens in October and improves in flavor while in storage.
I remember talking to old timers that said ‘Ben Davis’ was like an early red delicious variety. Pretty to look like, but nothing on the inside. This was Northern Illinois. Large acreage was planted and then torn out.
All hat and no cattle.
If i get any apple in Kansas I’m happy! That’s not to say we don’t get apples but you better like seconds!
The only thing Ben Davis apples were good for was transporting easily and stored well. Their flavor was nothing at all. Back then I am sure having apples that stored well was really important.
Yes long storage meant a lot.
I kind of wonder what Baldwin X Wolf River would taste like.
Has anyone grown Junaluska? I’ve wondered about it quite a bit since reading an article 20 years ago.
I had a branch of it for years but it kept getting fire blight so I removed it. I have it on some friends trees and should get to taste it this year. It’s an extremely vigorous grower but was shy to bear here.
What about Kittageskee Steve? What can you tell me about it? Larry sent me a stick of it that he obtained from you but unfortunately both my grafts failed, they leafed out in the mail.
I’ll get to taste my first one this fall. No trouble so far with blight or rust