Everyday Gardeners

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Saving Heirloom Apples

It’s ironic, but heirloom apples are becoming endangered at the very same time they’re regaining popularity.

That’s why the RAFT alliance (an acronym for Renewing America’s Food Traditions) has christened 2010 as “Year of the Heirloom Apple.” Their hope is to earmark at least 90 endangered apple varieties in each region for recovery so they can once again be grown in orchards and backyards.

How severly have heirloom apples declined in America the past century? RAFT provides these telling statistics:

• Of the 15,000 to 16,000 apple varieties named, grown and eaten in North American, only about 3,000 remain accessible through nurseries.

• Roughly nine out of ten apple varieties historically grown in the U.S. are at risk of falling out of cultivation and falling off our tables.

•  One variety, Red Delicious, now comprises 41 percent of the entire American apple crop.

• Eleven common varieties comprise 90 percent of all apples sold in chain grocery stores.

• Much of the apple juice, puree and sauce consumed in the U.S. are now produced in other countries.

•  As the overall number of apple trees in cultivation declines to a fourth of what it was a century ago, the number of apple varieties considered threatened or endangered has peaked at 94 percent.

A key component of RAFT’s apple initiative is release of The Forgotten Fruits Manual & Manifesto – APPLES, a brochure that builds upon the collective knowledge of more than a dozen of America’s most experienced heirloom apple experts. The brochure is now available as a free download here.

To find out ways you can support and celebrate the Year of the Heirloom Apple, click here.

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