Meet Tom Brown, Apple Hunter. He tracks down ancient apple varieties that most people have forgotten.
Why is Tom Brown hunting apples?
Brown’s journey is a love letter to the diversity and richness of apples. He got his start in Clemmons, North Carolina, where a legendary apple called the “Old Fashioned Winesap” sparked his interest. This apple, filled with an intensity of flavor unlike the common supermarket varieties, set Brown on his lifelong quest.
In this pursuit of forgotten flavors, Brown encounters more than just apples. He stumbles upon stories, history, and a myriad of people who are tied to these varieties in one way or another. He also discovers why these varieties are significant and what they tell us about the changing landscape of agriculture.
Brown’s approach to apple hunting is both scientific and adventurous. He frequents old farmsteads, graveyards, and homesites across the southeast. Each location brims with the potential for a forgotten apple treasure.
Brown uses DNA testing to confirm the identity of each apple, but also relies heavily on the tales and memories of the locals to uncover the stories behind the fruit.
The diversity of heritage apples is astonishing. In his travels, Brown has found apples of every conceivable color, taste, and size. There are apples for pies, for cider, for eating fresh off the tree. There are even apples that taste like a banana or a pineapple.
Why is apple hunting important?
This work is about more than just fruit. It’s about biodiversity. Our reliance on a few commercial apple varieties contributes to a lack of genetic diversity, which can have consequences for disease and pest resistance. By resurrecting these heritage varieties, Brown helps maintain the genetic diversity essential for the health of apple orchards worldwide.
But it’s also about a shared heritage. These heritage apples are remnants of a bygone era, a time when every family had an apple tree in their yard, and each apple variety had a story to tell. Saving these apples means preserving a piece of our shared cultural history.
In essence, Brown’s quest is a celebration of apples in all their wonderful variety. It’s a reminder that there is more to this humble fruit than meets the eye. Through his work, Brown tells the stories of these heritage apples, each one a window into our past, a testament to nature’s diversity, and a beacon for the future of sustainable agriculture.
Just like the apples he collects, Tom Brown is unique in his passion and dedication. His journey illustrates the importance of maintaining biodiversity and preserving our shared history, one apple at a time. Through his efforts, we’re reminded of the rich tapestry of apple varieties that exist beyond the few types stocked on supermarket shelves.