I find myself often educating people that apples used to been grown throughout the entire southeast. There are numerous apple varieties from areas that are the absolute opposite of where you’d expect apples to be growing. Although I’d say at this point it’s probably fewer everyday. Having said this I understand that it is certainly part of the territory when you are trail blazing that you’ll come across so many confused and at times skeptical people. It is more often the case that people share what others have said about something rather than taking a risk themselves.
This is why normally I don’t let others’ concerns worry me because rarely if ever does it come from experience, just what others say and think. Having said that, even though I don’t say it out loud, sometimes I stop and wonder with some concern whether or not our apple project may not work out as well as I envision it.
In my moments of doubt, out of the nebulous blue will facts bubble up to the surface that stop me dead in my tracks and reignite the fire contained inside. One such fact is that the Reverend Morgan apple exists.
O’ Praise be to da Reverend Morgan Apple
Never heard of the Reverend Morgan apple? Here is apple hunter extraordinaire Lee Calhoun’s write up on the Reverend Morgan apple in Old Southern Apples.
This southern apple is not old, but its quality and adaptability to warmer areas of the South make it worthy of preservation. It originated in 1972 in Houston, Texas (Zone 9) and is named for Rev. Herman T. Morgan (b. 1894), the Methodist minister who first grew this apple. It is believed to be a seedling of Granny Smith and seems to be resistant to several apple diseases.
One thing I know people would say regardless of background, is that Houston, Texas is not “apple growing country”. Simply and without any further evidence needed, is that belief shown to be completely incorrect. What seems to be the case, is that when many think of whether something can or can’t grow somewhere, is whether the conditions are conducive for a large mass produced commercial operation of a monoculture product, such as apples, like you might see in the Pacific Northwest. Context is key, and for most people whether or not that fact is true, is irrelevant to most people’s lives.
The Reverend Morgan apple teaches us a very valuable lesson that nothing in life is set in stone, and that it’s only through our efforts and that of nature will something exist. A good example is that apples have been grown throughout the mountains of North Carolina (no surprises here) AND it’s coastal eastern swamps, where nothing else grows. There has never been a better time to turn around the loss of the southern apple than today. What amazing prospects of growth, it has nowhere to go but up! This is why I am growing over 130 apple varieties right now and will begin a breeding program as soon as reasonably viable and can be worked into all of the crazy we have going on.
The next time I get the question asked “Can the apple be grown here?”
I will reply emphatically….
How I Came to Know of Reverend Morgan
The first I had heard of the Reverend Morgan apple was poking around on Big Horse Creek’s website some years ago. I was searching for apples by state and eventually searched for Texas and low and behold the Reverend Morgan showed up. “An apple from Houston?!” I said. Incredible to think about, but looking back it showed my ignorance of the power of natural selection and the connection’s humans have with it. (We have immense powers to create and facilitate nature)
I looked deeper and deeper for this apple and came across a number of different websites that either had it for scion or carried it at some point in time. While I was able to secure a single tree a year ago, as I have sought enough material to do something with it became harder and harder. This year alone I had a scion order in for three different locations and all of them turned me down which means sadly I will be unable to bring any to market. That may knee cap some of our work at Bonnie Blue Farms and Nursery but that’s only for a year. We have three young trees that we are growing out and will propagating off of this year giving us boat loads of this fruit for 2017 and beyond.