Is growing apples from seed worth doing?
I met a fellow via e-mail recently who has a wide range of named varieties and seedlings growing down in Polk county… and fruiting. Everything from Granny Smith to unnamed types.
I’m totally impressed.
You already know my answer on whether it’s worth growing fruit trees from seed, but yesterday I found an excellent article (and blog) that gives us lots more to think about:
When writing about apples and their propagation in both technical and
popular literature, it seems almost compulsory for the author to assure
us that if we grow an apple from a seed, that it will not be the same
as the apple that we took the seed from.
We are usually further assured that the chances of actually growing a toothsome new apple variety bursting with juice and flavor from those little seeds are extremely dismal. One might imagine, and sometimes we are even subject to descriptions of, the small, hard, green, sour, bitter and worm eaten result of such an experiment! In the past, I have been discouraged from making the experiment of growing apples from seed by this common knowledge, especially upon learning that modern apple breeding programs cull thousands of seedlings to find one gem worthy of propagation.
I will concede that under many circumstances growing apples from seed
may not be the wisest course of action or the most likely to yield the
greatest reward. Who wants to invest in the time and patience required
for the growing of an entire tree only to find the secret unlocked from
it’s genes by our roll of the dice is some hard green apples for the
kids to throw at each other? Not I, not ye, not no one! I only know
of one apple that is supposed to grow fairly true to seed and that is
the Snow Apple A.K.A. Fameuse. Otherwise the chances are that a
seedling will be at least somewhat unlike it’s parents. But then, this
genetic variability is what really makes the apple able to give us the
great variety that it offers.
The genes of the apple hold many secrets.
Combinations and mutations of it’s genes have already yielded a remarkable array of attributes. Resistance can be found to many diseases. Northern Spy is nearly immune to the wooly aphid and breeders used it to bring us resistant rootstocks. Some trees do well in wet soil, some in drier soil. Some require a long chill in winter while others can bask in tropic heat with virtually no chill and not only grow and fruit, but also produce a delicious apple. And we all know that apples come in a great variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. Some will ripen in early summer and others can hang on the tree well into winter and even into the spring. Some must be eaten post haste before they begin to deteriorate while still others have kept in a common cellar for two years.
What most do not know however, is the flavor potential locked
within the gene pool of the apple.
Apples encompass an amazingly diverse range of flavors which most
people never even have a chance to explore. banana, mango, fennel,
berry, pineapple, citrus, cherry, rose, vanilla, spices, pear, wine,
“apple”, jolly rancher’s candy and more all lurk in those genes.
Probably the greatest variety of flavors contained within any fruit. (Keep reading)