It’s fall. Here at Bob’s this means three things – pansies, mums, and apples. Apples are pretty amazing. We owe modern apples to central Asian farmers thousands of years ago who first domesticated apples. However, we can look a little closer to home when it comes to the most popular varieties of apples today. Two popular varieties have their origin right here in West Virginia. Grimes Golden and Golden Delicious, West Virginia’s official state fruit. In 2013, the Golden Delicious was one of four apple varieties featured on 33-cent stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service.
The original Golden Delicious tree, described as a ‘‘chance seedling’’ and believed to be related to the Grimes Golden, was discovered in 1912 by Anderson Mullins on a hill near Porter Creek in Clay County. The tree was purchased by Stark Brothers Nursery, whose representatives built a cage around the tree and employed Bewel Mullins, Anderson’s nephew, to maintain and keep written and photographic records of the tree for 30 years. The Golden Delicious, immediately acclaimed, soon became a leading cultivar in the United States and abroad.
The mother tree produced quality apples for nearly 50 years. The seedling had sprouted around the turn of the century, and the old tree had borne its last apple and died by the late 1950s. Today, the only evidence that the tree of gold grew up the hill from Porter Creek is a historical marker located on Route 1 nearby.
Earlier this month Inside Appalachia had a great podcast on the potential revival of the apple industry in West Virginia. “According to the Department of Agriculture, the apple industry has decreased in West Virginia since 2010. In particular the Eastern Panhandle, the land that was used to grow apples is experiencing a real estate boom. So in the last few years more and more farmers have been selling their land and getting out of the farming industry.” Check out the story and give the podcast a listen.