Stella Otto: The Backyard Fruit Gardener

Today's Tip: Mow vegetation short around the base of fruit trees and bushes to reduce winter habitat for rodents.

Apples for the 21st Century—Book Review

Book Review


apple varieties, heirloom apples, stating a home orchard, fruit variety tesitng, apple rootstock

Since its pub­li­ca­tion near the end of the 20th cen­tury, the apple vari­eties rec­om­mended have stood the test of time.

Title: Apple for the 21st Century

Author: War­ren Manhart

Strong points: With a title that would lead one to think this book is ori­ented mainly toward the mod­ern com­mer­cial apple indus­try and the super mar­ket apple, Apples for the 21st Cen­tury delves into a pleas­antly sur­pris­ing, broad-based list of both heir­loom and mod­ern vari­eties. It is won­der­ful to see that old-time vari­eties have sur­vived the judge­ment of the author and many taste testers to remain wor­thy of inclu­sion. Inter­est­ingly, many vari­eties that were new or just com­ing into their own at the time of this book’s cre­ation have like­wise stood the test of time and are just as much win­ners today as they were 20 years ago.

Weak­nesses: The apples grown and tested were done so under the lim­ited geo­graphic area of the Pacific North­west. Hence, some selec­tions may behave quite dif­fer­ently in other cli­mates. The author is fair and quite up-front in point­ing this out.

I would con­cur with the vast major­ity of the rec­om­mended apple vari­eties, bar­ring one. I can­not under­stand why Red Deli­cious is included. Other than stor­ing well and look­ing pretty, the mod­ern Red Deli­cious is a sin­gle pur­pose apple with so lit­tle to offer beyond a good mar­ket­ing campaign.

Some of the sta­tis­tics and data may not be par­tic­u­larly of inter­est to the home orchardist. Many of the nurs­ery sources are out­dated and even out of busi­ness. Indeed the book itself appears to be out of print. How­ever, used copies are avail­able through online sources.

Green thumbs rat­ing

Book Rat­ing:  

Apples for the 21st Cen­tury has actu­ally been in my library since before the twenty-first cen­tury. I picked it up again now to see how it held up in com­par­i­son to the recent crop of books on apple vari­eties, both mod­ern and heir­loom. Indeed it appears to have with­stood the test of time quite well.

Although, just shy of 20 years old, the pre­dic­tions made by War­ren Man­hart in Apples for the 21st Cen­tury have endured. Of the thou­sands of avail­able choices, Mr. Man­hart ini­tially whit­tled them down first by focus­ing only on those rated gen­er­ally “very good” to “best” by S. A. Beach, Booth, and  Tay­lor in the clas­sic Apples of New York. Indeed, no sense in test­ing those already rated less than stel­lar by other esteemed hor­ti­cul­tur­ists. Even­tu­ally he set­tled on 50 vari­eties that met the cri­te­ria of supe­rior taste, keeping-quality, and annual bear­ing under the cli­mac­tic con­di­tions of his Pacific north­west loca­tion. Oth­erl vari­eties for more severe cli­mates are also men­tioned, just not described in detail.

Addi­tional use­ful sec­tions of the book dis­cuss bloom peri­ods, root­stocks, and vari­ety growth habits. All of these are impor­tant fac­tors to con­sider when ini­tially plan­ning your home orchard. You will find much food for thought in Apples for the 21st Cen­tury and should con­sider it a wor­thy addi­tion to your pomo­log­i­cal library. Finally, Mr. Man­hart does tell you what his favorite 4 apple vari­eties are and why, but rather than be a spoiler, I encour­age you to seek this book out and learn the answers for yourself.

ISBN: 0–964-8417–0-3 (Hard cover)
# of pages: 286 pgs.
Pho­tos: yes, 21 page insert
Illus­tra­tions: No
Appen­dix: Yes, although numer­ous nurs­ery sources are no longer in busi­ness. Very lim­ited glos­sary of terms
Index: No
Pub­lisher: North Amer­i­can Tree Com­pany DBA Port­land Nurs­ery
Pub­li­ca­tion Date: 1995
Price: $29.95 (This book may be out of print, but used copies appear to be avail­able online)