Title: Old Southern Apples: A comprehensive History and Description of Varieties for Collectors, Growers, and Fruit Enthusiasts. Revised and Expanded
Author: Creighton Lee Calhoun, Jr.
Strong points: Old Southern Apples is filled with the regional sociology, the science, and the stories that make apple growing interesting and exciting. It is an extensively well-researched work of regionally important apple varieties and local southern history packed into a fun and easy to read book. That the author and his wife, in dedicated partnership, put great effort into creating this important chronicle of apples in the south is apparent on every page!.
Weaknesses: Perhaps the price, which is higher than most books. Don’t let that deter you though, Old Southern Apples is well worth the cost for those who seek to have a complete collection of important phonological publications.
Green thumbs rating:
My library has long included the original paperback edition of Old Southern Apples and I was so pleased to see it republished after being out of print for awhile. Much has, of course, been carried over from the excellent first edition. Interestingly the color photo insert has changed; not all the prints from the first edition appear in this revised edition. Happily though, this edition actually contains almost double the number of color prints of the original book. Sadly, as a sign of the times, the list of nurseries supplying trees is much smaller. (It’s a tough business to keep viable.)
For those of us lacking roots in southern agriculture, this book is an interesting journey into regional practices and fruit varieties that are at times quite different from the ones in our own experiences. For those with southern roots, Old Southern Apples certainly offers a fond trip down memory lane!
Beyond the history of apple growing in the south, the author craftily packs in information on practical cultivation techniques pertinent to the region and a nicely detailed section on uses of apples. I particularly enjoyed learning why dried apples became so popular. The in-depth instructions for making apple cider vinegar may prompt me to try my hand at creating some varietal vinegars.
It was a bit disheartening to realize that close to 75% of the nearly 1200 named varieties chronicled were now extinct. However, it was also encouraging to learn that since the first edition was published 50 of those varieties thought to be lost have reappeared out of the backwoods; brought forth by individuals who had read the original book. That alone would be motivation for the extensive effort in creating this masterwork.
No matter where you grow fruit, I would strongly encourage you to seek out Old Southern Apples. The author has a writing style that keeps the history light and engaging rather than ponderous. You will be enticed to want to read more. The apple variety descriptions will have you savoring the authors research and appreciating his shared anecdotes. Old Southern Apples is a highly enjoyable and educational read for apple aficionados everywhere.
ISBN: 978–1-160358–294-0 (Hardcover)
# of pages: 329 pgs
Photos: Yes, 28 page color insert of prints from the USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection
Illustrations: Very limited selection of line art showing a few apple cross-sections
Appendix: Yes, Bibliography and short list of tree sources
Index: Yes, listing varieties and their synonyms
Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing Co.
Publication Date: 2010
Disclaimer: This title is published by Chelsea Green Publishing Company, who is also the trade distributor for my own titles. The review is in no way provided due to this ongoing relationship. If anything, it may have made me that much more diligent in scrutinizing the book in order to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest. I chose to review this book solely because I genuinely believe it has merit for gardeners seeking to expand their fruit growing experience and build and a library of useful reference material.