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.

Old Southern Apples: A comprehensive History and Description of Varieties for Collectors, Growers, and Fruit Enthusiasts, 2nd Ed—Book Review

Book Review

Old Southern Apples Creighton Lee Calhoun, Jr.

Old South­ern Apples will have you savor­ing the authors research and appre­ci­at­ing his shared anecdotes.

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: 

Book 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
Price: $75


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.