CORVALLIS, Mont. - A Corvallis nursery man is on a professional mission to propagate our most treasured fruit tree varieties. Many of these trees are disappearing from our food culture.
Canyon View Nursery is home to scores of fruits many people haven't tasted in 100 years or more.
Nursery man Roger Joy said when the Bitterroot planted its apple orchards a century ago, there were 5,000 to 7,000 documented varieties of apples in the United States.
Now, Joy said, the numbers have dwindled to about 2,000.
Joy wants to make sure antique varieties, once so popular, don't disappear.
"The Wealthy," said Joy, "The old Duchess. I've got Wolf River from up St. Mary's Mission."
Joy scoots through rows of ornamental crab apple trees in a specialized handmade vehicle to make his grafting work easier.
"Grafting is successfully uniting any two pieces of living tissue," explained Joy.
He grafts the bud of a Royalty Crab Apple onto the root stock of a Siberian Crab. The graft will knit together in the next few days. Eventually, the tree should have the Royalty's pink blossoms and the Siberian's tolerance to cold weather.
"Plus," said Joy, "I get disease resistance and drought tolerance."
Joy has grafted branches from a vintage 1906 "Duchess" apple tree known to old timers for its pies.
The nursery man likes grafts from an old Black McIntosh at the Western Agricultural Research Center.
There's a French tree called Corville Blanc d'Hiver, or white winter apple.
"This tree goes back to Normandy," said Joy, "to 1598."
Talk about old.
"King Louis VIII of France was making tarts out of this thing in 1699," said the tree grafter. "Thomas Jefferson had it at Monticello. Monet painted still lifes of it."
Joy used the whip and tongue grafting method on King Louis' apple tree. The photo in the video shows the whip and tongue graft of the French variety tree.
Joy also grafts different apples on the same tree. He shows one tree with the Goodland Apple of Canada on the lower branches, the MaIntosh in the middle branches and Kerr Crab Apples on top.
He also grafts vintage plums, pears and cherries.
He said his antique trees are preserving the unique flavors of our heritage.
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