Saturday, December 6, 2008

Old-time Apples

Southern California transplant David Martinek came to Humboldt County in 1985 for a job in a law firm. He stayed for the apples.

”My first house in Humboldt County had many large, neglected, and unidentified apple trees and the process of rehabilitating and identifying them got me interested in apples,” he explained. “It's amazing to me that you just have to plant once, and the tree gives apples year after year for decades, even generations.”

Some years later, Martinek said he purchased his current home, and began what turned out to be the hobby of a lifetime.

”I acquired my current property in 1993 and started planting apples right away, just a few per year at first,” he said. “Pink Pearl was an early favorite, and still is. It's a Humboldt County 'native' developed by Albert Etter and released in the 1940s.”

Albert Etter is a local apple propagating hero who died in 1950. According to apple luscious, he created many red-fleshed varieties near his Southern Humboldt home, still referred to as Ettersberg, and Martinek has many of the varieties Etter developed.

Martinek said he took grafting lessons at Sandy Bar Nursery in Orleans in the early 1990s because many of the apples he's interested in are no longer available, and he must graft cuttings onto an existing tree to get a desired strain.

”Mr. Botner has many thousands of varieties, a large percentage of which aren't listed in any of my apple books,” he continued. “For example, in 2000, because of my interest in Pink Pearl, I ordered scionwood of apples that have red or pink flesh: Delight, Webster, Pink Pearmain, Airlie, Hidden Rose, Almata, Winter Red and Scarlet Surprise. At the time I ordered the scionwood, none of these were available commercially, except possibly Hidden Rose. His work in keeping these varieties alive and available to apple growers is invaluable. He certainly doesn't do it for the money.”

Martinek's orchard comprises just over a half-acre, with about 600 trees, and around 100 varieties, but he said he's not really sure just how many trees or varieties he has. ...

This excellent little article on local foods brought to you by Sharon Letts at the Times-Standard. Read the whole thing here.

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