The number of apple varieties on the market in the United States has fallen from 14,000 in 1905 to 100 in less than a century. Usually only 11 of these varieties can be found in grocery stores. Tom Brown, a retired chemical engineer, learned that about 11,000 American varieties are extinct, and he devoted his life to saving our country’s rich apple heritage.
He was called the “apple hunter” by his friends, and he searched for “lost” heirloom varieties of the countless hills and valleys of the Appalachian Mountains from Georgia to Pennsylvania. The modern Johnny Appleseed discovered and reintroduced 1,200, most of which have not been sold commercially for more than a century, and he cloned many of them from the last three of the species.
One of Brown’s most valuable apples is the Tunguska apple. He reports the legend of this apple- “This breed was standardized by the Cherokee Indians of the Great Smoky Mountains more than two centuries ago, and named after its greatest patron, the chief in the early 19th century”.
Once popular in the South, it disappeared around 1900. This discovery helped him find a country garden, which was closed in 1859.
A gardener who was postman helped Tom by knocking on every door all day to find evidence. Finally, one old woman took him to Junaluska tree in the ruins of the ancient mountain garden that was swallowed up by the forest.
As Brown discovered more and more missing apple varieties, he began to investigate their sources and reasons for their disappearance. He found that there were many varieties according to the taste of fermented beverages by the early settlers.
Brown began to view the restoration of the Appalachian apple as “real work.” Although he hopes to get 100 varieties or more in his lifetime, another discovery will be a sufficient reward.