August 8th, 2022
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Apples of North America

Apples of North America, October 2021
by Tom Burford

Timber Press
312 pages
ISBN: 1643261177
EAN: 9781643261171
Kindle: B096DPQ99Y
Paperback / e-Book
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"A perfect gift for the gardener, tree lover, fruit cook or historian"

Fresh Fiction Review

Apples of North America
Tom Burford

Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted March 20, 2022

Non-Fiction History | Non-Fiction Gardening | Non-Fiction Cooking / Food

With the strong subtitle, A Celebration of Exceptional Varieties, this lovely book does what it says on the pack. APPLES OF NORTH AMERICA would make a perfect gift for the gardener, tree lover, fruit cook or historian.

The author Tom Burford begins with a few pages of discussion of heritage plants and cultivation, but we skip past his wise words to reach the star of the show. Each page of the apple collection displays the variety in alphabetical order, with the fruit sitting cheekily at the bottom right, and a short account of the taste, history and any famous growers, or work to save the variety from obliteration amid the mass-production of standard croppers.

I would not presume to speculate on which apple was the favourite of Thomas Jefferson, but the well-read author does, explaining that Esopus Spitzberg was planted in his orchards, but he probably liked many others as well. During homesteader days, a sweet apple was particularly valued, as people couldn’t easily get sugar or honey, so a sweet apple could be used for pies. Some apples were so small, just crabs, that they were kept for cider, and some varieties made better cider than pies. Many apples were best eaten ripe and juicy. I can just see the juices run as described.

Storage made a huge difference to folks with a glut, so a good keeper was more valuable than fruit that went off or bruised easily. Some apples kept well sliced and dried. Others made apple butter. One apple would produce a waxy coating to stop it from shrivelling. In modern days, a chill room would preserve apples, so a thick skin became more important and a heavy crop trumped flavour. A clean look was preferred, so apples with spots or odd shapes – sheep’s nose or oblate – were spurned. Individuals from heritage growers to organic farmers have been reintroducing classic varieties to smaller orchards and pesticide-free farms, selecting the best tree for the job.

The fun of scrolling through an e-book is that the apple is constantly on the bottom right, changing with each page from green to red, large to small, spherical to pear-shaped, striped to mottled, dimpled stalk to protruding. And the names. American Beauty, Arkansas Black, Bethel, Black Oxford, Burford Redflesh, Cheese Apple, Crow Egg, Garden Royal, Gloria Mundi, Hauer Pippin, Johnson’s Fine Winter, down to York. At the end are apple products and tree planting guides. This full colour tome APPLES OF NORTH AMERICA may be the best fun a gardener can have without going outdoors.  

Learn more about Apples of North America


“For all of us who cherish the apple, its utility, its flavors, and its powers of revelation and connection.” —Adrian Higgins, garden columnist, The Washington Post

The apple is one of the most iconic fruits, traditionally picked on cool fall days and used in pies, crisps, ciders, and more. And there is a vast world of varieties that goes well beyond the common grocery store offerings. With names like American Beauty, Carter’s Blue, and Fallawater, and flavors ranging from sweet to tart, this treasure trove of unique apples is ripe for discovery.
There is no better guide through this tasty world than Tom Burford, whose family has grown apples in the Blue Ridge Mountains since 1715. His celebratory book Apples of North America is brimming with beautiful portraits of heirloom and modern apples of merit, each accompanied by distinguishing characteristics and common uses. You will also find information on growing apples at home—with specifics on planting, pruning, grafting, and more—and instructions on how to preserve apples through pressing, fermenting, cooking, and drying.

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