When apples go bad…

Apples with Penicillin-a Patulin producing mold

This is unfortunate.

Orchards vary in their management of “drops” or “windfall”. Most orchard apples fall from high up so when they drop, they bruise by hitting bare ground, ground cleared and killed by herbicides, primarily ‘Roundup’/Glyphosate. Problem #1-bruised apples with residual glyphosate. When apples fall they often ‘dent’ where the skin is intact without tearing. Ok …but only if they don’t contact animal poop (thats not been composted for 3 months) down on that ground where E-coli becomes a problem. Patulin and E-coli have been on the Radar of all orchardists due to a few instances of poop, rot and fruit. The e-coli comes from contact with fresh feces including Rodents, Cow, horse, chicken, goat, human, you name it. Eating poop is not recommended for humans (although I here cow dung is loaded with B12). Insect frass/poop is not framed as E-coli contaminated.

Food safety news about field contamination of apples reiterate from one research group in Illinois on the footsteps of a cow dung infused Apple farm that caused 10 people to get sick. The scare is on for a decade now. There is more chance of contracting E-coli from a hand picked apple, especially by a child, with fingers previously …. here’s why:

Orchards with small, low trees, with no farm animals pooping in the fields, with rodents like rabbits and mice not piling their poop under the trees, on top of the plants where apples may drop, the risk of apples being contaminated drops off dramatically. Falling short heights into and onto soft grass or onto the perfect plant guild that nestles and surrounds the fruit with the chill and dew of evening air, ripening the apple over days, sometimes weeks in the most perfect environment… E-coli contaminated fruit drops to one in a million.

No problem if falling into clean plants and soft grass.

Now bruised apples with a tear open to the flesh inside most certainly will be visited by the spores of 2 or 3 fungi that can cause a potent toxin, Patulin, also cited as a homeopathic- found to fight cancer as well as potentially cause cancer. The photo above is a blue mold that causes the potent Patulin.

Would you or you child eat this? An indiscriminate orchardist could rake it up for cider pressing.

It take several days for this mold to establish. You can see it. Unbroken apples sometimes achieve mold production at the end of their edible life and sometimes in cold storage ahead of their lifespan where conditions of moisture and temperature can create spore germination-fungicides are used to intervene here.

If you want the perfect crisp Apple, you will find it in the grass, nestled, out of direct sun, still cool at the end of the day, breathing with the fluctuating night-day temperature shift, kissed with evening dew at dew-point, moist cool air, drying by day but still cool. No fungus! Look for mouse or rabbit poop, should you find it don’t eat it. There is a slim chance a fruit is nestled in a pile of poop. You the apple you-picker, orchardist, can see this. Like Apple cores in the field pick these up, toss them to the field shoulder or put them in a trash bucket. Germs are everywhere!

Summer Apples

“Summer Apples” come and go in a flash, ripening by the hour! For the Summer apples there is that perfect moment with maximum aroma, juice, crispness, making the first apples of the season an experience not to miss. Every apple will be a little different in ripeness and how it presents itself. You will notice our white trees this year. This is Kaolin Clay. It’s edible and the bugs don’t like the powder. It works! It also helps keep the fruit from scorching as well as increases photosynthesis! We have small bags for your own personal tree at the farm.

Creating Fruit Trees by Grafting

We are in the finest season to create trees-asexually- by “grafting”. By cutting living tissue from one like plant and connecting this piece of plant to another-even as small as a few cells-one is changing the genetic type from one to another. I have 300 apple varieties, some passed down through grafting for over 500 years. Of course you can grow an apple from a seed- and every seedling is DIFFERENT. You will never get a Honeycrisp apple from a Honeycrisp seed, just like people, each seed is DIFFERENT. Imagine if everyone planted an apple seed how many apple varieties we would have. In fact, in the day when cider was the “water” of choice, when over 150 gallons were consumed per person per year, apple seeds were planted aplenty. Once we had over 14000 named varieties. Today that’s been whittled down to a mere 7-8000 varieties.

Varieties are created by connecting a top piece to a bottom piece, typically named “scion” or “scionwood” to “rootstock” or “stock”. Sharp knives are used; a binder is used; and matching pieces to compatible pieces is the simple technique, along with placement, scion quality, rootstock readiness (timing), and aftercare. It’s typical that newbies to grafting can perform at a 95% “take”.  Now, on another note….

With Apple Breeding-using specific parents and crossing male and female floral parts (pollen to stigma) one can guide the traits of the next generation of fruit and all the heritage of generations passed are also passed on. I can appreciate this work as a novice plant breeder as it’s very time consuming and takes years and years to ‘formulate’ an apple to your desire-Say breeding for keeping quality, or sour/sweetness or disease resistance, aroma, crunchiness, skin color, shape, size etc., you get the idea, it typically takes 3 to 5 years to fruit a tree> so each generation…yeah, a long time. Anyway, time to get started. Just sow your favorite fruit, make note of the variety-that helps for future generations and wait a few years to taste what you made! Now back to grafting…

There are numerous techniques to accomplish GRAFTING. This weekend-and the following third Saturday Skipley Farm will hold a grafting party to make dozens of newer as well as heritage apple varieties. You may pay for 10 trees and make a short hedge-say 20-30 feet or make 10 larger trees for a small orchard that grows bigger and stronger, or you can just watch the technique and go home with rootstock and scionwood for making your own trees on your own time. And finally I encourage you all to go out and practice “gorilla grafting” and change-over that ornamental cherry in your backyard to a fruiting cherry or change-over that street tree ‘Bradford’ Pear to a fruiting pear, or a crabapple to a …Honeycrisp or Zabergau Reinette, or, take a look at some of my favorites in this link where I have an embedded EXCEL file with apples growing on the farm and choose some scionwood to make a 50 way apple tree out of the big old apple tree at grandma’s house. Finally, bring an apple stick from a favorite tree and make some more of that favorite- collect last-years’ growth only-as all it takes is two buds, pencil thick.

August 6th Availability; making apple trees

Blueberries-Legacy variety, mulberries, Blackberries & Apples: the sauce/pie Lodi, crispy Pristine, multipurpose & high flavor Gravenstein and William’s Pride, juicy Summerred, front end of complex/spicy Zestar!


Apples 101: Wednesday Aug 9th, 16th, 23rd – 5:30pm — 8:30pm see classesClasses-Tours

A window in time is now – for 2 more weeks – the practice of ‘budding’ – a quick grafting technique for making apple trees. Watch and engage- see budding at Skipley Farm: Make your own- 10 tree apple “fence” (espalier) trees in an hour.                                       Gil will give an apple tree lesson from “start to finish”; make baby trees for your future site, hear and taste a few of the top 20 varieties that grow in Western Washington. Learn about SOIL health, beneficial insects, training-all while grafting/budding.

$125pp, $200 couple Cider, apples, cheese, provided. Call Gil for your spot in time.


July 31st 2017 availability

Blueberries, Blackberries, early Pristine apples

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