Among the fruits of summer, one stands alone for its juicy sweetness, sunset colors, and soft fuzzy skin. There’s a reason we refer to good things as “peachy.” Washington’s fame may be apples, but peaches sit proudly next to them, as well as our pears and Rainier cherries at roadside stands and farmers markets.
The volume of other tree fruit grown in the state dwarfs peaches and their siblings, the fuzzless nectarines. According to the USDA, Washington produced 13,800 tons of peaches in 2015, compared to 3.15 million tons of apples and 340,000 tons of pears.
Trees of the classic apple varieties that were planted in early Pacific Northwest orchards from about 1860 to 1920 can still occasionally be found in overgrown farmyards, pastures, and even in suburban backyards where orchard sites were converted to residential areas and the old trees were left in place. This list of old varieties likely to be found in the Pacific Northwest was compiled by R.A. Norton from nursery lists in the Encyclopedia of Practical Horticulture (1914), edited by Grenville Lowther.
Source: WSU Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center. Images from the USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection
Apple production was initially spread more evenly across eastern Washington. The planned agricultural community of Vineland (see “The perfect city,” WSM Fall 2012) included more than 900 acres of continuous apple orchards. According to Lyman’s History of Old Walla Walla County (including Asotin County), Vineland and adjacent Clarkston had “every conceivable advantage of soil, climate, scenery, water supply…”
Apples grown there included Winesap, Yellow Newtowns, Spitzenberg, Jonathan, Rome Beauty, and “assorted varieties.”
The September 12, 1916, edition of the Spokesman-Review reported that 60 carloads of choice apples were about to be packed in Vineland, Clarkston, and Lewiston, Idaho, for export trade: “The first carload … » More …