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Certain apple trees do well in Yuma
We often hear the phrase “as American as mom and apple pie.” In fact, apple pie would probably receive the most votes from Americans as our “national pie.”
We love to eat apples, and even our fast-food restaurants have jumped on the apple wagon and now offer raw apple slices and apple turnovers. With cooler weather comes a fresh crop of apples headed our way from up north.
According to Washington State's Apple Advertising Commission, there are more than 7,500 varieties of apples grown worldwide. The top nine varieties grown in Washington state, the leading grower of apples in the U.S., are Gala, McIntosh, Granny Smith, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious, Fuji, Braeburn, Honey Crisp, Cripps Pink and Cameo. Red Delicious is the most popular variety sold. Washington's Apple Commission states that 30 percent of their wholesale sales and 48 percent of their export sales are Red Delicious.
The commission also states that six out of every 10 apples eaten in the U.S. are grown in Washington. There are more than 175,000 acres of apple trees in the eastern foothills of Washington; and from August through November, apples are hand-picked and shipped worldwide.
The United States is the leading organic apple producer in the world, with Washington State growing more than 80 percent of U.S.-certified organic apples. Statistics from Washington State University's Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center show that most of Washington's organic acreage is planted in Gala and Fuji apples.
Jack Toevs, a longtime apple grower near Quincy, Wash., said the industry has changed a lot since he started farming — most noticeably, all the new varieties of apples now available. He said that when he started farming, there were only reds and goldens being grown. Today, there are many varieties grown, and it is a challenge providing what the stores want to buy. He said that in the future, high labor costs and gasoline prices will be the biggest problems to be resolved by growers.
Besides their wonderful taste, apples are one of the best foods to improve a person's health. Remember the phrase, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”? That old adage is actually quite true. Eating an apple a day will improve good cholesterol levels (HDL) and reduce bad cholesterol levels (LDL). An apple also has enough fiber to equal 25 percent of a person's daily fiber requirements.
An added bonus to eating an apple a day is its “magic” in helping lower a person's weight, something we all are interested in achieving. Tammi Flynn, registered dietitian, did a study in Wenatchee, Wash., called the 3-A-Day Plan. Each person in the study ate an apple before each meal and lost three times the normal weight of people using a low-calorie diet. She held a weight loss contest using the 3-A-Day Plan, with 376 people taking part, and the group lost a total of 6,312 pounds in 12 weeks. Perhaps a new saying will be, “Three apples a day keep the weight away.”
We can't grow Washington's apple varieties in Yuma, but we can grow Anna and Dorsett Gold. Both require low chilling hours to set fruit, 200-300 hours. The chill requirement is the number of hours with temperatures between 32 degrees and 45 degrees F. during the winter that are necessary for a tree to flower and set fruit the following spring. Both Anna and Dorsett Gold require another tree for pollination, giving gardeners a good excuse to purchase two trees instead of one. They can be the same variety or one of each.
Anna and Dorsett Gold apple trees grow well in Yuma when grown in a sunny location and produce a summer crop instead of a fall one. By mid-July, their fruit is ready for picking.
The Anna apple has a yellow-green color and a crisp, tart flavor similar to a Granny Smith apple. It was developed in Israel by Dr. Ein Sheimer. The Dorsett Gold apple is believed to have been developed in Israel, as well, and was introduced in Florida during the 1980s. It is similar in color and taste to a Golden Delicious apple.
When asked the best time to plant apple trees in Yuma, Pat Fox at Yuma Nursery, said, “Plant fruit trees, such as apples, in fall or early spring. If the tree is bare root, soak the roots overnight in water before planting. If the tree is in a pot, dig a hole as deep as the pot and twice as wide. Amend the soil that will go back in the hole with compost and good potting soil.”
Plant the tree, making sure the bud union is 2-3 inches above ground level, and pack dirt in the hole to eliminate any air pockets. Water deeply. Trim the leader of the tree to 3 feet from the ground.
“After the first year, prune off side branches, leaving 4-5 evenly spaced around the trunk to serve as the main branches,” Pat said. “Fertilize apple trees during their growing season with a high nitrogen fertilizer placed around the base of the tree and worked into the soil.”
Geoff Thornton, a Washington state apple grower, described the life of an apple farmer quite well when he said, “A successful growing season takes tremendous attention to detail seven days a week. There are no weekends off. We rest in November after the crop is safely harvested and the orchard is put to bed for the winter. Just after Thanksgiving, pruning begins and we embark on a new season.”
Because of hard-working apple growers like Thornton and Toevs, we are able to enjoy the All-American apple year-round.
Karen Bowen is a master gardener and member of Yuma Garden Club. This column is sponsored by the Federated Garden Clubs of Yuma.