Ask a Naturalist: When were apples first cultivated in the Hudson Valley?

(Photo by Lauren Thomas)

Apples are thought to have originated between the Caspian and the Black Seas, and proof of humans’ enjoyment of apples traces back at least 750,000 years. Early settlers brought apple seeds with them to America. Records indicate that apples were grown in New England as early as 1630 by John Chapman, also known as Johnny Appleseed, along with many other traders. The first apple orchard on the North American continent was planted in Boston by Reverend William Blaxton in 1625. The only apples native to North America are crabapples, which were once called “common apples.”

It is hard to pinpoint exactly when apples were first cultivated, but in 1730, the first apple nursery was opened in Flushing, New York. An 1845 US apples nursery catalogue sold 350 of the “best” cultivars, showing the proliferation of new North American cultivars by the early 19th century. Well-known American apple orchardists include George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Cornell reports that the 2012 USDA Census revealed that the 16 counties comprising the Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture program had over 12,500 acres devoted to apple production. The lower Hudson Valley region and the Lake Champlain region are two of the largest and most important apple production areas in New York state, which ranks second in the nation for apple production and first in the country for canned apple products, although much of that crop is produced in western New York.

– Dona Crawford
Community Horticulture Program Coordinator, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Ulster County


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