Appalachian “Apple Hunter” Finds and Rescues 1200 Lost Varieties

Rarely, you would meet anybody who has a natural dislike for apples. In fact, for most of us, apples will be mentioned among our top three favorite fruits. However, what is rare is finding someone who loves apples so much; he is willing to risk all to save as many of them as possible. Meet Tom Brown, the Appalachian Hunter

A Man of Apples

79-year-old retired engineer Tom Brown owns an apple orchard in the Clemmon region of North Carolina. Now a homesteader, Mr.Brown has a deep love for apples, and his affection for the fruit led him on a lifelong mission to save as many apple species from extinction. Fascinatingly, he was not born this way, so what changed?

Well, Mr.Brown experienced an awakening in 1998 after he visited a farmer’s market. A trip that would change his life forever. Before then, he had no special affection for fruit beyond the ordinary, but what he saw changed his perspective about apples forever. He found a loaded basket of apples of all sizes at a particular spot in the market, many of which he had never seen before. Green, yellow, purple, brown, and many more.

Same fruit, different species

He tasted some of them, and they tasted as different as they looked, which was all the more surprising. The different species in front of him spiked his curiosity, so he struck up a conversation with the vendor, who told him that some of the apples were standardized species dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries.

But, unfortunately, many of them disappeared from widespread circulation by 1950. The vendor’s name was Maurie Marshall, who obtained many species from farmers in mountainous regions during some of his hunting expeditions in Appalachia.

The revelation struck a nerve, and Tom Brown began to imagine what it would feel like to cultivate apple species that most people did not and have not tasted since the last 100 years. This revelation opened up a new chapter in the life of the retired engineer, and now, he has found a new calling. Saving apple species from extinction.

Thousands of Apple Species

According to scientists, there were about 14,000 different apple species at the dawn of the 20th century, but today, most of them have become extinct. This realization was too bitter a pill for Tom Brown to swallow, so he began to research the apple species of Appalachia, home to the highest number of Apple species in the world.

One reason for the prevalence of these so many species was because, at the time when the colonists first came to the New World, the water found in the region was unsafe to drink, so apple cider was a ready alternative. This led to the cultivation of Apple trees in and around the Appalachian region.

Over 1200 apples and counting

And so, Mr.Brown began a quest to save apples from extinction, and so far, so good, his effort has led to the saving of more than 1200 apple species and counting.

Today, his orchard is more or less a tourist attraction as tourists come from far and near to admire the beauty of his creation and to get a taste of some of the world’s rarest apples. And since many of the species are of Appalachian origin, Tom Brown now goes by the moniker, THE APPALACHIAN HUNTER!

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