Apples ripen in late summer and well into fall, depending upon the variety. But did you know that new varieties of apples can be created by accident?
In 1996, Chuck McSpadden was walking through his family’s Apple Valley Orchards when he noticed something odd. The apples on the upper branches of one tree were twice the size of those below. “I’d used a chainsaw to cut off a major limb,” he recalls, “and it must have messed up the genetics of the tree.”
Sure enough, the McSpaddens had discovered a new variety of Gala apple. They made some grafts, got a patent and named the cultivar after his daughter, Caitlin. Today, the variety is sold by Stark Bros., the Missouri nursery that discovered the Red Delicious.
The 40-acre farm in East Tennessee has more than 12,000 trees and 25 different varieties of apples. Galas are the first major variety of the season, ready around mid-August. Midseason brings Golden Delicious and Mutsu, while Fuji and Stayman come later in the season.
It’s a huge growth from the two leftover trees his father, Charles, bought from the Sears & Roebuck garden department where he worked. He enjoyed them so much that he planted more than 400 trees, and in the early 1970s started selling apples to the public.
Like many apple farms throughout the country, Apple Valley Orchards has expanded over the years to include a bakery and gift shop.