A taste of summer

Seminar helps home growers pick hardy apple varieties
By: 

Leader Photo by Carol Ryczek Some apple varieties are better for “putting up” than eating. Gravenstein, a variety that dates back to the late 1700’s, is one of those varieties. It might be a good choice for apple chutney, pictured here at the Shawano Farmers Market.

Freedom. Honeycrisp. Snowsweet.

Even the names sound delicious.

Rick Stemman, from Bailey’s Nursery in St. Paul, Minnesota, described over a dozen varieties of hardy apples to a small but dedicated crowd at the garden seminar “Hardy Apple Tree Varieties for This Area,” at Qualheim’s True Value on Thursday.

About 30 people braved the sleet, snow and cold to find out what kinds of apples will thrive in a climate that includes sleet, snow and cold.

Though the names sound delicious, actual Delicious apples weren’t on the list of hardy choices.

“Delicious Red are zone five through eight — not good for here,” Stemman said. “Some ripen late, mid- to late-October.”

As this is after the first frost in the Shawano area, even if the trees survive, they won’t have time to ripen fruit, he said. Growers here need trees that are in climate zones three or four.

Any tree needing to be in a higher, warmer zone may survive the cold weather but may not set fruit in time to ripen, Stemman said.

Instead, he suggested Frostbite, which will survive in winters throughout Wisconsin. Stemman called it a “grandparent” to the popular Honeycrisp.

Many of the varieties Stemman described were a product of University of Minnesota research, and all will be available for spring planting through Qualheim’s — either as a stock item or by special order. Bailey’s Nursery supplies Qualheim’s with the trees.

Some of Stemman’s favorites include Fireside, a good cider apple; Freedom, a good keeper and Goodland. The latter is a zone three apple, which means it will withstand very cold weather and its fruit ripens early. Goodland, Stemman noted, is going to survive.

Stemman listed the characteristics of each variety, explaining that there are a lot of subjective measures involved.

“They say it is ‘tasty,’ but that means something different to you and me. You have to pick the ones you like,” he said.

Stemman admitted to being at a loss to describe what a “nutty” or “spicy” apple tastes like.

One of Stemman’s savories is Honeygold, which he said had a better flavor than Honeycrisp.

“The flavor is unbelievable,” he said, while reminding everyone that each individual will have a personal opinion on the subject.

The program is one of eight garden sessions hosted by Qualheim’s. Diane Hensel, who manages the landscape center at the store, said the seminars have become a popular night out for many people.

“We serve coffee, cookies; people look forward to it,” she said.

“The last two had 70 and 80 people. We’ve had 100 packed into that room” in previous years, she said. Topics range from the secrets of new peonies to gardening with hummingbirds.

One of the participants, Marlene Bowan, said that learning about the winter-tough varieties was the reason she attended. She said she recently moved to the Shawano area from Embarrass, and was looking forward to planting apples this year. One of the varieties she will be planting will be “KinderKrisp,” because she was won one as a door prize. She has not decided on the others yet.

The next topic will be “Strategies for Managing Weeds in the Garden,” with Jamie Patton, outreach specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Extension, at 6 p.m. Thursday at Qualheim’s, 1345 E. Green Bay St., Shawano. The seminars are free.