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by Pernell Gerver

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Modern Apple Tasting & Growing Your Own Modern Apples

Apples have a very long history, having been in cultivation since ancient times. They originated in what is now Kazakhstan and the first-known varieties were introduced in the 1400's. It wasn't until the 1500's that they began to be used for food. Up until then their main use had been for cider and when they were first used for food, they were seldom eaten fresh. They were usually dehydrated then reconstituted for use in pies which back then were eaten as breakfast foods, not the dessert we know them to be today.

Over the centuries, there have been thousands and thousands of different apple varieties that have been used for cooking and eating fresh. Here in America, there were over 18,000 varieties by the end of the 1700's. In more modern times, the number of apple varieties has dwindled, but there are still over 7,000 varieties worldwide.

Modern apples are used much in the same way as apples have always been enjoyed - eaten fresh, used for cider, juice, or baking and different varieties each have their own use or uses. Some are best eaten fresh, while others are better used in cooking.

Apple 'Gala'Of the modern apples, it's said that the variety 'Gala' is the most popular worldwide. It's a very flavorful apple that has a tangy, sweet flesh that is very crisp. It's a good apple for eating fresh and its tangy-sweet flavor adds a zip to cider. It ripens in early October and is a prolific bearer.

Apple 'McIntosh'Here in New England, 'McIntosh' is one of the most widely-grown apples. Its fruits are moderately large and have white flesh that is tender with a thin skin that peels easily. The fruit is bright to dark red and it has a small core. The flavor is slightly tart and it's a good apple for eating fresh. It's also used for applesauce. It ripens in early to mid September and the fruit holds well into January when kept refrigerated.

Apple 'Red Delicious''Red Delicious' is another modern apple that is very popular. It bears large fruit that is bright red all over. It has a tall, oblong shape with five bumps around its base. Its white flesh is juicy, sweet, and slightly crisp. The flavor is reminiscent of ripe melon. It's good for eating fresh and for cider. The fruit ripens in mid October and keeps well.

Apple 'Empire''Empire' is a modern apple variety that is a cross between 'McIntosh' and 'Red Delicious.' Developed in the 1940's, this apple has the round shape of 'McIntosh' and the red color of 'Red Delicious.' Its flesh is bright white with a crisp texture and a sweet flavor that has a hint of melon or pineapple. It's a good apple for eating fresh and, because it doesn't bruise easily, it's a good choice for the lunch box. It ripens in late September, about two weeks after 'McIntosh' and a couple of weeks earlier than 'Red Delicious.'

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Why Doesn't My Blue Hydrangea Bloom?"

Q. My blue hydrangeas never bloom. I get lots of leaves, but no flowers. In spring, it is a bunch of dead sticks with some leaves coming up down at the ground. Why doesn't it ever bloom for me? Thanks for your help - you have helped me in the past with great success - thank you!

Hydrangea 'All Summe Beauty'A. This is the most-often-asked gardening question I receive through my Q & A column, at my Web site, and at my gardening workshops. Non-blooming or poorly-blooming hydrangeas is a very common problem here in western Massachusetts. I have become an expert on this subject after years of first-hand experience myself in my own garden here and trials in this area.

The problem is you have a variety of hydrangea that does not bloom in this area because it blooms on old wood. Our winters here kill off the old wood, so you'll seldom, if ever, get blooms. You do get a bushy plant with lots of leaves, but very few, if any, flowers. I had the same problem and eventually I had to take out my non-blooming hydrangeas and replace them.

I replaced them with an outstanding variety called 'All Summer Beauty' which is the only blue hydrangea that blooms on new wood, unlike other older or newer blue-flowered varieties. 'All Summer Beauty' hydrangea is not widely available on the market so I start my own plants and I have some young plants I've started available. For those of you who don't get flowers on your hydrangeas, this variety is for you.

'All Summer Beauty' hydrangea has showy, rich-blue flowers that bloom reliably. It's a prolific bloomer in this area and is smothered in large, mophead flowers in summer just like the ones you see at the Cape, but this one will bloom reliably here. The large blue flowers are very long lasting, providing a long season of bloom. With this variety you can make the flowers blue or pink or a combination of both.

Click here to read more about Hydrangea 'All Summer Beauty' and order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

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