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Dick Tracy: How do you like them apples?

 

It’s the most unusual birthday present I’ve had in 83 years.

The 35-pound cardboard box that appeared at our front door contained seven volumes of, “The Illustrated History of Apples in the United States and Canada.”

The sender was my friend April Ping, a fellow member of The Garden Writer’s Association of America years ago when I was the garden editor of The Sacramento Bee. And she and her husband David thought I’d appreciate it.



I’m overwhelmed. Pomologist Daniel J. Bussey spent 30 years writing the text, which includes:

. 16,350 varietal listings (descriptions, origins and histories)



. 9,750 synonyms (names the apples were known by in different locations)

. 1,650 cited references (from 200 years of pomological literature)

. 1,400 watercolors (painted from 1886 to 1942 by USDA artists.)

Take a look at the illustrations and you’ll wonder if they’re photographs. Incredible!

And research wasn’t all done in libraries. Bussey (a member of North American Fruit Explorers) long had an affinity for heirlooms that had intense and unique flavors.

“And,” he asks, “if they’re considered ‘obsolete’ why do so many people keep hanging on to them?”

The author did an enormous amount of time grafting his finds over the years.

Another incredible aspect of the book was joining forces with like-minded people such as the late Kent Whealy, (founder of The Seed Saver’s Exchange organization) who spent seven years (gratis) editing Bussey’s work.

Then Whealy founded his own publishing company (JAK KAW Press, LLC) to see that it got into print.

Another bonus is Bussey’s writing style. Here’s a man unabashedly sharing his obsession for all to enjoy.

And he succeeds. According to Maine apple historian John Bunker, it’s, “The most important book on apples ever published in English. There has never been anything like it.”

The set (originally priced at $350) is available on closeout for $150 through JAK KAW Press, LLC, .P.O. Box Adam218, Mt. Horeb, WI. 53572. More information is available online at jakkawpress.com or by calling toll free 844-567-5888.

Dick Tracy lives in Grass Valley

“Arkansas Black” apples were commercial favorites in Nevada County orchards in bygone years.
USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection, Special Collections, National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, Maryland
USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection, Special Collections, National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, Maryland
Dick Tracy

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