For nearly three decades, University of Maryland professor Christopher Walsh has been trying to perfect the “perfect apple” for Maryland growers. In a field in western Maryland, of the thousands of apple trees, pollinating and cross-pollinating, eventually one turned out just right.
Walsh: ““We threw a lot of trees away because they didn’t flower. We threw a lot of trees away because they got blight. We threw a lot of trees away because we didn’t like the quality of the fruit. We need apple varieties that will tolerate the heat, the humidity and the disease pressure that growers have here in the mid-Atlantic.”
That’s left growers with many Golden and Red Delicious Apples. “Whenever I tested varieties from further north,” Walsh said. “They didn’t do well here.”
But finally from the blossoms that turned to apples, to apple seeds, Walsh has created a new variety to take on the honey crisps and pink ladies of the north. The Antietam Blush. Walsh sampled one of the tree’s smaller apples picked last fall. “Not too sweet, not too tart. And they still have some crunch.”
Unlike other varieties, you don’t have to climb a ladder to pick the Antietam Blush. After 20 years, the tree is not more than 12 feet high. Nurseries are now growing new generations of Antietam Blush, for planting in orchards next year. A few years later, customers will begin biting in.