The story of the spread of new apple varieties across North America is a fascinating one. Whilst the settlers brought good European varieties with them, most of these proved unsuited to the climate of the New World. However the seeds of these apples were planted far and wide by Johnny Appleseed and others, and from these some grew and flourished. As the settlements spread westwards the more successful varieties were taken with new settlers and propagated in new orchards. In this way a tradition of apple varieties arose which was uniquely American.
Developed before modern scientific breeding methods were available, these antique apple varieties were nevertheless naturally productive and hardy - they had to be. However whilst many have a certain beauty about them, they could not compete with the new wave of American apples such as Delicious and Golden Delicious which were discovered at the end of the 19th century. The heirloom varieties that had served Americans well until then started to fall out of fashion, being less well-suited to large-scale production, transcontinental shipment, and long-term storage.
In the 21st century there is now a growing recognition that the diversity of the old heritage varieties should be protected - and the best way to do that is to start eating and cooking them! Growing your own heirloom apple trees gives you the chance to experience these old-fashioned flavors.