As American as apple pie: American Mother

My collection of apple trees is rather odd and I sometimes wonder quite why I picked the varieties I did. As regular readers will know, I have been getting my first taste of the apples this year and the latest is ‘American Mother’ sometimes called just ‘Mother’. It is best picked in late September and then should last for a few months. My first taste is slightly premature but an apple dropped off so it was a sign that ripeness was close.

‘American Mother’ is an old apple. But unlike many other ancient apples, it actually looks really attractive, with red skin and a good, rather conical shape. It originated in Massachusetts, in Bolton, Worcester County, and although the exact date is not known, the first records were in 1844. It made its way across the Atlantic and was introduced by the nursery of Thomas Rivers (1798-1877 – owner of one of the most important UK fruit nurseries, in Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire) and became very popular in the UK between the ‘two wars’. But this apple must have some good properties because it received the Award of Garden Merit from the RHS in 1993.

The apples are very attractive with a pale green skin, heavily overlaid in red in the sun, and slightly greasy. The flesh was crisp and sweet and although the flavour probably hadn’t developed yet, it was tasty. Some say the flavour has a bit of pear drop in it but I couldn’t really confirm that. Even in this dry summer and with poor thinning on my part, the apples are a good size.

It is said that it gets its name because it was the preferred apple of mothers making apple pies – and we know how important they are to Americans.

It seems a neat, upright grower too and is one of the most attractive of the apple trees and I don’t think pruning to keep it tidy will be an issue.

All this is great but the good news goes on and on: This apple is supposed be be at least partially self-fertile – not something I need to worry about, but good to know. It is also supposed to be good for wet and cool climates and resistant to scab. It is supposed to be rather susceptible to canker. But, I have no canker on my tree and there is no scab on any of the fruits and that is a real surprise as it is one of few that does not have any scab.

It is allegedly a rather variable bearer – I can’t comment on that except to say that it is among the heaviest croppers this year – we will see what happens next year. It is also said that the flavour varies and perhaps I am benefiting from the sunny summer. As a dual-purpose apple that may not be an issue if you can cook them. I can’t say if they break up or stay firm when cooked yet.

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