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The Golden Days of the PEI Apples
by PEI Adapt
October 30, 2011

Ever heard of the Inkerman apple?

For most people, the answer is no. However, at the turn of the 20th century, it was winning awards in shows throughout North America and Europe and it appeared poised to give Canada’s best known variety, the MacIntosh, a run for its money.

The Inkerman was bred right here on PEI—perhaps the most famous of a handful of varieties developed here that have since gone out of production. While apples may not be the first crop that comes to mind for PEI, Kevin Garvey said over 60 varieties were being grown here in the early 1900’s.

He knows his topic well. With funding help from the PEI ADAPT Council, he set out to rediscover Island heritage varieties that may have commercial value today. The result is a book and a DVD with an interactive database of every apply variety ever grown in the province.

During the 2010 growing season, he crossed the province, talking to current apply growers and trying to locate the remnants of any historical varieties. Each variety was photographed and the database contains details about each variety both past and present.

Garvey is now experimenting with various trellis systems to demonstrate and evaluate the economics of these potentially high yielding production systems.

"So far, it is working out pretty good but we have to get through at least one more growing season before we start to get a good picture," he said. Garvey explained the system will allow a grower to increase production without the need for additional land—a key factor if the industry is to grow. He said it also allows a grower to determine more quickly whether a variety seems suited to Island conditions or not.

"Bringing back some historical varieties could be a risky proposition since the Island climate has changed significantly over the last century," Garvey said. "I wanted to point out that apples have a long history on PEI—many Islanders and visitors don’t know the variety of apples that are grown here. People say to me all the time ‘they have orchards here?"

Garvey said a growing trend towards industrial agriculture in the 20th century was one of the major factors that contributed to the decline of the apply industry. He added "farming became more specialized—Nova Scotia went for apples and we went for potatoes."

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