Milwaukee Heritage Apple Project – finding ways to bring diverse, place based, rare varieties of apples to our tables.
Recover Forgotten Fruit!
The Milwaukee Apple—just one of hundreds of endangered fruits that have disappeared from our plates and have been replaced by fewer than a dozen commercial varieties. Slow Food WiSE joins the handful of orchardists, producers and chefs who are bringing antique apples back to our tables by promoting their work, and adopting the Milwaukee Apple as one of several place-based varietals we’d like to save. Slow Food WiSE has “adopted” the Milwaukee varietal due to its ties to our region and its exceptional taste.
Milwaukee Heritage Apple Grow Out
Since 2010, more than 70 heritage apples have been planted in and around Milwaukee backyards and community gardens and farms by Slow Food WiSE members and friends. The Grow Out includes not just the Milwaukee Apple, but also the Pewaukee, Oneida, Connel Red, Wolfe River, Bonnie Best, along with Ashmead’s Kernel and Autumn Beauty apple tree varietals. They are being grown in home gardens, farms, businesses, and community projects, including the Urban ecology Center’s Washington Park fruit orchard, the Fondy Farm, the Native Community Wellness Garden, La Merenda, at School Gardens, and more (stay tuned for a VIRTUAL ORCHARD MAP).
2014 is the fourth year of Slow Food WiSe’s great Milwaukee Apple Grow Out, yet the varietal remains rare; with only one known mature tree to provide scion wood and fruit. Dozens of recently grafted Milwaukee Apple. Oneida, and Pewaukee apple trees suffered damage from deer in their urban locations this spring- many were lost. This unfortunate occurrence points to the great need to keep the Grow Out going!
How does the Milwaukee Apple Taste?
This seedling apple varietal was found under a Duchess tree and then developed by George Jeffrey of Milwaukee, WI. It appeared in commerce around 1899. It’s tough but thin skin is greenish yellow and marbled, blushed with reds. Its yellowish white flesh is quite dry and dense with a pleasant tart, green apple flavor. The Milwaukee Apple makes great dried apple slices, holds its shape well in pies and tarts, and is lovely sliced paper thin and paired with a Wisconsin cheese. It is also wonderful in ciders.
* Ripens: Sep, Oct
–Description adapted from the Renewing America’s Food Traditions Alliance, Forgotten Fruits of the Great Lakes Region Project with input from local chefs and eaters.
After working with local chefs, including Todd Moore, Greg Leon, and Peter Sandroni, to learn more about the culinary aspects of this unique apple, Slow Food WiSE realized it might very well belong on Slow Food’s Ark of Taste– a living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction. Plans to board the Milwaukee Apple to the Ark of Taste are underway.
Apple Tree Care
For those of you with heritage trees purchased last spring, find past tips on our blog.
You can help recover forgotten fruits! Adopt a Milwaukee Apple Tree!
For more information about this, and other Food Biodiversity Projects in SE WI, please contact us.
Read about our Apple Project on the Slow Food USA Blog!