Retired engineer saves 1,200 types of apples from extinction

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According to the University of Illinois, there are 7,500 varieties of apple grown worldwide, including 2,500 in the United States. So why aren’t we seeing more of these apples? Because some have disappeared.

This may soon change as a retired engineer called Tom Brown is on a mission to save different varieties of apples from extinction, according to a Reddit post on Thursday. So far, Brown has saved 1,200 types of apples.

Different varieties of apples

It all started in 1998, when at a farmer’s market, Brown first learned about a few heirloom apple types that were standardized in the 18th and 19th centuries. Brown passionately decided that acquiring and saving different varieties of apples was a project he wanted to devote his time and his retirement to.

Brown began by seeking out experienced arborists and learning from them how to cut, grow and graft apple trees. Low and see, 20 years later, he has now rediscovered and reintroduced over 1,200 historic apple varieties that would have disappeared without his efforts.

Brown even has a website called Apple Search which he uses to fuel his search for long-lost apples. He also travels Appalachia looking for people who can help him in his search.

Investigative work

He searches for old orchards mentioned in historical documents or goes hunting based on the stories of different citizens who are often in their 80s and 90s and remember apples that existed many years ago. When he finally discovers a new tree, Brown takes a sample for further study.

Using information found in the archives of old orchards, first-hand accounts and even botanists, he studies and compares the characteristics of leaves, trees and fruits. He’s even been known to send samples to people who steer him towards new apple varieties.

Brown’s work is investigative in nature. It is comprehensive and accurate and has proven itself so far. How many more varieties of apples will Brown reintroduce? Only time will tell.


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