McIntosh Apple, a Tasty Canadian Development
Fresh-picked from the orchard branch or selected from the grocer’s display, a juicy, crisp, red apple is an ordinary pleasure in Canada. One of those favourite apples is a Canadian development: the McIntosh Red.
John McIntosh came to Upper Canada from the Mohawk Valley in New York as a British Loyalist during the hostilities of American Revolution, sometime between 1796 and 1801. He was most likely aged in his early 20s. Purchasing a nice chunk of land in the St. Lawrence valley near Dundela, Ontario in March 1813, he made a home for his wife and growing family. (John and Hannah eventually had eleven children, six boys and five girls, noted the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.)
Farmer Found Wild Seedlings
As with many United Empire Loyalists coming to Canada, John McIntosh was a farmer. The McIntosh
men were clearing the scrubby land when they happened across apple seedlings growing in the rough bush. Digging up the delicate plants, they transplanted the wee fruit trees in a patch closer to the house. The seedlings grew and flourished with apples, but eventually all but one tree died. The trees produced hardy, red fruit, juicy and appetizing. John McIntosh named the apple variety McIntosh Red.
Apples a Rarity
John’s son Allan McIntosh took an interest in the seedlings, tending and propagating the trees by budding and grafting. Allan “travelled about as an itinerant preacher, handing seedlings to those interested, said the Ontario Apple Marketing Commission, and that “he and his brother Sandy organized a small nursery. Later, Allan’s son made the nursery a commercial success, selling the apple tree seedlings across Ontario and transforming the luxury of apples from rarity into a more common delight.
McIntosh Apple Tree Burnt
The last original tree remaining by the McIntosh house lived a long and productive life. The story has it that a devastating house fire damaged the apple tree when it was nearly a century old. The sturdy tree continued to bear fruit on the side that was not burnt until it died at 112 years old in 1908.
McIntosh Apple a Favourite
The McIntosh Red caught on with growers and was a popular item with the Ontario Fruit Growers Association. The Dominion of Canada’s lead Horticulturist, William T. Macoun, promoted the apple, according to The Dictionary of Canadian Biography. The fruit needed “no words of praise, it is one of the finest appearing and best dessert apples grown,” said Macoun, and was agreeable with Canada’s climate. In the early 1900s, a large number of apple orchards were populated with McIntosh Reds. Scrumptious to munch by hand or sliced in wedges, the McIntosh is also a treat made into pink applesauce, apple dumplings, hot apple crisp, or blended with other varieties in an apple pie. (Mmm… and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream dolloped on top. Yum, yum.)
In 1912, a plaque was installed on the McIntosh property to commemorate the place of the first McIntosh apple tree in1912 and another plaque in Dundela, Ontario to mark the find. John McIntosh died at home in about September 1845, his name deliciously familiar across North America by the chance discovery of a small bunch of apple tree seedlings.
Ready for a crunchy sweet apple, anyone?
This article first appeared on Suite101.com on August 29, 2009. (c) Susanna McLeod