For Earth Day yesterday, TreeHugger TV dropped in at the Earth School on Manhattan's Lower East Side to listen in on a chat about New York City's own Newtown Pippin apple and to plant a seedling with the gradeschoolers. This "forgotten fruit," an NYC heirloom apple, was the favorite apple of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and loved by Benjamin Franklin and Queen Victoria, among others. A push is now being made to repopulate the city with these firm, tart, little beauties. Once one learns about their storied past, the breathtaking possibilities of their restoration to New York become crisp and clear: a step back in the right direction toward biodiversity, local food production and consumption, as well as perhaps becoming the jewel in the crown of remediation on America's most polluted waterway Newtown Creek. More amazing history and hear what Michael Pollan has to say about the Newtown Pippin when you let Newtonian physics pull you down through the fold.We lost this heritage through industrialization and unfortunate name games: In the 19th century, Virginians stripped the Yankee name from the apple made fashionable by their luminaries (renaming it the Albemarle Pippin for the Virginia county) and Newtown later changed its name to Elmhurst, Queens to avoid association with the polluted Newtown Creek. Still, gourmets to this day refer to the Newtown Pippin as "the prince of apples" and "the Founding Apple." Michael Pollan writes, "The Newtown Pippin is one of the all-time great American apples— storied, delicious, and overdue for a comeback." Or as Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison from France, "They have no apples here to compare with our Newtown Pippin."
Green Apple Cleaners, Slow Food NYC, GreenThumb, MillionTreesNYC, Cummins Nursery, and others are partnering to plant 50 Newtown Pippin saplings (and 50 pollinators) this year in all five boroughs; in botanical gardens, museum grounds, schoolyards, community gardens, university campuses, and perhaps even select streets. Hundreds more will be planted in coming years.
You can join Pippin restoration visionaries and Erik Baard, Helen Ho Edwin Yowell for a discussion of the apple's history and potential future, and the projects long-term goals at Solar1 on April 27, 2009 from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm.