Our apple orchard began before Fifth Crow was even an idea. John recruited Mike to help select and plant apple trees that John intended to grow up in Chehalis, WA on his grandpa’s farmland. To select the varieties they went to the apple master, Orin Martin, whom both John and Mike had studied under in the CASFS farm apprenticeship in Santa Cruz. Even though the trees were selected to grow in WA they had all been grown in Santa Cruz and were suitable for the coastal climate. John and Mike hand grafted all the trees onto semi-dwarfing root stock and took them to the Esalen Institute in Big Sur where John was at that time managing the Esalen farm. The trees spent their first winter there before John, Mike, & Teresa met Gene & Donna and decided to lease farmland from them here in Pescadero and subsequently moved the trees to what is now officially Fifth Crow Farm’s apple orchard.
One reason we grafted onto semi-dwarfing root stock was to create a pedestrian orchard, or in other words, an orchard where you can pick the fruit standing on the ground and without the use of ladders. Another reason was we wanted to fit more trees in per acre. However, that means the individual trees will have a lower yield and smaller quantities will go to market at a time but ideally we would have very little waste of fruit.
The tree varieties were selected to cover a spectrum of preferences. We have both early and late producing varieties so we could extend our apple harvest season from mid-summer into late fall and great tasting varieties were chosen over commercially viable ones. From a business prospective we knew that farmers’ market customers would respond to uniqueness and flavor over your typical grocery store varieties. Fifth Crow has an unusual collection of apples that you’ll never see in a grocery store. Many of our apple trees are rare, heirloom, and heritage varieties.
How do we take care of the trees?
We do both a summer and a winter pruning, we fertilize twice per year, we regularly weed and mulch around the trees, we irrigate throughout the summer months, we use pheromone traps to confuse coddling moths, and we use Tanglefoot once a year which is a sticky compound that is applied around the lower foot of the tree trunk to create a barrier for crawling insects. We do not use any sprays. The biggest pest pressure in our orchard are the birds.
Pristine: Yellow Apple that is crisp, juicy, sweet tart and usually the first one to ripen for the season.
Sunrise: Yellow background, red stripes. Good sweet/start balance. sweeter over tart compared to the Pristine. White flesh, juicy.
Golden Delicious: As Orin Martin our mentor from UCSC’s Farm & Garden would say “Golden Delicious is neither golden nor delicious after 5 months in storage. But fresh off the tree…” well, it’s a whole other thing. You might not even recognize it. Glowing yellow with the occasional pink blush. An old standby looks and tastes leaps and bounds better than it’s commercial counterpart which has often been stored for months prior to arriving at a store near you. The foundation of many popular apples.
Gravenstein: A great apple. Best enjoyed fresh, juiced, cooked or baked.
Mollies Delicious: Red delicious parentage, sweet over tart, juicy & crisp. fabulous for eating out of hand.
Alkemene: Floral, lively, honeyed, mutation of Cox’s Orange Pippin from Germany. Sooo sweet, but nice tartness as well. One of Mike’s (my husband) favorite apples.
Arlet: Golden delicious & Idared cross. Intense complex flavor, sweet, spicy undertone. Aromatic, good for cooking.
Elstar: This apple can be slightly russeted (has skin that can be rough in spots like a pear or russet potato). It’s creamy white flesh has a balanced sweet/tart flavor with honey undertones and a mild acidity. Good for cooking. Makes a great applesauce. Flavor gets better after a few weeks in the fridge, so don’t worry if you don’t want to eat them right.
Chehalis: Hailing from Washington state, lovely green-yellow skinned apple. Crisp, sweet, juicy. Great fresh eating apple.
Fiesta: Sometimes marketed as a “Red Pippin”, this apple is often described as nutty and aromatic. Great dessert apple, good for juice and hard cider. Can often have a slight russeting (rough skin like a russet potato). Yellow skin with orange to red striping. Good keeper.
Grimes Golden: This old variety is of American origin and thought to be the parent of Golden Delicious. Long stems, tendency to have slight russeting (rough skin). Crisp tender, spicy, sweet flavor.S More on the acidic side making it popular for hard cider and brandy.
Hudson’s Golden Gem: One of the few remaining truly fully russetted apples. Sugary sweet, crisp, yet with a distinctly pear-like flavor and texture. One of Teresa’s favorites. Beautiful bronze russeted apple (that means the skin is rough like a Bosc Pear). Many russet varieties of apples have disappeared from grocery stores, supposedly because of customer preference for shiny smooth apples. We think it’s time to bring them back! This variety is one of the sweetest of the russets we grow. Pear? Apple? It has a nutty pear-like texture & sugary sweetness.
Corail: White juicy flesh. Crisp, rich, aromatic, sweet.. Also know as pinata, sonata, and pinova. Cox’s Orange Pippin, Golden Delicious, Dutchess of Oldenburg parentage.
Spartan: The Spartan apple gets its name from its resilience in various weather types. It has an almost black skin and soft pure white flesh. Think “Snow White”. Originated in Canada. Sweet and juicy.
Yellow Newton Pippin: Firm and flavorful with tropical aromas. Keeps well in cold storage for longer.
Enterprise: Dark red skin, white flesh, firm texture. Great for cooking. sweet, spicy, with mild tartness. Great keeper.
Ida Red: Cross between a Jonathan and Wagener Apple. Originally from Moscow, ID. This beautiful dark red skinned apple holds up beautifully to cooking and keeps well. Mild flavor, can make a beautiful pink applesauce if cooked with skins. Sweetly tart.
Pink Lady: Sweet and tangy with a nice blush colored skin. A cross between a Golden Delicious and a Lady Williams
Arkansas Charm: Eat em quick, these delicious aromatic, sweet apples aren’t long storers.. cream flesh, red skin, slight pink color to flesh close to skin. Sweet over tart. Great early apple for eating out of hand
Aromas: A good balance of sweet and sour
Hokuto: Notoriously large apple. A cross between a Fuji and a Mutsu. From Japan, these very large, juicy, sweet, crisp apples are famous for their size- in 2005 a Hokuto claimed the World’s record for heaviest apple.
Russet Beauty: Delicious baked in a pie. This russeted apple tends towards a soft texture, and has an unusual (and addictive) flavor- a citrus-like tart flavor over it’s sugary sweetness.
Mutsu: Also knows as a Crispin. Comes from a golden delicious. Slighly more tart and more complex in flavor. Crisp and juicy. Makes a great dessert apple. Mutsu comes to us from Japan. It’s parentage is Golden Delicious and Indo. A HUGE monstrosity of an apple that leads to lots of bragging rights between growers. I swear we have one this year that is nearly the size of my toddler’s head. Green, ripening to yellow with a copper blush, it is incredibly crisp, juicy, firm and a bit tarter than Golden Delicious. Some claim hints of anise. It sweetens further in storage and is great for cider. It is non-browning when cut. Fabulous apple for eating out of hand