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.
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.
Hudson’s Golden Gem:
Yellow Newton Pippin: