So Many Varieties to Choose From!
The "Short and Sweet" from Grandpa:
• Plant what you want!
• Is redder better?
• Older varieties are often superior to their newer sports.
• Grandpa's Nature Friendly™ disease resistant varieties are easier on the environment.
• Consider the "blooms and the bees"--- fruit $*x!
• We learn all the good points about a new variety in the first year, but it takes twenty years to learn all the bad points.
• Plant what you want!
Grandpa's "long winded" answer:
Grandpa was always fascinated by new varieties! If times and circumstance had been different, he probably wished he could have been another Luther Burbank, instead of a fruit grower and nurseryman. Burbank is often considered the "father" of modern fruit, vegetable, flower, and plant breeding. His first well known discovery was the "Burbank" or russet potato that made "Idaho" famous.
In many aspects of life, variety is considered the "spice of life" and it is especially true of fruit growing. There have been tens of thousands of different and unique varieties of all different types of fruit. Just the number of different apple varieties that used to be grown is astounding. Many varieties are lost to time, but the best are still around. Time is the true test of how good a variety is. Grandpa has eaten lots of them, and even though Grandpa's Choice™ is the "best of the best" and Grandpa's Nature Friendly™ offers great disease resistant varieties, there is no accounting for everyone's differing tastes! Everyone has a different philosophy. Plant what you want! No matter what anyone says, Grandpa always would let people make up their own mind. Investigate all the differing varieties in the produce department and pick the ones that satisfy your taste buds the closest. Use these as guides when investigating some of the more diverse and lesser known varieties. Redder is not always Better!
For about 70 years, the trend in the commercial fruit production and nursery industry has been to select redder and redder sports or mutations of varieties. Consider the Red Delicious--- the ones in the produce department have reached the pinnacle of their "art"--- extremely "typey", firm, glossy, dark mahogany scarlet, eye catching!. They are so different tasting from the original "delicious" apple, which wasn't very red, wasn't very firm, didn't keep as well, but had a sweet, juicy flavor that the red ones now seem to be lacking. A lot of people now love the current Red Delicious, because that is what they have learned to like. Grandpa didn't care for it; he was old enough to remember the original.
Many different types of fruit will spontaneously generate limbs and buds that are genetically different from their parent limbs in a particular characteristic. Color is one of the most recognizable, but sometimes it is harvest period, firmness, flavor, striping or blushing, size, etc. Most sports (called cultivars of the variety) are not necessarily better, but a select number prove themselves to be more marketable after lengthy evaluation periods. Red color is one of the most important characteristics, because history has proven that most shoppers "buy with their eyes" first. The want the prettiest, nicest fruit. Even Grandpa couldn't help but pick out the biggest, nicest looking fruit out of a basket, even though they all tasted good!
Grandpa's Rule of Thumb: The original variety is usually tastier than any of its sports. Of course this doesn't always hold true, but Grandpa believed it. Many of the old, original sports or varieties, many of which are still grown commercially, are still the best choices, especially for the backyard grower. We try to make Grandpa's Choice™ varieties the original strains or cultivars when possible, unless a newer sport is just as good or better.
Disease resistant varieties aren't just for the lazy fruit grower. If you want to grow as "organically" and "nature friendly" as possible, look to varieties that have the most natural disease resistance. They will take less fungicide spraying, and you will have less impact on your immediate environment, as well as lessening your exposure to chemicals. In apples, scab is probably the single most important disease that limits fruit growth and production.
Scab resistant varieties will maintain their foliage and carry a nice crop of apples to maturity, when scab prone varieties will not if they are not sprayed.
Fire blight resistance is also an important disease resistance that is nice to have in those more humid areas, where fire blight can infect and "burn" leaves, shoots, limbs, and even kill whole trees.
In pears, fire blight resistance is a nice trait to have. In peaches and nectarines, leaf curl is a good disease resistance that few varieties have had bred into them, since it is relatively easy to control for commercial growers. Only a few varieties have peach leaf curl resistance. In many stone fruit varieties, in the more humid areas, bacteria leaf spot often affects the leaves and fruit of susceptible varieties, so varieties that are more resistant or tolerant should only be chosen for those areas.
One of the main "drawbacks" of many disease resistant apples is that they are not as similar to the most popular, produce department varieties as one would like. Only a few really are mimics of popular varieties like McIntosh or Jonathan.
Pollination and Blooming Time: Consider the bees. Without them we wouldn't have much fruit. Most fruits require pollination by honeybees, wild bees, or other pollinating insects. Some fruit types are self-fertile, but still usually require a bee or insect to transfer pollen from the anthers to the stigma. We have a whole Growing Tip for Pollination, so we won't go into detail here, but make sure your variety choices are compatible. "It's the best thing since sliced bread!" Grandpa never met a grower who found a sport in his orchard who didn't at least "think" this about his discovery. But, Grandpa was a cynic and believed that the good points about a new fruit variety were usually discovered in the first year, but then every year after, for about twenty, a bad trait usually showed its ugly head! Even the world's hottest, most wanted apple variety now has bad traits, and more seem to be showing up over time.
So, for a variety to stand the test of time, the GOOD traits always seem to outnumber and overpower the BAD traits. Just be prepared to be surprised by some trait in your choice of variety, no matter how smart you think you have chosen it! Grandpa's Orchard™ will continually pick up and offer new varieties when they are introduced, and give you the best evaluation we can of them, but we wouldn't be honest if we said they were all going to be perfect. Plant what you want! No matter all the bull you hear about every variety, it still boils down to planting what you think you want!