In Search Of…The Apple of the Future

 

It is a very busy time of year for Holmen apple grower Doug Shefelbine. Of the 80 acres of apple trees on his land,
about half are dedicated to popular varieties like Honeycrisp, Macintosh and Courtyland to name a few. But it’s the
other half that grabbed our attention. You are looking at thousands of trees that are all part of one very big
expiriment. “About 20 years ago we started planting apple seeds, hoping that we could find a variety that was
different than what we had.”

It takes alot of work and alot of patience to tackle such a big project on his own. “You take the seeds out, plant
the seeds. The apple will be half the seed variety, but the other half depends on the bee and where its pollen comes
from.” Now of the nearly 50 thousand experimental trees out there, every single one produces an apple with a slightly
different flavor, texture, size or color. And guess who has the job of tasting each and every one of them??? “Many
times you bite into it and that’s enough to tell you you don’t want it and you just spit it out.”

Doug Shefelbine tastes between 2 and 3 hundred apples a day through the harvest season which by the way is about
three months. Do the math and that is alot of apples. But it all for one very specific reason. “We’re looking for
one that will be the next great apple. We’ve got a couple that we think are very close.”

We went in search of the apple of the future, with a little luck, in a few years…he just might find it.

Shefelbines has an area of expirimental trees open for public picking. You can taste any apple you want and when
you find one you like…you can pick a bag full for a very reasonable price. To find Shefelbine’s, go out Hwy 16 to
West Salem. Take a left at the first stop lights on Hwy ‘M’. Go for about 5 miles and their orchard is located on the
right.

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