Thinning: A Rite of Spring

Jun 6, 2016 | 1 comment

Farmer Nyel and Williams Pride

Farmer Nyel and Williams Pride

Thinning (not to be confused with slimming) is a rite of spring shared by orchardists and backyard farmers and anyone with a fruit tree.  For us, it’s our two apple trees in the south garden and yesterday was the day.  I call it pick-and-choose-day but, thankfully, Farmer Nyel is ruthless.  If there are apples growing less than three inches from one another, the extras must go.  The alternative to thinning is to risk limb breakage and poorer fruit quality.

It probably took Nyel less than twenty minutes to thin the apples on both trees – 160 discards in all!  Our ‘late’ producing tree, a dwarf Rajka, was absolutely loaded with fruit this year.  ‘Williams Pride,’ also a dwarf tree, had fewer than normal apples – in fact, hardly any at all on some of the branches – and none of them very big or very red yet, though it is the ‘early’ apple.  Go figure.

Both trees blossomed at the same time, as they usually do, but there ‘usual’ ended.  For a wonder, the fruit began to appear on the Rajka first and, unless Williams Pride has a sudden growing streak, it looks as though we’ll be harvesting the ‘late’ apples earliest this year.  “No matter,” says Nyel who is a firm believer in the old apple-a-day adage.  The Rajka is delicious. Its description is “early-winter, disease resistant, dessert variety with outstanding color, good rather sweet flavor and medium storage life.”

Rajka Apples Before Thinning

Rajka Apples Before Thinning

It’s for those reasons that we chose the Rajka and all of those acclamations have proved to be true except the “early-winter” part for this 2016 crop.  Or… maybe not.  Perhaps the tree will have a work-slowdown period during the summer and still manage to allow William’s Pride the dubious pleasure of being first to ripen.  Williams Pride, by the way,  is said to mature with the very earliest known commercial red cultivars in the mid-western United States and is firm and crisp, very juicy, moderately sub-acid, slightly spicy, and full flavored.  Also, all true with that one timing exception this year.

But yesterday I wasn’t really thinking of those delicious end products or when, exactly, they will be ready to harvest.  It was the 160 runts-of-the-litter, so to speak, that got my attention.  Tending fruit trees is not for the faint of heart.  And thinning (much like slimming) requires unflinching resolve.  Once again, hooray for Farmer Nyel!

1 Comment

  1. Stephanie Frieze

    Dave and I ate in the south garden at the last house concert and I noticed how abundant the apples to were!


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