What to do now - Gardening Events

The Salt Spring Island Apple Festival

By
Donna Balzer
Photography by
Donna Balzer

With a mystery apple in her pocket, Donna Balzer visits this annual event for selfish reasons


“No apples out of the bags until you get the okay,” announces Salt Spring Island Apple Festival organizer Harry Burton. I am guessing he is worried there is going to be labelling chaos and mistakes made if things don’t happen in the right order, but what do I know? This is my first apple festival and I am carrying around a mystery apple in my pocket, looking to put a name on it.
 
From 'Alexander' and 'Ambrosia' to 'Wolf River', volunteers start spreading out labelled apple bags on the tables in alphabetical order. “There are a lot of ‘g’s’,” says one volunteer. “We better move everything around.”

This year was considered an “average” growing year and just over 200 varieties are laid out on the tables when Burton finally gives the okay for the volunteer apple experts to take the apples out of the bags.

Orchardist, Brian Webster, owner of Salt Spring Apple Company is one of Burton’s experts. "We are picking out the three best examples—judgment call—of each variety. In some cases there are three, four or five bags of one variety.”

What happens at the festival
Selected apples are set out on doilies in front of their labels in anticipation of the festival opening Sunday morning at 9 a.m. in Fulford Hall. All the apples come from 19 different farmers listed on a map given to festival participants.

Visitors look at the apples on display this year then check in with book authors, plant sellers and apple identifiers. They taste the pie made from local, heritage apples and best of all, they tour the orchards to see how the apples are grown.

My mystery apple
Before I leave the hall for the driving tour of the orchards I pull out my unknown apple for identification. Ann Aylard, volunteer with the BC Fruit Testers Association told me that considering the numbers of kinds of apples, the chances of identifying an unknown are only moderate. She agreed it looked like a 'Northern Spy' (my best guess) except for the bumps on the crown so she sent me off to ask other growers what it might be.

Bob Duncan, owner of Fruit Trees and More in Sidney, B.C. thought it might be Esposus spitzenberg, widely grown in 1790 and very good tasting but susceptible to disease. My tree doesn’t seem diseased so I make note, but keep asking.

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