Those who know me might think that this essay will be about Apple’s Macintosh computer. That’s a pretty exciting subject for some of us and I think I might be able to pen something interesting.
However, most of you will be pleased, and probably somewhat relieved, to know that I’ve come with an essay about the McIntosh Apple tree fruit and not Apple’s Macintosh computer. (see footnote 1)
What prompted me to write this essay was my realisation that this time of the year was, in my past, the key time for McIntosh apples to appear in the stores. ‘Halloween Apples’ meant McIntosh apples and I would have many of them in my Halloween candy bag. In the late 1940’s and 1950’s we never had to worry about nasty things stuck unto our Halloween goodies.
The other time that McIntosh apples showed up in our house was at Christmas time. My dad always had a tongue-in-cheek threat that Santa might leave a lump of coal in the toe of my Christmas Stocking if I didn’t behave. Thankfully, the toe of my stocking was always filled with a McIntosh apple.
McIntosh apples were discovered growing as a chance seedling on a plot of land belonging to John McIntosh in the Dundela hamlet within the Matilda township of Ontario, Canada. (see footnote 2)
John McIntosh was clearing sections of his farm in 1811 when he found several apple trees growing naturally. It was unusual for apples to survive in a cold climate, and while the parentage is unknown, experts believe the seedlings may have developed from discarded European apples.
McIntosh transplanted the seedlings closer to his family home. The apple trees eventually bore fruit, and the sweet-tart, bicolored apples became a favourite snack of the McIntosh family.
As eastern as their heritage is, the McIntosh and Spartan apples were the only apples we had easy access to during the 1950’s. Those apples came to us in Alberta and Saskatchewan directly from the Okanagan Valley in BC. (see footnote 3)
I was recently surprised when I went in search for real, western Canadian McIntosh apples from the Okanagan Valley.
This past Thanksgiving I thought I would refresh a memory of biting into a fresh McIntosh apple. I went on a search for Okanagan Valley McIntosh apples at the local, large grocery chain stores in Cochrane, namely Safeway (Sobeys) and Save-On-Foods. I had no luck at either store. There were many of the newer varieties, included Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, and Ambrosia. They were from various sources including eastern Canada, Chile, USA, Mexico, and, for goodness sake, South Africa. None of these have a taste that invokes my childhood memory of Thanksgiving nor Christmas.
Both those stores are Canadian owned, so I was surprised that I couldn’t find what I wanted. Sobeys is based in the east and has access to the fruit producers in the Niagara Peninsula, whereas Save-On-Foods is a BC company with access to the fruit producers of the Okanagan Valley. Sobeys did have some McIntosh apples, but they were from the east. I
wanted the real thing from the Okanagan valley…the apples marketed by BC Tree Fruits.
Whilst shopping for something else I was wandering about in Walmart. As I walked by the fruit counter there they were—bags of BC McIntosh apples from BC Tree Fruits. I grabbed a bag, paid for it and headed to the car. I opened the bag, took out a brightly coloured McIntosh and bit into it. There it was. The taste that I longed for. With my eyes closed I imagined I was back in the 1950s as a young boy. That was a great feeling.
So, after an expectation of a Canadian company selling a western Canadian product, I’ve come away learning that it took that large American establishment, Walmart, to come up with the proper western Canadian goods. What a weird thing to have to do. By the way, they also had Spartan apples from BC Tree Fruits.
Bottom line, from now on, when I’m looking for apples, I’ll go directly to Walmart with the hope that they will continue to market the fruits of the Okanagan Valley. Again, I find that weird.
Note how Steve Jobs’ friend and lead developer of the Mac, Jef Raskin, changed the spelling from the name of the apple before the first Macintosh computer was announced. A thoughtful nod to my favourite fruit, the McIntosh apple.
The McIntosh apple was decreed Canada’s national apple and was even imprinted on the 1996 Canadian silver dollar.
The 'Spartan' is an apple cultivar developed by R.C. Palmer and introduced in 1936 from the Federal Agriculture Research Station in Summerland, British Columbia.