From the New York Times

Northport, Mich.

Apples of Yore Make a Comeback

Twenty-five years ago, John Kilcherman decided he needed a hobby. Never mind that he and his wife, Phyllis, were running an 85-acre commercial cherry and apple orchard in the Leelanau Peninsula of northwest Michigan.

Remembering the apples of his childhood, he planted 10 antique varieties that were at least 50 years old and no longer sold commercially.

Today this hobby has grown to include 200 varieties of antique apples and a thriving mail-order business. "On the advice of our customers, we decided to do gift boxes 10 years ago," Mrs. Kilcherman said. "Every apple is different, and we include the history of each. It's an eating history lesson."

Gift boxes are hand packed by Mrs. Kilcherman and her daughter-in-law and include varieties like the English Golden Russet, a sweet-tasting apple from the 1800's with a skin that feels like sandpaper; the Winter Banana, which appeared in Indiana around 1876 and has a slight banana flavor, and the Green Newton Pippin, a tart apple from 1722, which is considered America's oldest.

The apples come in boxes of 12 and 16, with the larger shipments containing varieties like the Spitzenburg, Thomas Jefferson's favorite, and the Lady Apple, which French women of the 17th century used as breath fresheners. No two apples are ever the same, and some varieties come with their own natural, and characteristic, wax covering.

Advertising has been by word of mouth, attracting customers in all 50 states and from as far away as Norway, India, and Russia.

Kilcherman's Christmas Cove Farm is at 11573 Kilcherman Road, Northport, Mich. 49670; (231) 386-5637.

LORI SELENO


 Christmas Cove Farm