At the time of the Civil War, there were around 800 commercially viable varieties of apples in this country. Now there are perhaps 30, although you will find even fewer at the market at any given time. What a come-down for a noble fruit that arrived here with the colonists and once was considered essential food.
What we are left with are industrial apples that look good and travel well but in many cases are lacking the flavor and individuality of heritage apples. My assignment for the October installment of Martha Stewart Living was to profile one apple grower--Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm in Eau Claire, Michigan--that has managed to survive with a large collection of antique apples.
Like many family farms, this one had to adapt to a rapidly changing economic environment to stay in business. They still sell apples wholesale--mostly to Whole Foods in the Detroit and Chicago areas. But their main source of income now is attracting visitors from urban areas out to the farm to pick fruit (Tree-Mendus also raises peaches, cherries and other seasonal items) and just enjoy the wide-open spaces. Here's an income producer I hadn't heard of before: you can rent your own tree. Apparently, some families have been doing just that for years and years.
Tree-Mendus fruit farm now hosts more than 200 varieties of heirloom apples. Many are for sale in the farm store. If you really want to learn more about how apples have morphed in this country and around the world, read "Apples" by Frank Browning.
Oh, and they will ship many of their products, including frozen blueberries.