Applefest is feast for the senses
Summerfield Garden Club's annual event features huge tasty apples
The "large" apples sold at local grocery stores are small imitations of a giant variety that grows in the Hood River area, as members of the Summerfield Garden Club can attest.
For four years, club members have looked forward to the fall meeting when member Diane Rhodes presents her annual talk on the special apples that almost defy belief, and every member leaves with an apple, while some purchase more than one.
Diane and her husband David lived in Hood River for 37 years before moving to Summerfield 14 years ago and were acquainted with the Hanners family that grows apples that have weighed up to 3 pounds, 4.14 ounces, and can be almost 19 inches in diameter.
"The fourth generation of the family now operates the orchard, but the second generation discovered this mutation by accident in 1958 when they saw these giant apples growing on a branch on one tree," Rhodes said.
This new breed of apples was growing on a limb mutation of a Spokane Beauty Stripe variety. Dan Hanners split the branch, grafted it onto other trees and propagated it.
As the new trees grew and produced the huge apples, Hanners patented the big apples, naming them Eve's Delight and Eve's Choice, which is a red variety.
"Now they produce 8,000 pounds of them and sell them annually," Rhodes said. "They set up a stand with different bins at the annual Harvest Festival and sell them in three sizes. Everyone refers to then as Hanners' apples."
According to Rhodes, Hanners is the only orchard in Hood River to grow the giant apples, and the family sold the patent to Stark Brothers Nursery in the Midwest.
As stunning as the apples are, they also come with their own problems: "They are difficult to harvest because they have a short stem," Rhodes said. "The pickers can't get their hands around them to twist them from the tree, so each one has to be hand-cut."
But on the positive side, "they are great for eating and baking, plus they are nice to use for decorations," Rhodes said.