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The ManyTracks Orchard

Frostbite Apple

unknown parentage, seedling discovered at the University of Minnesota breeding farm, seed planted 1936, originally known as MN447, renamed Frostbite and released in 2008.


Planted 2015, on Antonovka rootstock


Frostbite apple small tree

Four decades of Growing Good Food in the Northwoods of Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Down to Earth Information, Experiences, Thoughts

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This small apple variety from the University of Minnesota breeding farm has the unique history of being one the breeders didn't think was worth releasing, even though it had proven to be very hardy, saying "it doesn't even taste like an apple". A chance seedling that would have gone by the wayside had it not been for apple guru John Bunker of Fedco Seeds & Trees fame. He managed to get cuttings and grafted onto a tree. When it fruited he he thought it was a great and unusual tasting apple that deserved to live. He finally convinced Univ. Minn. to release it in 2008, which they did under the name Frostbite. It sounded intriguing so in 2015 I purchased a tree from Fedco in Maine.

2019 - Thankfully the tree finally decided to cease from from trying to produce fruit and spent the year growing instead so I didn't have to decide if it was OK to leave some blossoms. Still small and very moderate growth but it is healthy. In March I cut off the lowest branch that was being pulled down as the record snow settled, something I should have done earlier (it's so hard to cut any growth off a young tree!). In May I noticed the graft union was very low on the trunk so I mounded up some sawdust/chips/mulch up around the tree burying the graft with the idea that maybe the tree would put out roots above the graft, and protect the graft from the unsettled winter weather.

2018 - The tree is still quite small and of an 'independent' form. And it again wanted to set a lot of fruit! I left three, planning to leave them well into fall to really mature. But they developed small cracks around the stem that deepened when our long hot summer suddenly turned rainy the end of August. So I picked them a bit early, not wanting to take the chance of them developing rot. They were OK but hadn't had a chance to develop their full flavor. Mostly I want the tree to put its energy into growing and developing a good root system instead of focusing on fruiting. It was a good season for growth and it did well.

Frostbite applesThis spring we had to move the small tree to make way for the new orchard fence. To my great surprise the little tree blossomed! It really was too early for such a young tree to fruit and I expected the blossoms to abort anyway, but just in case I removed all but 3. I just couldn't take them all off. Then the end of June I walked by and noticed three tiny fruitlets. Usually I have to wait 5-10 years for new trees to fruit but this little two year old was living up to its reputation as hardy, productive, reliable and most certainly precocious.

As the fruits grew I put a plastic apple decoy in the top to discourage bird tasting. Every time I walked into the orchard I looked to that far corner to make sure the apples were still there. Two were quite small and dropped early; not unexpected, and not ripe (but that didn't stop me from eating them!). Frostbite is a small apple, lunchbox or snacking size, and I really wanted the lone apple to get to a ripe mature age. But I didn't know when that would be. All of my trees get a lot of attention but probably none as much as this apple this year. Then one day, Sept. 24, I looked. No apple. Hopefully, I made my way through the orchard to the tree, and there it was, safe and sound on the ground. A beautiful small orb.Frostbite apple cut

Maybe one has to grow their own fruit to know and understand the excitement of a "first fruit". After all, I had two other trees fully loaded with nice apples. But I had read so much about the uniqueness of this one I was anxious to taste it. But this is a storage type apple and often they need to set awhile before being at their best. I put it on the counter and admired it for almost 2 weeks. I couldn't wait any longer. October 11,  I cut it, took my pictures, and had my first taste (saving some for Steve, of course). Mmmm. It is a very good apple. We both like it. Crisp, juicy, firm skin. It doesn't have the intense flavor others have reported but it definitely has a unique 'grape juice' touch to it. Left to mellow longer it likely would have had more flavor but that's rather hard to do with just one apple. It has been said it sometimes takes a tree up to five bearing years to settle in to its best taste. If that's the case we have some very good years ahead! Can't wait for this tree to grow and produce more.

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Have you read  "Frost Dancing - Tips from a Northern Gardener" ? A fun short read.

or "Homesteading Adventures"    Creating our backwoods homestead--the first 20 years.

and "Growing Berries for Food and Fun"   A journey you can use in your own garden.

updated 10/06/2019

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