The 80-year-old guy travels around seeking for nearly extinct remains of apple trees, many of which were the last of their species, and reintroduces them to the world.
In less than a century, the number of apple varieties on the market in the United States has decreased from 14,000 in 1905 to 100. In most grocery shops, only 11 of these types are available. When retired chemical engineer Tom Brown discovered that over 11,000 American varieties are extinct, he dedicated his life to preserving our country’s rich apple history.
Friends dubbed him the “apple hunter,” as he hunted for “lost” heritage kinds of the Appalachian Mountains’ numerous hills and valleys from Georgia to Pennsylvania. The contemporary Johnny Appleseed found and reintroduced 1,200 plants, the majority of which had not been commercially sold for more than a century, and cloned many of them from the final three species.
The Tunguska apple is one of Brown’s most valued apples. According to him, “this breed was standardized by the Cherokee Indians of the Great Smoky Mountains more than two centuries ago, and called for its biggest sponsor, the chief, in the early nineteenth century.”
It was formerly prevalent in the South, but it died out around 1900. This find assisted him in locating a rural garden, which was closed in 1859.
A gardener who doubled as a postman assisted Tom by knocking on every door all day in search of proof. Finally, an elderly woman led him to a Junaluska tree amid the remnants of an ancient mountain garden that had been engulfed by the forest.
As Brown uncovered more and more vanished apple types, he began to look into their origins and causes of extinction. He discovered that there were several kinds based on the flavor of fermented beverages by the early inhabitants.
Brown came to see the Appalachian apple restoration as “serious job.” Although he expects to find 100 kinds or more throughout his lifetime, any finding will suffice.