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The apple tree stands alone near the top of a steep hill, wind whipping through its branches as a perfect sunset paints its leaves a vibrant gold.
It has been there for more than a century, and there is no hint that the tree or its apples are anything out of the ordinary. But this scraggly specimen produces the Arkansas Beauty, a so-called heritage fruit long believed to be extinct until amateur botanists in the Pacific Northwest tracked it down three years ago.
Apple - Varieties - Pair - Retirees - Canyons
It's one of 13 long-lost apple varieties rediscovered by a pair of retirees in the remote canyons, windswept fields and hidden ravines of what was once the Oregon Territory.
E.J. Brandt and David Benscoter, who together form the nonprofit Lost Apple Project, log countless hours and hundreds of miles in trucks, on all-terrain vehicles and on foot to find orchards planted by settlers as they pushed west more than a century ago.
Time - Slice - Homesteader - History - Apple
The two are racing against time to preserve a slice of homesteader history: The apple trees are old, and many are dying. Others are being ripped out for more wheat fields or housing developments for a growing population.
"To me, this area is a goldmine," said Brandt, who has found two lost varieties in the Idaho panhandle. "I don't want it lost in time. I want to give back to the people so that they can enjoy what our forefathers did."
Brandt - Benscoter - County - Fair - Records
Brandt and Benscoter scour old county fair records, newspaper clippings and nursery sales ledgers to figure out which varieties existed in the area. Then they hunt them down, matching written records with old property maps, land deeds and sometimes the memories of the pioneers' great-grandchildren. They also get leads from people who live near old orchards.
The task is huge. North America once had 17,000 named varieties of domesticated apples, but...
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