Ark of Taste
Harrison Cider Apple
The Harrison apple originated in Essex County, New Jersey in the early 19th century and was grown extensively throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Eastern United States until about 1900. The early fruit writer William Coxe described the Harrison as the “the most celebrated of the cider apples of Newark in New Jersey”. In the colonial period the juice from the Harrison was blended with that of Campfield or Graniwinkle apple varieties to produce “superior quality” ciders. Alone, Harrison apple juice makes an extremely dark, rich cider with exceptional mouth-feel. It was a leading variety for cider production from the early 1800s until the early 1900s and documentation indicates that it was a variety of high merit for cider taste and profitability. As single-variety cider, it commanded the highest price on the New York market, “frequently ten dollars and upwards per barrel when fined for bottling.” In one orchard in Essex County, New Jersey, Coxe reported that a single tree produced upwards of 100 bushels of apples.
The Harrison apple was long though to be extinct, but was rediscovered by Paul Gidez in New Jersey in 1976. Nurseryman and fruit historian Tom Burford (photo) verified its identity. The Harrison apple remains very little known outside a small group of American apple enthusiasts and cider connoisseurs. Current recovery efforts have been focused in Virginia but trees have recently been distributed, mainly to home orchardists and small commercial cider producers, throughout the United States.
The apple is scab and rot-resistant, bears annual, full crops, and keeps well in storage. It remains one of the very finest apples for cider-making, either fresh or fermented.
First photo courtesy of Ben Watson