Apple Retains The Name Of Its Local Birthplace
Throughout its history, Queens has been the borough of firsts. In 1657, its population was the first to protest for the right of freedom of religion and speech in the New World.
William Prince set up the first commercial nursery in Flushing when he created the Linnaeus Gardens near Flushing Creek. And it was there that modern day horticulture was also cultivated.
In addition to these contributions that have faithfully served the people of America and the world, Queens was also the setting for the creation of apples.
In the mid 1700s in the area of Newtown, today known as Elmhurst, a pippin, or a chance seedling, sprouted on the property of Gershom Moore. The Moore property stood in the vicinity of what is now Broadway and 45th Avenue, now the location of Moore Park.
In a presentation at the Greater Astoria Historical Society (GAHS) on February 7, the illustrious history of the Newtown Pippen was discussed by Journalist Erik Baard.
He explained that the Newtown Pippin is typically light green and sometimes features a yellow tinge. The flesh is yellow and crisp and has the sent of pine. The flavor can be complex. At first, the Newtown Pippen can seem somewhat tart or even a bit sour. It requires special storage in order to develop properly.
The Pippen became a favorite of Presidents Thomas Jefferson and George Washington who planted them in their gardens at Monticello and Mount Vernon, respectively. Benjamin Franklin shipped Newtown Pippins to England, where Queen Victoria was later an ardent fan of Queens' premier apple.
Once when Jefferson was on away on business he wrote home from Paris saying, “They have no apples here to compare with our Newtown Pippin.”
Baard also explained that although originally eaten as a dessert apple, Pippens are still grown commercially in New York, where it is an important component in cider. On a larger commercial scale, the California based company Martinelli's uses this variety still for its sparkling ciders. Newtown Pippins are still available in Virginia, New York, California and the Pacific Northwest.
“This apple is a reminder of the lushness our estuary archipelago once boasted,” Baard said. “How had we, as a city, forgotten about this beautiful legacy?”
Baard has long been a volunteer for urban ecology, most notably as founder of the LIC Community Boathouse, which provides free kayaking and canoeing on the East River and Newtown Creek.
After learning about the Newtown Pippens existence and history, Baard set out on a mission to bring the apple back to Queens. Baard brought samples to local politicians and bossiness owners to gather support for his cause.
With the help of the city Department of Parks and Recreation, Councilmember James Gennaro and MillionTreesNYC helped plant Newtown Pippen Apple trees in various locations throughout the borough including on the property of the Rufus King Manor in Jamaica.