Magazine of Horticulture pp. 72-75 (1847)

II. Northern Spy. Mag. of Hort. Vol. X. p. 275.

Fig. 11. Northern Spy Apple

In the latter part of May 1844, specimens of the Northern Spy were exhibited at the rooms of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, from Messrs. Ellwanger and Barry, of Rochester, New York. This was its first introduction to the notice of Eastern cultivators; it proved to be a fine apple, and trees were much sought after by amateurs and nurserymen. From Rochester, many trees were sent to this vicinity, and the variety is now pretty generally distributed.

We are therefore happy to have the opportunity to give an account of it, and an engraving from some superior specimens recently sent us by J. H. Watts, Esq. of Rochester. A variety possessing such superior qualities is deserving of the most extensive cultivation. It has been stated by some writers in Western New York, that when the trees become old they produce only small and inferior fruit, and that it is only for a few years, when they are in their greatest vigor, that they bear good-sized and sound apples: this has also been contradicted, and we should think that the statement might be rather premature; for the variety is so new that few large orchards can yet exist, and the difference of soil or location may make much difference in regard to the fairness of the product. At any rate, it is a variety well worth cultivation, for in our estimation it is fully equal to any apple we possess, not excepting the Baldwin, the favorite of New England. The following information in regard to its origin, &c. has been communicated by Mr. Watts:—

"I take great pleasure in sending you a box of Fruit, known with us as the Northern Spy apple.

"My object (this season) has been to introduce it, believing it to be equal to any grown. One of its peculiar properties is that it keeps so well in ordinary seasons: it is in its perfection in April and May, and is then as fresh as a June apple. This year now the past one, all fruit has ripened earlier with us than usual, and consequently many of the Spys are ripe. For a description, and somewhat of its history, I am indebted to the Genesee Farmer, of the year 1845. It originated in the town of East Bloomfield, state of New York, in the orchard of the late Oliver Chapin, and has been known but for some five or six years. The first of the fruit seen in our city, a friend tells me, he discovered in the month of May, 1841, and he was delighted with its appearance and soon discovered its fine flavor, and on inquiry he found that it was a supposed seedling or natural fruit, and it has proved so, and one which has not its superior in our country.

"Young trees, or those that have carefully been pruned, produce abundant crops, and the fruit is of large size and extremely beautiful.

"The tree is a rapid, upright and handsome grower, wood dark brown, covered with gray-colored specks or dots. Very easily distinguished from any other. Fruit somewhat conical, sometimes slightly ribbed and frequently will measure twelve inches in circumference; stalk about three fourths of an inch, set in a broad deep cavity. Eye deeply set in a broad deep basin. Color pale green in the shade— dark red on the sunny side. Those fully exposed to the sun are entirely covered with a fine deep red. Flesh yellowish white, tender, juicy and high flavored, with a peculiar musky perfume. The Farmer says—" This, like all popular fruits, is counterfeited by the men and boys who sell fruit around the streets and corners, and every apple they can find that in any way resembles the Northern Spy is so called." To show you how much prized amongst us, I need only say that while other apples—such as "Swaars," "Spitzembergs," "Bell-Flowers," "Seek-no-Further," and other choice fruit, sell for one dollar per barrel, the "Spys" bring from two dollars and fifty cents to three dollars per barrel. Our Farmers and Horticulturists have been grafting of this fruit to a great extent, and in two years more it will be quite plenty and will still command a high price.

"The samples sent are taken from a barrel of a lot of sixty-eight barrels, which I purchased this season, and I have been particularly gratified that I have had it in my power to send them abroad.

"They have been admired in New York, Albany, Connecticut, Michigan, and I presume in Europe, as some have been sent there, and those I now send you I hope shall find favor in the eyes of the Bostonians."

We add our description from specimens before us :—

Size, large, about two and a half inches deep, and three and a half broad: Form, roundish conical, flat and broad at the base, tapering much towards the crown, which is small: Skin, fair, smooth, yellow on the shady side, but nearly covered with bright glossy red and distinct stripes of rich purplish crimson extending nearly to the eye: often having a blotch of russet around the stem, and covered with yellow scattered specks: Stem, short, about half an inch, rather slender, and very deeply inserted in a large wide open cavity: Eye, small, and rather deeply sunk in a medium-sized, somewhat ribbed, and abruptly depressed hollow: Flesh, yellowish white, fine, crisp and tender: Juice, plentiful, and brisk, of a rich subacid, possessing a peculiarly delicious aromatic flavor: Core, medium size, rather open. Ripe in January, and keeps till June.