(updated 9/28/2023. Unfortunately we this tree as well as the Ponderosa lemon. This blog post reminds me of those delicious Mutsu apples and gives me the thought to find another one.)

I bought my apple tree in a 5-gallon pot near the end of summer 2011. It was a skinny 5-footer with three marble-sized apples growing on the branches. Kid Two dug a big-enough hole in the only available spot in our small front yard, right next to the front walk where it’s shaded most mornings by an enormous Ponderosa lemon tree we planted 21 years ago after buying this house. If Novella Carpenter could grow fruit trees close together up in Oakland, I thought, with enough compost and loving care I could, too.

The existing apples dropped off soon after the transplant, and within a couple of weeks the leaves began to curl and brown. I pulled out the digital microscope and discovered our baby tree was a host for happy aphids and this tiny insect that I later found out is a white apple leafhopper:

white apple leafhopper

Aargh. I’m a laissez-faire kind of gardener, so I really wanted to give the tree all the tools it needed to help itself. No pesticides. After some research and with high hopes, I set two bags of ladybugs free to feast on the aphids, planted several bunches of chives around the trunk. and worked a cupful of fruit tree fertilizer into the soil every month. Winter set in and I crossed my fingers.

Spring brought pale pink and white blossoms along with fresh green leaves. I set another bag of ladybugs free and enjoyed the apple tree chives. By May tiny apples were growing, and the leaves looked green and healthy. By mid-summer the tree had filled out nicely, shielding the growing apples. I stopped paying much attention to it, forgot about the apples, actually, just splashing a little water that way every week or so.

When local apples started showing up at our grocery store we thought to examine our own apples. Shocked, truly, to find enormous green monsters hiding behind their leafy curtains, jealously guarded by enormous garden orb spiders that had woven 5-foot wide webs between the apple and lemon trees.

A dozen were ready to harvest. These things had an average circumference of 13″ and weighed over a pound each. These are Mutsu apples, aka Crispins, and for you who are as interested in arcane details as I am, it’s a cross between Indo and Golden Delicious varieties and was developed at Japan’s Aomori Apple Research Station, introduced in 1930. It’s named for the city of Mutsu in the Aomori Province. Evidently Mustu/Crispins are quite fond of fog and chives, ladybugs and spiders, because they’re the most extraordinarily apples, firm with a fine texture, crunchy and juicy, combining the tartness of a Granny Smith or Pippin with the mild sweetness of a Fuji.

One more picture, for posterity. Gorgeous apple:

Mutsu apple

We have 20 Mutsus that are almost ready to harvest this year – another bumper crop. I’m looking forward to making the pork loin egg rolls with jicama, apple, and carrot slaw inspired by that last year’s harvest. Perhaps this bunch will inspire something else.