Food | NW Life

Heritage Apples Grown at Washington's Old World Apple Farm

OPB | Dec. 1, 2011 4 p.m. | Updated: Jan. 18, 2013 2:41 a.m.

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Braeburns… Granny Smiths…. Fujis…  That’s just the beginning when it comes to all the varieties of apples that are out there. In fact, entire societies are dedicated to the identification and classification of the many different strands of apples that exist.


Ifanyi Bell / OPB

Susan Christopherson runs the Old World Apple Farm in Ridgefield, Washington. Among the trees in Christopherson’s orchard is one that produces D’Arcy Spice, an apple that comes from genetic material that originated in the 13th century.

“There’s probably between 40 and 50 varieties that I grow — I’ve kinda lost track,” Christopherson says. “I’ll see in a catalog a certain kind and I say to myself, ‘Oh, I’d like to try that!’ so I buy one tree.”

Susan Christopherson in the kitchen of her Ridgefield, Washington home

Ifanyi Bell / OPB

Christopherson, also a photographer, painter and mountaineer, manages the orchard as a one-woman operation, personally handling the day-to-day responsibilities. The result of her tireless effort and dedication is a knowledge of apples so deep, it borders on encyclopedic. As she explains, farming apples is a much more intricate process than people might think.

“It’s a real long, complicated process… You can’t plant a seed from an apple and get that same variety. A tree that develops from a seedling won’t produce the same apple from which the seed came. It’s just the way genetics work. Human beings are the same way — we don’t duplicate.”

Since apples are heterogeneous, the seed from an apple will not grow a tree that will bear genetically identical fruit. The fruit will be a different genetic strain of apple. To preserve the pure strain of a certain variety of apple (like a Granny Smith), you must take one part of a living tree and graft it onto another so that it will grow to form the same tree with the same apples.

From left to right: Tracy Olson of Random Order Coffeehouse, Ifanyi Bell of OPB and Susan Christopherson of the Old World Apple Farm

Tracey Whitney / OPB

Christopherson’s farm supplies several local bakeries and restaurants with the delicious fruits of her orchard, including Random Order Coffeehouse and Bakery in Portland.

In fact, Arts & Life first discovered the Old World Apple Farm when we produced a feature about the bakery’s “Old World Apple Farm” pie. With a little help from Random Order owner Tracy Olson, we traced the pie crumbs back to Christopherson’s farm, following the heritage apple story right to its source!

Go Get Some

Downtown Portland Farmer’s Market (PSU)

  • Susan Christopherson’s Old World Apple Farm’s Apples of Legend and Distinction
  • Portland State University in the South Park Blocks between SW Hall & SW Montgomery (MAP).
  • 9 am – 2 pm – November & December / 8:30 am – 2 pm – March through October

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