[ This article is written in personna. ]
In the name of ALLAH,
The Merciful, the Compassionate;
I rely upon ALLAH,
the Unique, the Victorious.
It is said, "Upon ALLAH we rely,"
and from Him also do we invoke a benediction
for all his Prophets and worshippers
who are sincere in obeying Him,
for there is no strength and no power
except with ALLAH,
the Exalted, the Almighty
It is known to all who have studied the writings of the ancients concerning natural history, or have enquired of wise and learned men experienced in the arts of the orchard, that fruit trees do not grow true to their seed. So it is that one may find a tall and sturdy apple, bearing fruit sweet as the milk of paradise and fair as the breasts of the maidens that there delight the spirits of the blessed, and yet when the seeds of those apples are planted they grow up, perchance, into dwarvish and twisted trees, bearing fruit ugly to the eye and sour to the taste. It is for this reason that wise men long ago devised the art of grafting, by which a portion of a branch cut from a fruit tree of surpassing virtue is grafted to a tree of more common sort, and even as the son of a noble man grows up like unto his father although raised among beggars, heretics, or Franks, so does that branch grow and flower and put out the selfsame fruit as the tree from which it was cut. It is by this art that the finest fruits known to man are multiplied by a thousand times, and so it is that when a tree is long dead its scions may yet flourish and cuttings from them be grafted to yet more trees, and the same tree may live in its descendants until the day of judgment and be then (Inshallah) born away into paradise. So it is, by man's wisdom and the Mercy of Allah (the Compassionate, the Merciful) that we may even today eat of those self same cherries that were written of by Pliny (upon whom be Peace), he who wrote much concerning the art of grafting in the seventeenth book of his History of the World, although the tree from which he plucked those cherries, and the trees grafted of that tree, are long ago dust blown in the winds of the world.
Now it is one of my delights to have meals prepared according to the teaching of those who have written before me concerning the art of cookery, and so I bethought myself that rather than having recourse to the common fruits of the market I would seek out for myself those ancient strains which delighted the master cooks of times gone by (upon whom be Peace), and discover whether scions of those trees could still be found beneath the dome of Heaven. After search and long study, I discovered certain orchards where such trees grew, and men of wisdom and discernment who made it their life work to find such strains of fruit as have been praised by the learned aforetime, to seek them out where they might grow and take cuttings of them, that their line not perish utterly from the earth. I discovered also merchants who dealt in such trees, offering them for a small price to such as delight in things ancient and noble. From one such I procured three trees, two apples and a plum, to set about my house, and even as I write these words, the apples bloom outside the window of my chamber.
Having so, by the Mercy of Allah, satisfied my desires in these matters, I bethought myself of others of the folk of the Seven Kingdoms, and most especially of those who delight in the art of cookery, and it seemed to me fitting that I set down for them what I had discovered, and so I have done. But it is Allah who knows all things.
My trees were purchased from J. E. Miller Nurseries, which carries at least two apples and one plum of varieties dating from before 1650; I have found their trees, service, and prices entirely satisfactory. The most extensive collection of old and unusual varieties of fruit trees in the country is said to be that of South-meadow Fruit Gardens; they carry about a hundred and eighty varieties of apples as well as many varieties of other fruits. Their illustrated catalog costs eight dollars and is well worth it; it is the best source for information on old fruit varieties that I know of.
The following list of varieties which may reasonably be supposed to have existed before 1650 is drawn mainly from the Southmeadow catalog; where dates are given, they represent the earliest definite mention of the variety.
Apples: Calville Blanc D'Hiver (1627), Court Pendu Plat (16th century-possibly Roman), Devonshire Quarendon (1690), Drap d'Or (=Coe's Golden Drop?), Lady Apple (1628), Old Nonpareil, Pomme Royale, Reinette Franche, Roxbury Russett (Early 17th century), Scarlet Crofton, Sops of Wine, Summer Rambo (16th century), Winter Pearmain, Fenouilette Gris, Golden Reinette.
Peach: Grosse Mignonne (1667).
Nectarine: Early Violet (1659).
Pears: Buerre Gris (1608), Rousselet de Reims (1688), Bartlett (Williams Bon Chretien) "of ancient origin"-may or may not be pre-1600.
Plums: Green Gage (Reine Claude), Prune d'Agen
Adams County Nursery and Fruit Farms, Aspers, PA 17304.
Bountiful Ridge Nursery, Princess Anne, Maryland 48009.
C & O Nursery, 1700 North Wenatchee Avenue, Wenatchee, Washington 98801.
Lawson's Nursery, Route 1, Box 294, Ball Ground, Georgia.
Henry Leuthardt Nursery, East Moriches, New York 11904.
J.E. Miller Nurseries, Canandaigua, New York 14424.
New York State Fruit Testing Association, Geneva, New York 14456.
Southmeadow Fruit Gardens, 2363 Tilbury Place, Birmingham, Michigan 48009.
Stark Bro's Nurseries, Louisiana, Missouri 63353.
Waynesboro Nurseries, P.O. Box 987, Waynesboro, Virginia 22980.
[Published in Tournaments Illuminated, No. 57, Winter 1980]
Webbed by Gregory Blount of Isenfir