Hands in the Dirt: Macs
Photo and article by Donna Iverson
The Mac is a lot of people’s favorite apple, including mine. In Michigan, it is the number one best seller. It is also one of the top ten selling apples in the country.
But it has a lot of competition: Honeycrisp, Fuji, Jonagold, Northern Spy, Cortland, Gala and Jonathons to name a few. Apples are, in fact, Michigan’s largest and most valuable fruit crop with 900 million pounds being grown yearly. In fact, Michigan is the third largest producer of apples in the USA. Michiganders definitely love their apples.
Macs are a heritage apple but not a native fruit, even though they have been growing in Canada for centuries. The Mac was more or less discovered around 1800, when a Scottish farmer from New York moved to northern Canada. There he found wild apple trees and replanted them in his garden. His name was John McIntosh and the Mac is named after him. By 1835, he was selling these wild apples and by 1870, they were being grown commercially.
Today, you can find Macs growing throughout Michigan orchards and being sold at many a local farmers markets in the late fall. The Mac tree is hardy surviving in temperatures down to -34 degrees, although a frost will kill the buds when they are blooming.
The Mac is a small to medium size apple with a tart taste. It is good for eating, baking and making into apple cider. Breeders have cloned the Mac and it is the parent of several popular apple varieties including Macoon, Cortland, and Empire.
It is also parent to the Macintosh commuter, developed by Steve Jobs of Apple, Inc. According to his biographer, Walter Isaacson, Jobs had become a fruitarian and was visiting an apple orchard when he encountered the Mcintosh apple and saw it and his new computer design as “fun, spirited and not intimidating.” In marketing the product, the designers misspelled the name and the iconic computer became the Macintosh.
If you are fascinated by Michigan’s native apples, check out a group called The Lost Apple Project on Facebook. An online article on finding Michigan lost apples is featured at https://gandernewsroom.com/2020/05/26/lost-apple-project-midwest/