We have more Wealthy apples in the orchard than any other variety. Not all orchard experts are fans of the Wealthy, but Orangepippin.com states, “Excellent dessert and multi-use apple, picked a few weeks early for cooking. Beautiful fruit ripens to bright red across the surface. Crisp, juicy flesh. Refreshing, sprightly, vinous flavor.” We’ve got lots if you want to pick some to use for the pie contest at the Festival of Fruit on September 24th.
Before 1868, only crab apples grew reliably in Minnesota. American Indians in the area harvested other crops, but they did not grow apples. Early White settlers to Minnesota tried to grow apples using seeds and seedlings from their former homes to the east and the south, but their plants died, usually because of the region’s harsh winters.
In 1853, Peter Gideon moved to Minnesota for health reasons and took a homestead with his family on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, near Excelsior. He had learned fruit-growing as a child, and when he arrived on his new land, he planted a bushel of apple seeds he had brought with him from his former home in Illinois. In the years that followed, Gideon experimented with apple and fruit growing, planting thousands of trees, but most of his trees died within a few years, if not right away, and none of them bore much fruit.
By 1861, Gideon and his family had only one surviving apple tree, a Siberian crab apple, and they were down to their last eight dollars. Determined to find an apple that would grow in Minnesota, Gideon sent the family’s last dollars to an apple grower in Bangor, Maine, and got apple seeds and scions in return. Just one of the resulting trees, crossed with Gideon’s Siberian crab apple, produced the apple that Gideon later named the Wealthy, after his wife, Wealthy (Hull) Gideon.
By the early 20th century, the Wealthy apple was one of the top five apples grown nationally, but beyond his employment at the state farm, Gideon never made any money from the Wealthy apple. The Wealthy apple also was the parent of other successful Minnesota apples, such as the Haralson, which was developed at the University of Minnesota’s Fruit Breeding Farm in 1922.