New York’s beloved McIntosh apple turns 200 this month
FISHERS, N.Y — New York’s number one apple variety is celebrating its bicentennial this month. The McIntosh—belovedly known as the “Mac”— turns 200 years old.
“Everyone still loves the Mac,” said Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association. “Happy Birthday old friend.”
“It’s a classic,” he said.
The McIntosh is generally sweet with a tart tang. It tends to be very juicy, with tender, white flesh. Macs are a favorite for pies and sauce as well.
“Because of its unique, aromatic fragrance, people seem to associate the Mac with fall maybe more than any other apple,” Allen said.
More than 5 million bushels of Macs will be picked in New York this fall.
The first Mac seedling was discovered by John McIntosh — a native New Yorker — by chance in 1811 in Dundela, Ontario, while he was clearing forests near his farm.
McIntosh later nurtured a tree to maturity and started selling its fruit to his neighbors and other locals. It was a huge hit, the Honeycrisp of its day.
Years later, McIntosh’s sons began grafting branches from the tree to other rootstock and selling trees to orchardists.
McIntosh’s son Allan started selling the trees to growers in New York. The variety thrives in the cold weather climates of Upstate New York and growers found it an easy apple to grow, with consistent good quality year after year.
“The McIntosh is a rather strong grower, hearty and healthy,” said S.A. Beach in the famous horticulturist guidebook “The Apples of New York” published by Cornell University in 1906. “…one of the most promising varieties of its class.”
By the end of the 1800s and into the turn of the century, the McIntosh family had a thriving nursery and the apple became so popular it was being grown throughout North America and Europe.
Soon it was the most widely grown apple in America.
Today, it remains a top ten variety nationally and it’s the number one variety grown in New York, with more than 1.4 million trees, all descendants of McIntosh’s original 1811 seedling.
With consumers, the Mac is the third most popular variety in New York City and the number one most popular variety in Boston, according to supermarket scan data.
“Our industry has been blessed for all of these years to have such a delightfully enjoyable variety to offer the public,” Allen said.
“We hope to celebrate many more birthdays for this superb apple,” he said.