10 Species Of Apple, Presumed Extinct, Have Been Rediscovered In The American West

The Lost Apple Project rules. Here's the gist: David Benscoter and EJ Brandt, a Vietnam veteran and a retired FBI agent, are amateur botanists. They love apples. Specifically, they love old species of apples that are thought to be extinct. The two men traipse around the Pacific Northwest and find decrepit apple trees in hopes of finding and documenting old apple breeds. This fall, the Lost Apple Project knocked its fruit-sleuthing mission out of the park, rediscovering ten apple species that experts thought no longer existed. Ten! Way to go, my dudes.

Way back when, the Homestead Act of 1862 gave 160 acres out West to (largely white) families for a small fee, so long as they tended/beautified the land. Many of these families planted apple orchards. And they didn't grow trees by simply planting seeds, as wild apples are bitter and inedible. Instead, they cut parts of an apple tree and grafted it onto generic roots, and raised that into its own tree, which made them safe and delicious to eat. That's how there are so many different types of apples—at one time, there were 17,000 varieties of domesticated apples in North America. Now, per the AP, there are around 4,500 varieties.

The Lost Apple Project's mission is to scour these homesteaders' lands and track down all the unique apples planted by these American pioneers. The flora detectives find old trees using old county records, obsolete maps, and newspaper clippings that hint at where and when different kinds of fruits were sold. Once they find fruits, they send them to the bona fide botanists at the Temperate Orchard Conservancy in Oregon. This recent haul has resurrected the Sary Sinap, an ancient Turkish apple; the Streaked Pippin of colonial New York; and the Gold Ridge apple, identified by poring over a turn-of-the-century botanist's book. To date, Benscoter and Brandt have found a total of 23 thought-to-be-dead apple species.

This all raises the question: When are we gonna get Law & Order: The Lost Apple Project? We're looking at you, Dick Wolf.