The Apple Capital of the World
How one Washington town brought apples to the masses
It may be surprising to learn that Washington state’s No. 1 crop is not native to North America. In fact, the first apple tree, affectionately known as the “Old Apple Tree,” was planted by European settlers in the 1820s at Fort Vancouver. Many settlers planted fruit trees because the fruit kept well for several months, could be fermented into hard cider, and sold for a profit to traders and trappers.
For the next 50 years, early farmers realized that apples grew fantastically near the cold rivers
and in the long, hot summers east of the Cascades. Small-scale commercial orchards began growing different apple varieties, but were not able to store the fruit long-term or transport it long distances. They mostly relied on local sales. All of that changed when the railroad came to town, catapulting central Washington and the town of Wenatchee to the top of the apple game.
Wenatchee is known as the Apple Capital of the World, and for good reason. Since the 1890s, it has been a hub for fruit orchards of all kinds. Industrial irrigation projects facilitated larger or-
chards with more trees and led to more efficient farming practices. After the arrival of the Great Northern Railway to the Wenatchee Valley in 1901, orchardists were able to transport their ever-increasing quantities of fruit to places like Seattle, Tacoma, Portland and even to California. In 1904, Wenatchee growers harvested the first substantial apple crop for commercial distribution, and by 1909, they were shipping out over 2,000 freight cars of apples per year.
For the next decade, the apple industry grew steadily. However, by the 1920s, the industry was in need of better marketing. They needed to convince the consumer that Washington apples were the absolute best in the country. With aggressive, nationwide advertising, and by introducing very strict quality standards, Washington state took over as the nation’s top apple producer, developing a reputation for the most beautiful apples—carefully handpacked in wooden boxes and rid of all blemishes and defects.
The Great Depression brought hardship to every area of the country, but in Wenatchee, the government declared it an “economically stricken area,” and many orchardists survived only on loans and stimulus payments, as the price of one apple dropped to less than a nickel. During and post World War II, the apple industry bounced back due to the Washington Apple Commission’s dedication to radio and print advertising, as well as post-war prosperity.
The 1960s brought an alternative business to the apple industry—juices. Instead of wasting the small or bruised apples, a few smart salesmen created their own processing plants for fruit juices using the blemished fruit. Juicing is an important use for the fruit that wouldn’t be consumed in the fresh market but is still good for con-
sumption in alternative forms. This prevents waste and provides another nutritional product to the market.
Since the arrival of temperature-controlled storage facilities in the 1950s, advancements in technology have revolutionized the industry. Washing and sorting by hand were replaced by automated machines. Picking the fruit and packing it in boxes is done by both machine and people to ensure the highest quality, most beautiful fruit in the world makes it to consumers. Washington remains the nation’s leading apple producer, harvesting 6.9 billion pounds in 2020.
And what happened to that Old Apple Tree at Fort Vancouver? Sadly, it succumbed to old age in 2020 after nearly two centuries. Luckily, the National Park Service grafted young shoots from the tree’s roots and planted them alongside the original, to be enjoyed for 200 more years.
Out of This World
A walk down memory lane
A few years ago, we visited CMI Orchards to see the newest apple to hit the region. Like many other orchards throughout Washington, CMI has been growing Cosmic Crisp® since its release for public growth in 2019. We revisited the same orchard this year to see how the trees are producing, and what farmers are experiencing. Scott McDougall showed us around and gave us some good insights to how this perfectly balanced apple is impacting the market.
“We actually got these trees in a lottery, because there weren’t that many trees available,” explained McDougall. “And we were selected for 17 acres of the initial first-year planting of trees.”
“We think Cosmic Crisp® is a wonderful apple,” said McDougall. “At this time there’s probably 19 million Cosmic Crisp® trees that have been planted in the last four years. It’s been fun, there’s a lot of hype with Cosmic. We think it will be an excellent apple, and it does store very well, allowing for year-round availability. The dessert quality is going to get better and better as the trees mature. It’s a very unique apple. It has a very nice fruit size.”
“They’re pretty big,” said host Kristi Gorenson.
The flavor of the Cosmic Crisp® is the perfect balance of tart and sweet. This makes the apple ideal for snacking, baking, cooking, juicing or any other way you like to enjoy apples.
Cosmic Crisp® apples were in development at Washington State University for more than 20 years before their release in 2017, and it has earned high marks from consumers and chefs for its perfectly balanced flavor, crisp texture, juiciness and striking color. The climate of Washington offers the best apple-growing region in the world, and growers will most likely start harvest of this year’s crop in the middle of fall.
“Cosmic Crisp® is an apple that we would normally harvest around Red Delicious timing, which, in this location, is around the 7th of October,” explained McDougall. Proper care and management of the orchards are necessary to get the best flavor to consumers.
“We’re challenged to do the best we can with the right kind of pruning, and try to achieve maximum bins per acre and quality fruit for the consumer,” said McDougall. “There isn’t any one year that’s the same. We deal with Mother Nature, and we have to be able to adapt. The thing that’s exciting is that things are constantly changing. It’s incredible to look at a tree in the middle of winter, and it looks dead, and then to see these trees wake up in the spring. The viability of this variety can be 20 years plus.”
To learn more about CMI and the Cosmic Crisp® apple, visit us online!
TV & ONLINE
Watch the show online or on your local station
Mondays at 7:00 pm and Saturdays at 4:30 pm ksps.org/schedule/
Fridays at 6:00 pm nwpb.org/tv-schedules/
Saturdays at 1:00 pm nwpb.org/tv-schedules
Saturdays at 6:30 am and 3:00 pm kbtc.org/tv-schedule/
KIMA (Yakima)/KEPR (Pasco)/KLEW (Lewiston)
Saturdays at 5:00 pm kimatv.com/station/schedule / keprtv.com/station/schedule klewtv.com/station/schedule
KIRO (Seattle) Check local listings kiro7.com
NCW Life Channel (Wenatchee) Check local listings ncwlife.com
Thursdays at 12:30 pm and Fridays at 9:00 pm (Pacific) rfdtv.com/
*Times/schedules subject to change based upon network schedule. Check station programming to confirm air times.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tbsp sugar, divided
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup orange juice
2 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Granny Smith or other tart apples, peeled, cored, halved and thinly sliced
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp orange juice
The best baking apples keep their structure and texture—so the slices don’t all collapse into bland mush in the oven. We also like a little bit of tartness to help the fruit stand out from the sugar. The Granny Smith is our forever top pick, but other great options include Cripps Pink Lady, Jazz, Golden Delicious, Kanzi and Sweetango varieties.
Preheat the oven to 350oF. Generously grease a 10-inch Bundt pan.
Combine the flour, 1 1/2 cups of the sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a mixer fitted with paddle attachment and stir to mix. Add the eggs, oil, orange juice and vanilla and mix on low to form a smooth batter, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Stir together the remaining 2 tablespoons of the sugar with the cinnamon in a small bowl. Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan and top with half of the apple slices, overlapping them. Sprinkle with half of the cinnamon-sugar mix. Repeat with the remaining batter, apple slices and cinnamon-sugar mix.Bake until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean, 60 to 75 minutes.
Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. For the glaze, stir together the powdered sugar and orange juice in a small bowl until smooth. Transfer the cake to a serving plate, drizzle the glaze over it and serve.
Total Time: about 90 minutes
Servings: 8 to 10
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DID YOU KNOW?
A bushel of apples weighs about 42 pounds. That’s the equivalent to making 21 pies, 3 gallons of cider, or 20 quarts of applesauce.
ACRES APPLE BAKERY BLOSSOMS
COSMICCRISP DELICIOUS GALA
When you visit Made With Love Bakery in west-central Spokane, you quickly realize this small neighborhood bakery is overflowing with heart. Callie Johnson started baking when she was young and never stopped making people smile—and now her cozy, welcoming bakery has become a hometown favorite.
“In 6th grade, I just decided I wanted to start a bakery,” she said. “From that moment on, I just started taking steps to get there. Surrounded by exceptional bakers like my grandmother and mother, I always felt opening a bakery was the only path I wanted to take. I really love baking for people, that just brings me so much joy. I think people taste that when they eat it because lots of care has gone into it.”
Made With Love Bakery serves a variety of pastries and desserts. When she
Flour, Sugar, & Love
opened in 2015, Johnson set out to create a space where hospitality is served up alongside scratch-made desserts created from quality ingredients.
“Because I do such small batches, there is a lot of care and intention that goes into each batch that I make," she said. "There are no shortcuts. I get all of my produce as much as I can locally."
It's true what they say: Love really is the secret ingredient. Made With Love has a simple mission—to be a place where customers can feel at home and can be delighted by delicious cakes, pies, scones, cookies, pastries and more.
Visit them at 2023 W. Dean Ave. in Spokane.
(with conservation in mind)
Diamondback Acres is a gorgeous fruit farm located on a beautiful high point overlooking Lake Chelan with the Cascades in the distance. When Bill and Angel Clark first started in 1991, they primarily grew apples, but as the farm grew in acreage, they began growing cherries and blueberries.
While the farm is special in its own right, a partnership with Cascadia Conservation District has helped it to become noteworthy for another reason: Diamondback Acres is leading the way in implementing conservation techniques for farmers. They use intensive Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to reduce the use of pesticides wherever possible. Herbicide use has been completely eliminated from the farm, and irrigation probes allow them to save water while keeping the soil and trees at their optimum level of water saturation for bountiful production.
Planting pollinator habitat has bolstered the local bee population
and helped to incorporate more native bee populations. During cold spring months, when honeybees may not leave their hives as frequently, these additional hives help keep the orchards pollinated.
"Cascadia Conservation District has helped us find supplies to achieve our conservation goals, such as local native plant nurseries and irrigation designers," said Phil Simmons, horticulturist for Diamondback Acres. "They have also kept us updated on the most recent funding sources from grants and state programs that could cost-share on for large conservation projects on the farm, like a composting site or efficient irrigation systems."
"The mission of Diamondback Acres is to preserve and restore Lake Chelan farmland whilst growing the most sought-after fruit in the world.
By farming the land, we are able to save it from urbanization and allow it to continue serving as a home for local wildlife. Using conservation practices on the farm is essential to what we do as it helps us create the symbiotic relationship between the soil, trees and fauna that is needed to grow the best possible fruit.
Recently, Diamondback Acres also partnered with Salmon-Safe.
Cascadia Conservation District was founded in 1948 as a nonregulatory organization that serves all of Chelan County. Cascadia’s mission is to encourage wise stewardship and conservation of all natural resources for current and future residents.
Like other conservation districts throughout the state, Cascadia offers free technical assistance and resources to farmers wishing to learn more about best management practices that can be implemented on their operation. Eligible practices may result in a farmer receiving financial assistance through one of Cascadia’s programs. Efficient sprinkler systems, micro-irrigation and native pollinator plantings are conservation practices that are commonly installed in Chelan County through cost-share incentives.
In the spring of 2022, Cascadia organized a farm tour on Diamondback Acres farm to highlight the different conservation practices that can be adopted on other farms. Farm tours are a great way to connect local farmers and learn more about the various programs available in your region. Additionally, Cascadia provides free assistance to farms eager to obtain the Salmon-Safe certification. Cascadia can even cover the cost of the first three years of Salmon-Safe certification.
"Salmon-Safe is a leading PNW-based nonprofit that works to inspire water quality protection and habitat conservation on agricultural and urban lands and recognizes environmentally innovative producers in the marketplace," said Brian Muegge, farm certification specialist for Salmon-Safe.
"Salmon-Safe works side by side with growers across the Columbia Basin, focusing on
helping growers transition to more watershed-friendly farming, bolstering practices that enhance soil and riparian health, along with water quality and conservation."
These practices save water, avoid fertilizer runoff and soil erosion, and keep trees at their healthiest.
"Salmon-Safe has helped us break into new markets, acquire grants to implement conservation measures, and set us apart from other growers for the community," said Simmons. "They have been a great source of information and contacts for conservation supplies and practices, as well as helped with marketing for our wholesale packing operation and online retail operation."
Thanks to special contributors Amanda Newell and Elizabeth Jackson for compiling this story.
When it comes to fruit and vegetables, the very best come from Washington—and we all enjoy our fresh, locally grown food. We love to feature the farmers who grow them, but let's not forget about the hard work that goes into getting them from the farm to your table.
You've been a truck driver for 30 years. What qualities does it take to be a good truck driver like yourself?
You have to realize what you're driving is not a car, and it takes much more work. Being attentive and paying attention to your surroundings; you have to be really responsible. What we're driving here is actually a big piece of equipment. They take a lot more distance to stop than people realize. You always have to be on the defense. You see somebody at an intersection, you just expect them to pull in front of you. There's been many times I'll look at my regular mirror
with Blake Smith
Truck Driver, CMI Orchards
and think I'm all right, and then look down, realize there's a car beside me that I couldn't see in my regular mirror.
You work through the year to deliver apples and other produce from the orchards to the processing plants. You do two routes per day, and where you're headed changes from day to day. What goes into your day behind the wheel?
Usually the night before, we receive a text with our route information for the next day, and for me, that could be as far south as the Tri-Cities or as far as Oroville up north. I think a lot of people forget that all these trucks you see on the freeway crossing and passing and going down the road, you can't go about your normal lives without the things they're carrying. It's the food, it's all of our Amazon orders in those trucks.
The Washington Grown project is made possible by the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant program, through a partnership with the state’s farmers.
Trista Crossley Distribution
Cascadia Conservation District
Kara Rowe Recipe
Images Diamondback Acres
Made with Love Bakery Shutterstock
Washington Apple Commission
Washington State Historical Society