In my neverending quest to cover every square inch of Tall Clover with anything that bears fruit, I stumbled across a remarkable site: Greenmantle Nursery of Humboldt, California. The nursery has been in business since 1983, and features some old homestead varieties from plant breeder Albert Etter (1872-1950). Today I received three small bench-grafts (on M111 rootstock) of his small dessert/cider apples that the nursery calls Sweetmeat Crab ™ I ordered Muscat de Venus™, Amberoso™, and Atalanta™.
These whips will be nurtured and well cared for before they are placed in their permanent spot. I will need to make sure the graft takes and that there is central lead to take the tree to new heights. I can wait, especially after reading the catalog description for Muscat de Venus™, “While the texture is crisp, the flavor is intensely vinous and suggestive of muscat grapes. This is an extraordinary choice for dessert or cider. There is more pleasure in a single little Muscat de Venus™ than a bushel of most big apple varieties.”
Update 2013: One of the bench-grafts died, but that was my fault in how I handled the young rootstock. Two remain and bloom each year, but still no apples. Perhaps 2013 will be the year of my first ‘crop.’
Update 2015: Amberoso produced a few small apples for the very first time, and I’d have to say it’s been worth the wait, as they were truly exceptional in flavor and texture. Sweet-sour flavorful treats, the diminutive gems are true to their description on the Greenmantle Nursery website: “The flesh has a pronounced amber tinge and is remarkably crisp and juicy, with pineapple aromatic overtones.” Hopefully next year the other Etter variety will produce apples and reveal itself as either Venus de Muscat or Atalanta.