March 2022 - 8

Catoctin Mountain Orchard U-pick customers are transported by wagons to load up
on apples, black raspberries, blueberries, tart and sweet cherries.
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8 |
that Harry plant a relatively new
variety of apple named Gala.
" My dad became very close friends
with Dr. Thompson, professor of
horticulture at the university. Ben
Rogers, stationed in the Hancock
substation, was a big help. Our farm
was in the middle of College Park and
Hancock, so our farm became a test
farm. What a great relationship we've
had. We've been so fortunate to see
new things and test things and work
with the university. "
The farm has also participated in a
Natural Resources Conservation Service
cover crop project that used sunflowers,
crimson clover, radish and oats.
Legacy Gala developed
" We found an apple that's been
very good, " Black said. " My dad knew
about it. It's the Harry Black Gala. It's
a later gala that comes in the second
or third week of September, so it's a
perfect time for pick-your-own. It's
in memory of my dad that I honor
on my license plate and on my email
address. This past Jan. 17, it was 24
years ago when he went down with a
heart attack. "
The story goes that growing all
those gala apples as was suggested to
Bob's dad by the university researchers
is what led to an important discovery
in 1995. To ensure top flavor all
workers were advised to pick only the
ripe apples leaving all green left on
the trees. Three weeks after picking
all the gala apples there was one tree
that stood out. Bob was driving down
the orchard road when he noticed one
limb that had 60% red over yellow
" I thought we had picked everything
down there, what the heck is that? "
It appeared to be a limb sport off of
a normal Gala tree that was clearly
different and much later. Not only
was this variety redder in color, but it
offered the " noisy " solid crunch with a
sweet, crisp flavor.
The farm contacted expert
nurseryman, Wally Heuser, to confirm
that the discovery was in fact a new
variety. The patent name was " Harry
Black Gala " named after his dad, but
the " trade name " was Autumn Gala,
which have now been planted all over
the country. Unfortunately, Harry died
in 1998 before the patent was issued.
Apples in the schools
More than 10 years ago, Catoctin
Mountain Orchard started contracting
with the school lunch program, where
their apples are used for lunches in
Frederick County schools.
" We're in the school lunch program
from August to May, " Black said. " We
deliver from one warehouse, 18 miles
south of us. They allow us to use crates
that we get back. They usually take 70
to 100 bushel a week that are dispersed
to 64 schools. We mix a variety in. We
don't grow anymore Red Delicious.
Nobody's bringing Red's to the school
lunch program, because, tell me, how
many Reds do you eat? We've been
doing it for 10 or 11 years. The state
of Maryland had a program that we're
lucky to be in. Apples are so versatile.
We do take some pears in. Occasionally,
some plums and even some kiwi berries.
" How are you helping kids to up the
consumption of apples? Give them good
apples - Fuji, Pink Lady, others we offer. "
" (His sister) Pat said I fell on my
head when I planted a half acre of kiwi
berries, " Black said. " We grow some
strawberries, apricots, including some
Sugar Pearls, or white apricots. They're
really sweet with a lot of brix.
" We use a lot of plastic. We do not
cultivate. Chris spreads tons of compost.
We always want to do things better to
make higher organic matter in our soil. "
The farm offers U-pick apples, black
raspberries, blueberries and tart and
sweet cherries.
" We are going to try to grow some
(blackberries) that are five feet tall. We
want to get things up off the ground
for folks. We're growing some Bristol,
mostly Jewel and some Mac Black.
We do grow some blueberries. We're
finding sugar is keeping the birds off.
Katlyn sprayed some sugar and we
think it's worked pretty well.
Black said the farm has a quarter acre
of cut-your-own flowers.
" We mix up all of the varieties. We
don't plant enough sunflowers. It's one of
those things we just run out of time. "
The farm " is fortunate to get copious
amounts of wood chips from a local
tree trimmer, so this year we can make
it really nice around our flowers. It's all
handwork, but I'm trying to look for a
spreader so we can spread woodchips
in between there and make it nicer for
our customers. " FGN

March 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of March 2022

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