Tribute to the Apple Database

Maybe it has to do with the increasingly chaotic nature of the world, or maybe I’m more method-oriented than I thought, but I’ve come to realize that I like a good database. I still use the Food Timeline on a regular basis, I tirelessly scroll through the @depthsofwikipedia Instagram account, and recently, when my friend sent me a link to the Orange Pippin apple and stone fruit cataloging database, I set aside a good hour of my time to really settle in. An “all about apples, pears, plums and cherries – and the orchards where they’re grown” website with over 700 apple varieties, 2,000 orchards and user-entered data and variety reviews from fruit? This is a website that is – in short – extremely my shit.

I could spend an entire afternoon on Orange Pippin if I tried, just reading Citizen reviews of varieties like the Falstaff apple: “In our experience, it’s also an apple that almost everyone enjoys really, from the connoisseur [sic] to those who profess to dislike apples – it does everything you’d expect from an apple. An apple that does everything I expect of it? It suits me well ! I could read countless reviews of Calville Blanc d’Hiver apples, especially when they say things like, “I see this as the most beautiful shape of all apples.” Looking at the photo of the Calville Blanc d’Hiver apple, uploaded and watermarked by Orange Pippin, it is my prerogative as a registered user of the site to disagree. It’s a truly bizarre apple, a fact that even the site’s administrators point out: “The ugly exterior of this deformed apple hides a sublime interior.”

Did you know that a “sport” is a natural genetic mutation of a plant? You learn this very quickly browsing the Orange Pippin website – each fruit variety has its own page listing its parents, offspring and sports. Before I started clicking, I had no idea that the James Grieve apple is the parent of the Red Falstaff – but I do now. What am I going to do with this information? It hasn’t come to light yet, but I know it will come in handy one day. Meanwhile, Langton’s description of the no-apple read like a rare piece of database poetry: “The skin is pale yellow, speckled and mottled with orange, with numerous broken stripes and flecks of red brick on the sunny side.” Want to know what to do with your spare cheekbones? According to Orange Pippin, the so-called Magnificent Crab Apple is the right choice for Crab Apple Jelly.

The Orange Pippin forum also gives a good idea of ​​how and why the website works. Why, for example, does Orange Pippin maintain a tree ledger? “First and foremost, it gives hobby orcharders and orchard owners a way to enter data/notes on their trees for their personal use and information tracking,” wrote Scott Chaussee, one of the two site administrators, in an article. It can also be used to notify other tree owners if a certain type of tree is growing in your area. But more importantly, “By collecting data on flowers and tree harvesting, we have a wealth of data that we hope to eventually integrate into an application that would benefit our users by knowing the average harvest times for various varieties. /regions”. That’s what I live for: fruit lovers who get together, for free, to talk about their favorite fruit varieties. The site is run and maintained by two people – Richard Borrie, a database programmer in the UK, and Chaussee, an apple enthusiast in the US – who are both dedicated apple eaters and fans of data base.

However, Orange Pippin isn’t just a website for browsing: it’s really useful if you’re at your local grocery store wondering what to do with all those different varieties at your disposal. If you know the name of an apple and aren’t sure what it’s best for, you can plug it into the database search and find both descriptions and reviews that will help you determine the best way to use it. Has the prairie spy variety appeared in your grocery store? Well, Orange Pippin user Jill from Minnesota has some news for you: “I have had the pleasure of enjoying these apples for 34 years. My mother in law planted it before my husband and I left [sic] the farm. He is over 40 years old! Great for eating off the tree and best for baking. Don’t even get me started on the plum and apricot reviews.

Orange Pippin is a website for apple and stone fruit obsessives, yes, but while I love a good piece of fruit, I’m not this obsessed with delicious walleye. Instead, the draw of Orange Pippin is the in-depth, documented and extremely detailed nature of the database; it’s a place you can come back to again and again when you want to spend an hour or two reading about fruit. It was Jan from Minnesota, describing a prairie spy apple, who best captured how I feel about Orange Pippin: “Loved it at first taste.”