Mac, also known as the McIntosh, or McIntosh Red, is an apple that has red and green skin, a tart flavour, and tender white flesh, and ripens in late September. It is also considered an all-purpose apple, suitable both for cooking and eating raw.
Apple trees were first introduced to Canada at the Habitation at Port-Royal (now Port Royal, Annapolis County, Nova Scotia) as early as 1606 by French settlers. Following its introduction, apple cultivation spread inland.
The McIntosh’s discoverer, John McIntosh left his native Mohawk Valley home in New York State in 1796 to follow his love, Dolly Irwin, who had been taken to Upper Canada by her Loyalist parents. However, she had died by the time he found her. He went on to settle as a farmer in Upper Canada. In 1801, he married Hannah Doran, and they farmed along the Saint Lawrence River until 1811 when McIntosh exchanged the land he had with his brother-in-law Edward Doran for a plot in Dundela, which is about 70km south of Ottawa, (the Canadian capital). In around 1835, John McIntosh’s son Allan learned grafting; with this cloning the McIntoshes could maintain the distinctive properties of the fruit of the original tree.
A house fire damaged the original McIntosh tree in 1894; it last produced fruit in 1908, and died and fell over in 1910.
Horticulturist William Tyrrell Macoun of the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa is credited with popularizing the McIntosh in Canada. He stated the McIntosh needed “no words of praise”, that it was “one of the finest appearing and best dessert apples grown”. The McIntosh made up 40% of the Canadian apple market by the 1960s. Horticulturalists from the Upper Canada Village heritage park saved cuttings from the last known first-generation McIntosh graft before it died in 2011 for producing clones.
Did you know that Apple Inc. employee Jef Raskin named the Macintosh line of personal computers after the fruit?
Next time you are in the grocery store, why not pick a few of these delicious apples for a bite of Canadian history!