The Innate Value of an Apple Tree – Part 2, by Northwoods Prepper

(Continued from Part 1. This concludes the article.)

Developing a pest-reduction process is better when understanding your enemy. For example, the Apple Tree Maggot can be found in the lower 48, while the San Jose Scale is limited to California. Use the internet to evaluate what insects are in your area. Traps are often multispecies and can significantly reduce infestation. There is a great article on Rural Sprout ( regarding apple tree problems with pictures identifying insect infestation and the damage they can do to apple trees.

One last thing to say about infestation and insects and that is it is not a loss of your crop. We, as consumers, are used to perfect apples without a blemish. They are also covered with chemicals and one of the newest products (to avoid chemical skin test limits) is to introduce chemicals into the tree itself. However, as a homesteader/survivalist an apple with a worm is simply that. You can cut away the good parts for multiple uses and give the worm to your chickens or compost pile. Commercial farmers use these apples for cider and sauce. The worms are not poisonous. If an apple is not rotted or moldy, they are generally safe to eat.

Expert Tips: Pruning is best done in late winter, early spring before the ground thaws.
This provides the tree the best opportunity to resist infection. Utilize pruning paint when making large cuts to the tree (limbs with a diameter greater than one inch). I also tend to burn all the pruned branches, especially those damaged or infected.

Uses for Apples and Trees

Aside from the fact that apple pie may be the best dessert ever, there are hundreds of uses for apples and it is considered a key survival food. Certain apples (often called winter apples) can be easily stored and hold their flavor for several months without refrigeration. Apples can be eaten raw or cooked and there are hundreds of recipes using apples as a side, garnish, or even main course. Apples are easily canned into apple butter, apple slices, and apple sauce, all great sources of nutrition that have high calories for a grid-out situation with a long stable shelf-life. Apples can be dried and there are recipes for a gum substitute made from apple peels. Pioneers used to make “apple leather” which was cooked apples that were dried. This leather could be rehydrated and used later in recipes. Apples are used to make cider, hard cider, and vinegar, which again have numerous survival applications when grocery stores are unavailable. Apples can also be used to make pectin, a key ingredient to canning jelly. With basic canning and cooking materials, a single apple tree can provide a family with supplemental food for months (if not years). Each of the above is not difficult to make although the liquid products are easier if you have a cider press.

Apple trees also attract a great amount of game. Deer, bear, and raccoons are drawn to apple trees and I have seen possums, coyotes, and skunks all eating fallen apples. One of my most enjoyable memories was watching two bear cubs climbing my apple tree as the mother bear stood guard. From an everyday perspective, it provides fantastic wildlife viewing and hunting. In a grid-down scenario, this becomes an easy way to secure protein. If you have a surplus of apples, leaving them for the wildlife allows you to harvest animals with less time and effort saving your resources for other necessities. In states that allow deer baiting, aside from salt and minerals, apples rank alongside corn as a primary attractant for deer.

Apples are also great for livestock. Every animal that I have kept enjoys apples and this is a great additional food supply that arrives in the fall. While I have not personally kept pigs, I know several hobby farmers that use apples or pomace to fatten pigs before slaughter. I have kept many fowl and they enjoy apples and will devour them completely. My chickens are free-range and so the apples that fall to the ground due to worms or wind often disappear before I see them.

Finally, the wood of an apple tree is valuable as well.
While not often used, it is a strong and beautiful wood. Where it is commonly used today is when smoking food, adding a nice flavor and spice to meats. In a survival scenario where options are limited, the flavoring from applewood provides another variety.

Expert Tip: Have different apple sauce recipes when canning. We flavor some with cinnamon, brown sugar, molasses, allspice, or maple syrup with different batches to add a variety. Apple sauce can be used as a sugar replacement in many foods such as baked goods and is considered a healthy alternative. In many recipes, you can replace sugar for applesauce on an equal basis and simply reduce the additional liquids to the recipe for consistency. This makes applesauce a precious commodity in a grid-down situation. While writing this article, I have started an apple recipe cookbook with the making of pectin as a lead recipe.

How many trees?

How many apple trees should you have? That is up to you to decide. I have trees that range from 50 years in age to less than one. Currently, I have nine apple trees and I plan to plant four more this year. When I first started planting, I purchased trees from the local hardware store and chose varieties based on name (like Braeburn). Some died and others struggle with the weather, moisture, and soil. The trees that I have selected from a more knowledgeable perspective tend to grow better, faster, and have a greater survival rate. Each species is a bit unique and there are years when some apple trees have a bountiful harvest and others that do not. However, I have not had a year where at least one of my trees did not produce. I am an avid hunter and the apple trees also bring in game so I do not worry if some are not harvested. As a survivalist, my orchard also has multiple other fruit trees including peach, plum, and pear as well as a variety of small fruits. However, I predominantly plant apples because they are hardier and better producers and are much more versatile. If this is primarily for your consumption, planting closer to your shelter will provide additional protection from animals.

A Warning

Too many apples can impact your digestive system and cause constipation. This can be especially dangerous when dehydrated. While apples are a healthier food, too much of a good thing can cause problems. While not a problem currently, it can be in a situation where malnutrition is an issue and thus the warning. An apple a day will keep the doctor away. A bushel a day will not.

Investment & Tools

Apple trees are not inexpensive ranging from $20 to over $200 depending upon age and species. In addition, you will need to purchase fencing, stakes, and a watering system. Besides, for planting, you will need a shovel. For pruning, it is wise to have a pair of shears and a pruning saw. A chainsaw is a nice to have. Whether you spray or use traps, there is an annual cost as well as fertilizer if you chose. For picking, a fruit picker is handy. The first fruit picker I saw was a large tin can mount on a broomstick, but the commercial ones have reach. Each homestead/survivalist should have basic cooking and canning materials. If not, I would highly recommend teaching yourself to can right now, it is one of the easiest ways to preserve food without electricity. Finally, if you want to spend lots of money to make life easier, you can purchase an apple grinder and apple press. An apple grinder simply chops up the apples for you. My family and I can do this with a knife, but it is time-consuming and slows the process. An apple press separates the juice. This is essential when making large batches of cider.

Expert Tip: If you are just starting, plant your trees and maintain them. Purchase the tools as needed. It will be an investment over time and the more costly items will come after several years of canning and caring for your fruit. At that time, you can determine if your interest is worth the additional investment.

Other Considerations

Apple trees, aside from apples, are simply joyful trees. The flowers are beautiful in spring and apple trees tend to be ideal spots to seek morels (a lovely, easily identifiable, and delicious mushroom). Apple trees are a favorite for children to climb, lovers to sit under and even scientists to make amazing discoveries (such as gravity).

It is one of the oldest parts of our culture as many still use the apple to portray the forbidden fruit in the Garden. Avalon, the legendary home of King Arthur translates to Divine Apple. Johnny Appleseed is an American tradition and beloved tall tale. The taste and versatility of this fruit are the reason the apple tree has transcended from the Russian Steppes to be found almost everywhere in the world. It is the ideal survival tree for so many reasons. It is a crop that even if stolen, does not require to be replanted and will come again next year. It grows well when cared for and produces even when ignored. It followed the pioneers through Europe into the Americas and everyone should have at least one tree growing on their property, if not many.