nicknamed. Kavanagh grafted many more of his trees on his land
and shared scion wood with his neighbors. Soon the whole Newcastle area was filled with Kavanagh apple trees. Yet by the twentieth century, the Kavanagh was thoroughly forgotten.
Enter a ninety-year-old University of Maine professor named
George Dow, who retired to the Damariscotta Lake area in the
late twentieth century and became obsessed with the Kavanagh
apple after discovering what he thought was the last surviving tree.
Around 2000, Dow showed the tree to John Bunker, the Maine ap-
ple detective and owner of Fedco Trees. Bunker was immediately
taken with the apple and its unusual form, which he knew was a
classic shape for Irish apples. “It made a great apple sauce—it
flu=s up beautifully. But it was best known as a frying apple. They
used to fry it in bacon fat.”
After much detective work, Bunker found three additional
Kavanagh trees along Maine’s midcoast, where the variety had
once spread on the power of its gastronomic delights. In Free-
port, he found a big, healthy, prolific Kavanagh in a parking lot.
“On one side was this kayak sales center. On the other was this
but then, just when things begin to feel cloying, kavanagh
veers toward a gentle gooseberry tartness.
texture: neither crisp nor mealy, it is pleasantly granular,
almost like a granita. medium dry, it generates just enough
juice to keep things flowing.
season: september to october.
use: eat fresh, make sauce, or, as John Bunker recommends,
fry in bacon fat.
reGIon: midcoast maine. that’s it. your best bet is the freeport parking lot. Look for the kayak dealer.
In 1780 an IrIsHman named James Kavanagh arrived in Boston, seeking his fortune. He found it in Newcastle, Maine, where
he built a water-powered mill on Damariscotta Lake to serve the
shipbuilding industry and settled in, building his own mansion in
1803. Somewhere along the way he planted a very unusual apple
tree, likely derived from seeds he carried with him from Ireland.
The tree bore large, delicious, russeted apples shaped like a cat’s
head, minus the pointy ears, and that is what the apple was soon