-by Dwight Bradley
In the most recent edition (#20) of Apple Notes — A Prairie Pomologist’s Letter Exchange. editor Roger Vick has asked for information about the Chinese Golden Early apple. This short note is in response to his request. In the 1994 Census of Alaskan Apple Trees, Chinese Golden Early was one of the more popular varieties in the state, ranking fourth in terms of number of trees in the ground (33 trees). These rankings are based solely on census forms I received; I’ve run across at least another half-dozen well established Chinese Golden Early trees around Anchorage.
We have two Chinese Golden Early trees, one topworked in 1991 and the other planted as a whip in 1992. Both bore their first fruit in 1994. The tree is hardy and vigorous, and appears to have only one serious flaw, a tendency toward an upright growth habit with too many narrow- crotched branches. This would seem to make it less promising than, say, Rescue, as a framework for topworking using Bernie Nikolai’s technique (see APFGA Newsletter, v. 9, no. 4, Winter 94- 95).
The fruit itself is not too sensational. It is small, roundish, yellow. At its best, it is fairly good eating (a nice, relatively crisp blend of sweet and tart); at its worst — and more commonly — it is mushy and bland. The quality and texture are uneven and unpredictable from one apple to the next. It ripens very early, a few days before Yellow Transparent, and hence might have a niche in parts of Alaska where the growing season is exceptionally short and better varieties won’t ripen or survive. It is a terrible keeper, bruising within minutes of picking from routine handling. It only takes a few days for a box of Chinese Golden Early fruit to turn completely mushy and brown from all the little braises. The fruit has a tendency to watercore (these translucent fruits are popular with kids). It makes good sauce and a surprisingly good single-variety sweet cider.
I don’t know much about the origin of Chinese Golden Early, and if anyone can add to the following I would like to hear from them. The only trees I know about are in Alaska. The oldest were planted by the Dearborns in Palmei in the 1960’s. There may be others of about the same vintage in Anchorage. I have never am across it in catalogs such as Bear Creek, St. Lawrence, etc., who cater to northern growers. Where did the first Chinese Golden Early trees that came to Alaska come from?
Chinese Golden Early appears to be one parent of the wonderful-tasting Yellow Jay apple, a seedling grown by the late Curtis Dearborn of Palmer, Alaska. The parents of Yellow Jay were two of the following: Rescue, Summerred, and Chinese Golden Early. From its appearance, Chinese Golden Early seems likely to be one of the parents.
In my opinion, Chinese Golden Early is far inferior to such apples as Norland, Parkland, and even Rescue. I would put it in a class with Heyer 12; a time-tested variety that is a reliable cropper in south-central Alaska, and that yields fruit most suitable for cooking. The fruit is a little better than Heyer 12, but smaller, and the tree is probably a little less hardy.