Last week, the internet failed me…. again. That’s the second time this summer; I’m starting to believe that the internet doesn’t know everything (is that a sign of growing up?)
Last time it was about Bellemont, AZ, a route 66 “ghost town.” This time it was the origins of an apple’s name. Specifically the Westfield-Seek-No-Further.
The prize was six free apple cider donuts from our favorite apple picking place, More Than Delicious in honor of their first open weekend and their newest sapling.
The Westfield-Seek-No-Further is a desert apple first grown in Winchester, MA before the Revolutionary War. It ostensibly has a sweet, low-acid, nutty, complex flavor, reminiscent of English apples
One of its first literary references is the 1846 report of the New York state Agricultural Society (found in The Apples of New York, Vol. 1,) where it is described as “the apple, par excellence” of the area, although they do mention that even then it was only found in older orchards. Michael Pollen described the Seek-No-Further to NPR as a name “puffed with hometown pride.” (although many websites attribute it as a Connecticut apple despite that).
As for the name? At best, people suggested that it was an apple so good that you needed to look no further.
That is not the origin of the name.
According to More Than Delicious and A Reverence for Wood by Eric Sloane, this is how the Winchester-Seek-No-Further got its name:
In the spring of 1665 a ship lay in Bristol Harbor, England, ready for jouneying to the New World. The ship was not a new one; it had made the crossing almost a hundred times. The ship’s master, Robert Carter, was dining at the English estate of Ralph Austin, an extraordinary practitioner in the art of planting. The dinner had been a bon voyage meeting, for Robert Carter was to leave on the next tide. “I envy you your journey,” said the host. “You will reach America at Goose Summer and the harvesting will be at its peak.” “In America they call it Indian summer,” said Carter.
Robert Carter broke an apple in two, admired its meat, and sprinkled it with cinnamon spice. “It is time for me to leave,” he said. “I should like to take one of these fine apples with me and plant the seed in America.”
“What a fine idea! But the seed would not propagate that same apple, and a graft might not last the voyage. But wait! I shall get you a layering plant, and you shall be the first to bring my prize across the ocean. I have worked a long time to create this variety; I have not named it yet. I would be pleased for you to name it. Perhaps the ‘Westfield’ after your farm in Massachusetts? Perhaps it might be named after your ship! What is the name of your ship?”
“It is called the Seek-no-further.”
Even knowing the back story, I still couldn’t find this online so… here you go internet!