Bringing Back the Harrison

From the earliest days of the nation, hard apple cider made in Newark, NJ was considered the finest – known even to George Washington as the “champagne of ciders.” And, the key ingredient to Newark Cider was the famed Harrison apple. The more we investigated the rich heritage of the Harrison, the more we believed that after 100+ years, the apple- along with the cider industry that made it famous- needed to be reestablished in New Jersey.

As the Harrison was thought by many to be extinct, in 1976, Paul Gidaz (an orchardist and fruit collector from Vermont) came to Essex County in search of the noted apple. Unbeknownst to him, the large Harrison tree he so easily found in Livingston was one of the only two remaining Harrisons in all of New Jersey. Thankfully, Paul took cuttings from the tree and planted a few Harrisons in his Vermont orchards keeping the Harrison from complete extinction.

Countless days of research brought us to another man dedicated to the preservation and rebirth of this phenomenal apple – Tom Burford. Known to many as “Professor Apple,” Tom was the linchpin in our pursuit to bringing the Harrison home to Jersey.

In 1989, Tom was asked to visit an estate near Paramus to authenticate what seemed to be the last remaining Harrison apple tree. Tom’s verification of its authenticity was welcomed news to say the least. With scion wood from that one tree, Tom and the Shelton family of Albermarle Ciderworks have been nurturing a small orchard of Harrisons in North Garden Virginia for years.

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And, putting their faith in New Ark Farms’ capacity to reintroduce the Harrison to its native home, Tom and the Sheltons sold us 100 two-year-old trees to be planted in the flourishing soils of New Jersey. It is our duty to continue with the mission that Paul, Tom, and others dedicated to the Harrison have worked so hard to uphold. As we prep the land to receive this iconic tree, we continue to hone our sustainable model for the rebirth of this famous fruit and the cider that goes along with it.

To produce this “champagne of ciders” we have a two pronged plan to grow a sufficient number of Harrison’s:

first, create a cooperative of New Jersey family farm suppliers; and second, provide trees to Newark city residents in order to establish a network of urban suppliers. By developing these partnerships, we hope to reestablish the Harrison’s place in history and allow Newark to take true ownership of this symbolic apple.

To learn more about the heritage of the Harrison apple and Newark Cider click here.

*For a deeper look into the history of the Harrison click this wonderful article from our friend Fran McManus in Edible New Jersey.