History Herald: Apples

by Laura Gonzales, Education & Volunteer Manager

photo credit: Vic Macias

Hello from the History Herald! Did you know that apples have been an integral part of New Mexico’s history for over 300 years? In the past, New Mexico orchards were ripe with an array of heirloom apples brought over from Spain as early as the 17th century. In fact, New Mexico is home to some of, if not THE first orchards in the United States.

Apples were planted in the Manzano (Spanish for “apple”) Mountains. Early settlers believed the region was the ideal place to plant apple trees because the climate, altitude, and soil were all reminiscent of some of the best apple-producing areas in Spain. Those trees flourished, and remnants of those original trees can still be found in the area today. In fact, a survey by the Manzano Forest Reserve in 1926 identified a tree that’s believed to have been planted before 1676, which would indeed make New Mexico home to the oldest apple orchard in the United States! Not sure if more recent studies have been done, but seems Johnny Apple Seed has got nothing on us!
During Prohibition many trees were cut down (as apples were used largely to make hard cider), and over the years development and drought has taken its toll on New Mexico’s orchards. However, thanks to local growers and craft brewers like our friends at New Mexico Hard Cider (New Mexico’s 1st cidery, 2014), apples and cider are making a comeback! Using apples they sourced from Las Golondrinas, they have a new El Rancho de las Golondrinas Cider available at their taproom! Part of the proceeds from every sale will help support the museum — visit our Facebook or Instagram pages for details.
Together we are keeping community traditions alive! Stay safe, be well, and drink local and responsibly!
Sources: Cider Craft Magazine, New Mexico Magazine, and Local Flavor Magazine.