The Lost Apple Variety Thomas Jefferson Used To Grow

Although Thomas Jefferson is best remembered for his effort to create the United States of America as a founding father and as the country's third president, Jefferson was an avid gardener who grew a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, trees, and flowers on his magnificent estate called Monticello in Virginia. According to Encyclopedia Virginia, Jefferson viewed his plantation as a place to experiment with growing different plants, including unusual ones, in an effort to improve America's economy.  

He was known to bring plants from Europe and attempt to raise them here, including dry rice and grapes. Jefferson also extensively raised apple trees in his orchards, according to Monticello, which describes how apple cider was common during meals and apple pies were often served for dessert. Although there are thousands of varieties of apples during Jefferson's life from 1743 to 1826, Jefferson focused on raising four kinds, two of which were best for cider and two that were well-suited for desserts. 

An apple perfect for cider

It is one of the two varieties of apples that Jefferson grew for cider-making that is considered to be lost. The Taliaferro, Jefferson wrote in 1814, was one of the juiciest apples he had ever eaten, according to the Daily Press. When Jefferson cultivated the Taliaferro apple on his land at Monticello, he had about 100 trees, according to Liberty Cider. However, the trees and orchards are no longer there. And without the trees, it's believed the Taliaferro apple has also been lost.

Apple-lovers continue to search for signs of the Taliaferro apple. An antique apple expert, Tom Burford, reported what he thought might be the Taliaferro apple being grown in 1994 on a farm in Highland County, Virginia, according to Liberty Cider, but verifying that belief may never be possible until a better description of Jefferson's Taliaferro apple is found. The only known description of the apple was made by Boston pomologist William Kenrick in 1835, in which he said the Taliaferro apple was about one to two inches in diameter, white with red streaks, and well-suited for cider because of its acidity.

Other people have declared they have found the lost Taliaferro apple, which has been renamed Nelson County Crab and Highland County, but that theory has not been verified (via Daily Press). The search for Jefferson's favorite apple will likely continue, but will the mysterious apple ever be made into cider again? Only time will tell.