Just a few miles east of Lake Michigan, the lake moderated climate, rolling topography, and rich glacial soils combine to make Eau Claire, Michigan, one of the world's finest apple producing regions. Even the abundant snow helps protect the trees from freezing and desication in springtime. In this favored location, the Tree-Mendus Fruit, Inc. orchard continues to grow an abundant variety of apples; a variety that has been nearly lost in the homogenization and massification of the food industry in the twentieth century.
More than two hundred varieties of apples are grown commercially at Tree-Mendus, along with many types of pears, cherries and plums. In their open cooler shoppers find seventy or more types available simultaneously. There are apple varieties from Japan, heirloom American types, and varieties difficult to find outside of Europe. There are even new types of apples being studied--with a special interest in disease and pest resistance.
If the apples aren't enough to whet your appetite, there's more. There's apple butter cooked outdoors in a copper kettle stirred with a maple paddle. There's the unbelievable almata apple jelly. Their "Cherry Brite"(tm) topping is unique. Do they make cider? You bet! With more than twenty varieties of heirloom apples going into the mix, their "Dark Cider" reminded me of a fine calvados.