"Apple detective" searches Eastern Washington for extinct varietiesPosted: Updated:
Some spend their retirement with their feet up. Dave Benscoter, on the other hand, wanders off the beaten path every fall in search of extinct apple varieties.
The 59-year-old used to work for the FBI. Now he's an apple detective.
“I don't think they're extinct,” Benscoter said. “I think they're just hidden in someone's yard, or on a hillside. So that's what I'm trying to find.”
“These are very old apples.”
Benscoter spends his year researching apples that once grew on orchards that haven't been maintained. Then, when Fall hits the region, he goes picking where no one else would look.
“This is a nasty orchard to crawl around on,” Benscoter said as he searched for apples at the Hanford Castle near Oakesdale, WA.
Benscoter's search isn't always fruitful, but sometimes he finds a fruit that fits the bill. And if he thinks he may just have found the apple he was looking for, he bags a few and sends them to a testing facility in Portland.
“It takes a long time to identify an apple,” he said. “It gets exciting.”
And for those who think his search through wild apples is just a wild goose chase, think again. Last year, he found one.
“When I picked it, it was one of, ‘boy, I've never seen that apple before.' I was just excited that I'd finally found one.”
He hopes that those apples can bring folks back to a different time. Perhaps a bite may bring someone back to their childhood. But mostly Benscoter just loves the hunt, and the chance to snatch a piece of history hidden feet above our heads.
“That's part of the fun out here,” he said. “You never know what will happen.”
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