Tuesday, 17 January 2017 21:29

Peachy KeenĀ® Peach

PEACHY KEEN® PEACH
(Prunus persica sp.)

August 2011 I met with 154 Central Coast Chapter Rare Fruit Growers at the home of Clifford Chapman in Shell Beach, CA.  After the meeting Joe Sabol with Cal Poly, SLO asked about the L. E. Cooke Co growing Mr. Chapman’s seedling peach.  Several people spoke of the quality and great flavor.

They went west of the home into the sand from the beach and cut budwood for me to take to Visalia.  I was interested because this seedling next to the ocean had to be very low chill.

The L. E Cooke Co budded and in December 2012 dug 24 trees.  January 11, 2013 we plant 5 of the trees in Cooke 2 orchard and took the balance to Joe Sabol at Cal Poly.  Mr. Chapman had died that year so never received his.

These trees were all very large which is common for those requiring very little chill as they leaf earlier and grow longer. 

Peachy Keen® Peach Bloom

Showy Spring Bloom

March 2014 the Peachy Keen, (Chapman) peach was the first to flower along with Flordaprince making it a 150 to 200 hour peach or mildest peach in our collection.  The five trees had a mass of very large pink flowers for a first year and I assumed most would not develop.

Heavy Fruit Set

Heavy Fruit Set - 18 months after planting

Early July every tree had close to 100 peaches supplying our sales and office staff and many field employees.  Note - this is on a tree planted in the ground for only 1.7 years.  We picked fruit over a 3 week period with very good flavored peaches.  All fruit size was medium to large and would have been very large if we had thinned the trees.  The trees were way overloaded.  I recorded the peak ripening date as July 7.  We had already picked for a week and continued picking for two more weeks.

Facts:
Flower: very large, colorful, full bloom 2/15 with Flordaprince.  Based on bloom date, I list as a 200 hour chill need, possibly 150 hours.

Fruit: sets heavy like a Babcock so medium size fruit.  With thinning, Peachy Keen peach will produce large fruit.  Very good flavor as I had been told at the Rare Fruit Growers meeting by several people.  The skin is very colorful red 90% except in stem area.  Texture: solid, firm, good flavor, red at pit and very freestone.  Easy to cut without getting juice all over you, yet flesh moist.  Pit is small.  The selection appears promising for a lunch fruit because of firm flesh similar to an apple.

Peachy Keen peach is a very unusual tree and fruit.  It is a healthy grower because starts early due to low chill need, large colorful and long lasting flowers.  The variety has a heavy set of very colorful fruit with firm moist tasty flesh and very freestone.  A tree only 18 months from planting with over 100 peaches is remarkable.  January 10, 2015, the sales staff renamed the Chapman peach to Peachy Keen® Peach.

Ripening date: Early July.

Bob Ludekens
1/20/15

 

Additional Photos of Peach Keen® Peach

Information Page of Peachy Keen® Peach

Saturday, 31 December 2016 13:04

Persimmons (Perceptions Change Slowly)

PERSIMMONS
(Perceptions Change Slowly)

Fuyu (Jiro) Persimmon

Fuyu (Jiro) Persimmon (#1 seller)

 

There has been confusion on persimmons. Our United States American persimmon was not very edible so the market production of fruit was slow and the public showed no interest to sample.

Japan and China grew the persimmon and the Japanese sold them in Europe. By the time these arrived in California, the names were mixed and new crosses and rootstock confusion.

Orange County Nursery became the major persimmon grower for the United States nurseries. The L. E. Cooke bought from Orange County into the 1970’s, as did most all others. The Orange County owners made trips to Japan to bring back new selections.

California through UC Davis and the Persimmon Association brought in Kay Ryugo for most of a year to study all the California persimmons. The persimmon we were and still sell for Fuyu (Jiro) Persimmon is what he called a “California Fuyu”. No need to change because all farmers know it as Fuyu (Jiro).

Unfortunately the early market persimmons were the American or Hachiya which need to be eaten fully ripe or it was very astringent. Even still today, many people are hesitant to eat a persimmon. Persimmons are now well accepted in California, but most of the rest of the country only knows or heard about the American or Hachiya. I am amazed at the nursery people who will not sell a persimmon because of the “bitter” fruit. If you visit the L. E. Cooke Co in the fall, I attempt to have a visitor sample a Fuyu Persimmon. What a surprise when they want to take a box of fruit home.

We brought seven varieties from Japan to avoid some of the confusion and uncertainty of names in California sources. Several were lost in travel and quarantine. All were here previously so we did not “introduce” any except for FUYU (IMOTO) PERSIMMON. The facts are basically the same as Fuyu (Jiro) except a little larger and about 7-10 days earlier. The Imoto selection came from the late Mr. Mike Imoto in Lindsay. We grew it for him and he allowed the company to add it to our catalog. I assume Imoto is a California Fuyu sport.

The Fuyu (Imoto) Persimmon advantage is slightly larger and earlier fruiting.

The L. E. Cooke Co introduced Fuyu (Imoto) in 1985.

Bob Ludekens

 

Information Page for Fuyu (Imoto) Persimmon

Information Pages for all Persimmons we grow

Photo Galleries for all Persimmons we grow

Friday, 30 December 2016 19:23

Golden Nectar Plum

GOLDEN NECTAR PLUM

Golden Nectar™ Plum

The Golden Nectar Plum is patent #4977, granted January 25, 1983.

The plum is a seedling from a Mariposa Plum orchard in Exeter.  The Golden Nectar was discovered by Bill Hengst.  This gold plum is the most unusual to be introduced.  First the parent is an all red skin and flesh Japanese plum.  There is no resemblance to the parent tree.

The L. E. Cooke Co was fortunate to learn about this tree.  A family I grew up with in Alhambra, California had a cabin in Mineral King.  They spent much time with the Hengst family.  One summer when the family was in our area, I was called and the suggestion made I should see this new seedling which was to be patented.

We were provided budwood to grow trees for the orchard but could not sell until patent was granted.  This gave us time to study the tree and fruit.  The tree is a fast grower and fruited in its second year.  We started production in 1985 and began sales in 1987.

Golden Nectar is a unique extra large unforgettable eating delight.  The skin is golden amber with a thin wax and tender texture.  The flesh is amber, firm with excellent flavor.  The pit is very small freestone, leaving quantities of flesh for eating and drying.  The fruit keeps well on the tree and in storage at room temperature.  The fruit ripens in late July.

The Golden Nectar Plum was entered in the County Fair two years consecutively and was awarded first place each time.  Tulare is a plum growing county, so in competition with some of the best plums.  Chilling is approximately 400 to 500 hours and sets well in most of southern California.

The large size, freestone pit, and thin skin make it a good seller, plus the freestone make for great halves for drying.

This is a L. E. Cooke Co. introduction.

Bob Ludekens

 

Information Page

More Photos

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 19:18

July Golden Apple

JULY GOLDEN APPLE
(Malus domestica)

July Golden Apple

July Golden Apple

Grant Merrill introduced many fruit varieties at the California Research Station in Red Bluff, CA.  He retired and moved to Visalia and gave a new apple tree he was researching to a neighbor of ours.  They were to grow it and he would review it later.  Unfortunately he passed away.

This variety was a Golden Delicious apple that produced large quality apples in July.  His review was to see how it produced in our hot valley before the long summer heat.  The neighbors knew it had never been introduced and did not want it lost, so the L. E. Cooke Co started production.

The L. E. Cooke Co first grew July Golden in 1973-74.  July 1975 we planted the trees in our Cooke 1 orchard.  It became a good producer of large apples.  To have our sales staff see and eat the apple, we planted a tree next to the lab office, right outside the sales door.  The sales staff did the pruning to keep it as an EZ-Pick demonstration tree.

The tree set very abundant crop of large apples in early July so customers could see them.  One of the salesmen saw them dropping each day and boxed them for my wife to make apple sauce.

Even thought the sales staff got carried away pruning, they saw lots of apples on the 2 year wood.  None were harmed by the summer heat when over 100°.  The early season ripening helps a lot and the foliage protected them similar to a spur apple.

Facts:
The fruit is large golden-yellow crisp good tasting apple resembling the fall Yellow Delicious.  It produced apples in early July after 100° weather in late May, June, and July.  The early season ripening and the foliage protected the apples which had no heat caused blemishes.  They were crisp quality flesh.

This is another great choice for our hot valley and similar climates in other states where they have 600 or more chill hours.

The L. E. Cooke Co was very fortunate to learn of this new July Golden Apple.  Why wait to September for your apples?  They make good apple sauce and pies.

Bob Ludekens
1/26/15

Additional Photos: July Golden Apple

Information Page: July Golden Apple Information Page

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 18:37

Spur Apples

SPUR APPLES
(Malus domestica)

Granny Smith Spur Apple

Granny Smith Spur Apple

 

I believe the homeowners harvest the best apples from the Spur types, especially in the warm/hot Central Valley climates and hot Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas areas which have the winter chill hours.  Most well known apples do not do well in our hot climates but Spur types will because of how the foliage protects the fruit on the inner spur wood.

The public or nursery personnel have not understood the value of Spur apples:
1. They are compact growers.
2. They set quantities of good quality apples on short spurs on the main limbs and trunks. They do not weight down the limbs and the fruit is protected by the outer limbs and foliage.  We had Crimson and Yellow Spur trees near the house and we had large quality apples that did not produce on most standard trees in our heat.
3. We have 6 Spur varieties in our orchards, but only list three because we have failed to sell them where needed.  Crimson and Yellow are similar in eating quality to Red and Yellow Delicious apples.  Granny Smith Spur sets very heavily with very good apples, more than a family can easily use.
My wife and I have not eaten an Arkansas Black from a standard tree but many from the Spur trees.  I also like Bisbee Spur which sets a good crop of tasty apples every year.

Visalia is not apple climate but my wife makes quantities of applesauce each summer for our winter fruit for breakfast when out of bananas and citrus.  I am fond of warm applesauce on a cold January morning.

GRANNY SMITH SPUR came from eastern Washington.  We planted in our orchard 2/21/91.  When the fruit drops, the ground is all green and still lots of good fruit on the trees.  This selection sets a very heavy crop of quality apples with what seems like thousands per one tree.  Large, skin displays slight striping on green.  Flesh is firm, sweet/tart.  The apple is good as fresh fruit, cooking, and sauce. Ripens September – October. 400 hours chilling but does well in cold climates.

RED DELICIOUS (CRIMSON) SPUR looks like a lighter colored Red Delicious.  This selection is large with good flavor and better than the varieties in the stores today.  The variety was brought from Canada in 1968 so not one of today’s tasteless apples.  The fruit is large with red waxy skin, firm white crisp and juicy flesh with good flavor.  The fruit ripens September – October and needs 800 chilling hours.

YELLOW DELICIOUS (Yelo) SPUR is similar in appearance and taste to the old, very popular Yellow Delicious apple.  This selection was brought from Canada in 1967.  It is a large Golden Delicious with crisp firm delicious flesh.  Ripens September – October and needs 600 chilling hours.

Bob Ludekens
1/26/15

Ron's note 9/14/16: Currently we are only growing the Granny Smith Spur Apple - and it is an all around favorite.  Seems the popularity of the Red and Yellow Delicious Apples (and of course the lesser known spur selections) are waning as so many other great apples are on the market.

See more photos on Granny Smith Spur Apple - especially how loaded it gets: Granny Smith Spur Apple Photos

Point of sale Information Page: Granny Smith Spur Apple

Wednesday, 05 March 2014 19:31

History of Mild Climate Peach Introductions

MILD CLIMATE PEACH INTRODUCTIONS

The L. E. Cooke Co started in the 1950's searching for good varieties to introduce to the homeowners filling a need of varieties for mild winter area with flavor for retail nursery sales.

From when Bob Ludekens started in 1946 up to the early '60's the main varieties sold were Elbertas, Hales, and Rio Oso Gem with the white flesh Babcock about the only low chill selection for retail sales. We had the same challenge with nectarines.

Breeders in Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and California were developing varieties mostly for commercial use.  L.E. Cooke Co became involved bringing them to retail sales for homeowner use.

Peaches of Florida started crossing Springtime Peach a low chill white peach, and Tejon a low chill yellow.  We grew both selections, but very small fruit.

The L. E. Cooke Co. brought in Early Amber Peach - low chill yellow freestone with good flavor and a heavy fruit set.  We still list it as a low chill Elberta type.

We then brought in Rio Grande Peach,  a Hale type, which is doing well in most mild winter areas.  It has good flavored yellow freestone.  Again this variety is currently listed in our catalog.

To match Peaches of Florida, the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station introduced Earligrande Peach a good peach for the mild winter areas.  A good companion with Early Amber.

About the same time, Louisiana State University was seeking a mild winter peach that would handle their warm summer rains.  Brown rot destroyed most of their peaches, a common problem in southern states.  We added La Feliciana Peach to limit bacteriosis and brown rot.  The L. E. Cooke Co has this variety in production for areas with summer rains and mild winters.

Armstrong Nurseries in Southern California grew for their retail outlets and others. Like the L. E. Cooke Co they introduced finds as well as some of their own developments.   In many cases a homeowner seedling find along the coast.  The two I like the most are Saturn Peach and Red Baron Peach both for mild winters - very colorful double flower and excellent quality fruit, freestone and yellow flesh.  Both were introduced by David Armstrong.

Descanso Nurseries also developed a series of peaches: 1Star, 2 Star, 3 Star, and 4 Star.  The L. E. Cooke Co no longer grows these selections as new varieties have replaced them.

Dr. Leslie at UC Riverside began developing many new varieties in the 1950-60's at the South Coast Field Station in Orange County.  These became available to Orange County Nursery and the L. E. Cooke Co.  Again these were hybridized for our climates in the mild winter southern areas.   The L. E. Cooke Co still grows Bonita Peach, Rubidoux Peach, and Ventura Peach, and has discontinued Robin and Rochon.

Later Flordaprince Peach a very mild winter peach was introduced in Gainesville, Florida by the Florida Research Station.  This selection will fruit on the coast with very little chill.

The L. E. Cooke Co.'s involvement with nurseries throughout the United States helped us become aware of other varieties which the company has named and introduced.  These are listed on separate pages.  As of 2014, we have six introductions with one being tested.

Robert Ludekens 12-26-2013

Wednesday, 05 March 2014 17:23

Autumn Rosa Plum History

Autumn Rosa Plum

AUTUMN ROSA PLUM

 

The Autumn Rosa Plum is medium to large heart shaped fruit.  The skin has a bloom similar to some grape varieties.  When the bloom is removed, the skin is very shiny maroon to red with an amber cast.  If the fruit is in full sun it is very maroon, if in the shade has more red with the amber shading.

The flesh is amber color, moist but very firm, and a heavy fruit for its size.  The pit is small resulting in an abundant amount of excellent flavored flesh. The fruit ripens over a long period and holds well on the tree. The fruit is ripe from early to late September. 400 to 500 hours of chill is necessary.  The tree is self fertile and is a pollinizer for Mariposa and Satsuma plums.

Autumn Rosa is the latest ripening of our current plums which means many hours of sun building sugar and flavor.  I personally prefer this variety to Santa Rosa for flavor and specially the moist smooth golden flesh with the small pit and not dripping juicy.

It is unfortunate there is not more interest in the variety with the late ripening.  If it was an earlier variety it would be well known and possibly the #1 seller.  The tree blooms the same time as Santa Rosa, so likely grows in the same areas.  Unfortunately plum flowering dates are not as accurate to indicate chill hours as are peach and nectarine dates.

L. E. Cooke Co received budwood from commercial fruit tree breeder Fred Anderson.  It was rejected for commercial use because it fruited over a long period and the farmers could not have the desired one time picking for market.  This is exactly what the homeowner wants.  The bloom on the fruit would discourage a farmer where a homeowner approves of the polished shine and bright colors.  The fruit is good for farmers' markets as it holds well on the tree and on display or in storage.

Bob Ludekens 2-11-2014

Autumn Rosa Plum Information Page - Point of Sale Page

More Photos

Sunday, 23 February 2014 21:32

LEC-Introductions

 

Over a year ago I wanted to publish a web page of all the new varieties the L.E. Cooke Co has introduced to the nursery industry.  I thought that would be a eye opener to those just getting to know us.  I quickly browsed through the catalog making a list and realized that list was getting really long and (in my unbiased opinionSmile) it was impressive.

But I wanted more than just a list, I wanted the history behind each one.  And a lot of that history was in the head of my father (Robert Ludekens) and in his files since he had a hand in bringing the majority of these new introductions to the industry.

So I asked dad to slow down just a bit and write a brief history of each variety.  So, since November, 2013, Dad (83 years young) and Mom (two years younger) have been spending their evenings after long days here at work collecting and writing a history of each new product.  As I write this, they are still compiling facts and writing histories but they have a lot done.  What is completed is being posted now and as more are completed, I will add them.

 

Introduction comments by Bob Ludekens: History-of-L.E.-Cooke-Introductions.html

 

L.E. Cooke Introductions

Varieties that L.E. Cooke Co named and introduced (marked with "LEC") and those that L.E. Cooke played a major role in introducing to the trade.  Click on Variety Name for link to history of that introduction (a work in progress).

APPLES    
  LEC ANDERS™ APPLE
    ANNA APPLE
    BURGUNDY APPLE
  LEC JULY GOLDEN DELICIOUS APPLE
  LEC EARLY SUMMER RED APPLE
    EIN SHEMER APPLE
    GORDON™ APPLE
    MOLLIE'S DELICIOUS APPLE
    PETTINGILL APPLE
    PINK PEARL APPLE
  LEC RED (CRIMSON) DELICIOUS SPUR APPLE
  LEC YELLOW (YELO) DELICIOUS SPUR APPLE
    GRANNY SMITH SPUR APPLE
APRICOTS    
  LEC AUTUMN ROYAL APRICOT
  LEC GOLDEN AMBER APRICOT
    MONIQUI APRICOT
    MONTROSE APRICOT
    ROYALTY APRICOT
  LEC TROPIC GOLD™ APRICOT
UME APRICOTS    
  LEC KOUME (Pink Semi-Double) APRICOT
  LEC Shiro-Kaga (Single White)
  LEC DOUBLE PINK FRUITING JAPANESE APRICOT
  LEC SINGLE PINK FRUITING APRICOT
CHERRIES    
  LEC BADA BING™ CHERRY
  LEC COMPACT STELLA CHERRY
  LEC EARLY RUBY CHERRY
    KANSAS SWEET CHERRY
    UTAH GIANT CHERRY
FIGS    
    BLACK JACK FIG
  LEC CONADRIA FIG
  LEC GHOST HILL WHITE FIG(Coming soon)
  LEC ITALIAN EVERBEARING FIG
  LEC OSBORNE PROLIFIC FIG
NECTARINES    
  LEC ARCTIC FANTASY® NECTARINE
PEACHES    
    BONITA PEACH
    CHAMPAGNE PEACH
  LEC CHAPMAN PEACH(under favorable review)
    EARLIGRANDE PEACH
    EARLY AMBER PEACH
  LEC FEICHENG TAO PEACH
    LA FELICIANA PEACH
    FLORDAPRINCE PEACH
    FROST® PEACH
    GALAXY PEACH
  LEC GLEASON ELBERTA PEACH (Lemon Elberta)
  LEC JOHN FANICK™ PEACH
  LEC LONG BEACH PEACH
  LEC PEACHY KEEN PEACH
    RIO GRANDE PEACH
    RUBIDOUX PEACH
  LEC SANTA BARBARA PEACH
  LEC TROPI-BERTA™ PEACH
    VENTURA PEACH
PEARS    
  LEC FAN-CRIS™ PEAR
    FAN-STIL™ PEAR
    FLORDAHOME PEAR
    HOOD PEAR
  LEC LATE KOREAN (Okusankichi) PEAR
    MONTERREY PEAR
PERSIMMONS    
  LEC FUYU (IMOTO) PERSIMMON
PLUMS    
  LEC AUTUMN ROSA PLUM
  LEC CASSELMAN PLUM
  LEC GOLDEN NECTAR™ PLUM
  LEC IMPROVED LATE SANTA ROSA PLUM
    INCA PLUM
POMEGRANATES    
  LEC AUSTIN POMEGRANATE
    SWEET POMEGRANATE
    UTAH SWEET POMEGRANATE
    WHITE POMEGRANATE
QUINCE    
  LEC COOKE'S JUMBO QUINCE
NATURAL DWARF NECTARINES    
  LEC GOLDEN PROLIFIC NECTARINE
  LEC RED SUNSET NECTARINE
  LEC SILVER PROLIFIC NECTARINE
  LEC SOUTHERN BELLE NECTARINE
NATURAL DWARF PEACHES    
  LEC EMPRESS PEACH
  LEC GOLDEN GLORY PEACH
  LEC SOUTHERN FLAME PEACH
  LEC SOUTHERN ROSE PEACH
  LEC SOUTHERN SWEET PEACH
  LEC SUNBURST PEACH
WALNUTS    
  LEC CARPATHIAN (Mesa) WALNUT
  LEC COOKE'S GIANT SWEET WALNUT
  LEC IDAHO WALNUT
GRAPES    
  LEC BLUEBERRY™ GRAPE
    EASTERN CONCORD SEEDLESS GRAPE
  LEC MIDGELY'S PURPLE SEEDLESS GRAPE
RASPBERRY    
  LEC BABABERRY®
FLOWERING APRICOTS    
    DAWN FLOWERING APRICOT
    MATSUBARA RED FLOWERING APRICOT
    PEGGY CLARKE FLOWERING APRICOT
    ROSEMARY CLARKE
FLOWERING PEACHES
   
    WEEPING DOUBLE RED FLOWERING PEACH
FLOWERING PLUMS
   
  LEC KRAUTER VESUVIUS FLOWERING PLUM
  LEC PURPLE PONY® FLOWERING PLUM
FLOWERING QUINCE (Chaenomeles)    
    BLOOD RED FLOWERING QUINCE
  LEC CLARKE'S WHITE FLOWERING QUINCE
  LEC FALCONET CHARLOT FLOWERING QUINCE
  LEC RED CHARLOT FLOWERING QUINCE
  LEC TORVESA FLOWERING QUINCE
ALTHEA (Rose of Sharon)    
  LEC Danica Althea - Danica Rose of Sharon
LILACS (Syringa)
   
    ANGEL WHITE (Descanso) LILAC
    BLUE BOY (Descanso) LILAC
    BLUE SKIES® LILAC
  LEC BURGUNDY QUEEN® LILAC
    CALIFORNIA ROSE (Descanso) LILAC
    CHIFFON (Descanso) LILAC
  LEC CRYTSAL WHITE® LILAC
    DARK NIGHT (Descanso) LILAC
    EXCEL LILAC
    F.K. SMITH (Descanso) LILAC
    LAVENDER LADY (Descanso) LILAC
    PRESIDENT POINCAIRE LILAC
    SYLVAN BEAUTY (Descanso) LILAC
WISTERIAS    
  LEC CAROLINE WISTERIA
  LEC COOKE'S PURPLE™ WISTERIA
    LONGISSIMA KYUSHAKU WISTERIA
  LEC PURPLE VENUSTA WISTERIA
    ROYAL PURPLE WISTERIA
    SHIRO KAPITAN WISTERIA
  LEC TEXAS WHITE WISTERIA
  LEC WHITE VENUSTA WISTERIA
ALBIZIA    
    FAN SILK (FLAME®) ALBIZIA
ASH (Fraxinus)    
    BERRINDA ASH
    BONITA™ ASH
    FAN-TEX™ ASH
    FAN-WEST™ ASH
    MORAINE® ASH
    RAYWOOD ASH
    SUNBELT ASH
CATALPA    
    PURPLE CATALPA
HONEYLOCUSTS (Gleditsia)    
    GOLDEN HONEYLOCUST
LOCUSTS (Robinia)    
  LEC FRISIA GOLD LOCUST
  LEC PURPLE ROBE LOCUST
MAPLES (Acer)    
    AUTUMN FANTASY® MAPLE
    WIER MAPLE
MULBERRIES (Morus)    
  LEC CHAPARRAL WEEPING MULBERRY
  LEC COOKE'S PAKISTAN FRUITING MULBERRY
    FAN-SAN™ MULBERRY
    TEAS WEEPING FRUITING MULBERRY
  LEC WHITE FRUITING MULBERRY
POPLARS (Populus)    
  LEC MOJAVE HYBRID POPLAR
  LEC SARCOXIE SILVER LEAF POPLAR
    SIOUXLAND POPLAR/COTTONWOOD
    THEVES POPLAR
REDBUDS (Cercis)    
    EASTERN WHITE REDBUD
    FLAME REDBUD
    OKLAHOMA REDBUD
  LEC TEXAS WHITE REDBUD
  LEC WHITE WESTERN REDBUD
RUSSIAN OLIVE (Elaeagnus)    
  LEC VELVET TOUCH™ RUSSIAN OLIVE
SMOKE TREES (Cotinus)    
  LEC COOKE'S PURPLE™ SMOKE TREE
  LEC COOKE'S GREEN WITH PINK (coming)
SYCAMORES (Platanus)    
  LEC LEC SELECT™ LONDON PLANE SYCAMORE
  LEC ROBERTS™ CALIFORNIA NATIVE SYCAMORE
    YARWOOD SYCAMORE
WILLOWS (Salix)    
    FAN GIANT™ BLUE WEEPING WILLOW
    NAVAJO GLOBE WILLOW
VITEX-AGNUS CASTUS    
  LEC COOKE'S BLUE™ VITEX-AGNUS CASTUS
  LEC COOKE'S PINK™ VITEX-AGNUS CASTUS
  LEC COOKE'S PURPLE™ VITEX-AGNUS CASTUS
  LEC COOKE'S WHITE™ VITEX-AGNUS CASTUS
     
     
     
Wednesday, 19 February 2014 23:38

History of L.E. Cooke Introductions

History of L.E. Cooke Tree & Plant Introductions

The company has over 60 varieties we have named and been the original producer.  We have close to another 100 we have helped introduce to the retail nursery trade.

The L.E. Cooke Co began its history in the mild climates of Southern California in 1944.  For all that there is to like about the climate, there were very few choices for mild winter stone and pome fruits for the home gardens. That included both the edible and flowering choices. Today that is different - much through the efforts of L.E. Cooke Co and the many observant people in the industry who find those trees that are different and new and bring them to us.

Homeowners want quality of taste first and foremost.  Why put in the effort of growing a fruit tree if all you get is what you can buy at the supermarket?  Home grown fruit needs to burst with mouth watering, chin dripping flavor.  And if the fruit lasts longer on the tree - all the better.  Most families cannot eat all the fruit on a tree if it only lasts 3-5 days.

Most fruit tree growers produce for the commercial farm market.  These growers introduce new varieties to help fill in a ripening date so peaches, plums, apples are coming into production every week to keep markets supplied.  They hybridize for earlier and later crops to stretch the production as long as possible.

Commercial orchard growers attempt to produce the qualities the broker, grocery store, consumer will buy.  The fruit must be a perfect size for lunches or meal preparation and must have bright color and shiny skin.  Most of the commercial fruits must ripen at the one time for one picking if possible.  The preference is self pollinating trees with good production.

The retail nurseries need a different tree.  Yes, you want production, self fertile, nice appearance but you need flavor and prefer to be able to pick over a longer time period.  As an example, high sugar fruit spoils quickly so you do not see Babcock peach in the market.  It will bruise in picking but is still very popular for the home gardener because of production, sugar, and flavor.

Since the 1950's, I have looked for good tasting fruit that produces for the climates of mild winters to the cold late freeze areas.  Today we have introduced many fruits for the southern mild winter areas from California to Florida.

The L. E. Cooke Co has 90 acres of scion and research orchard.  At all times we have new varieties in research.  We are looking at a new peach and fig from the very mild areas.  Over the years we rejected hundreds of selections given to us for trial.  We do not do the hybridizing in most instances.  We look for sports or seedlings or a commercial reject that has great flavor but produces over weeks or has high sugar and not of commercial value.

Today, the company has dropped most varieties without good flavor.  We still grow two I have wanted to drop but nurseries want them because of the large beautiful fruit:  Sam Houston Peach and Bonanza Genetic Dwarf Peach.  Both fruit well in the mild winter areas but to me have no taste.  Sam Houston sales have dropped from 15,000 to 500 and Bonanza to 1400.

The L. E. Cooke Co now has apples which fruit for three months, apricot for 3-4 weeks and a great flavorful Japanese plum that fruits for over two months and is self-fertile.  Homeowners want self fertile varieties such as the newer cherries.

We have a few thousand trees in our orchard not in production.  Some are varieties once in production and are being replaced and others are there to be reviewed.  Many good varieties we receive are no better than what we already sell and if they do not fit a need for chilling or ripening dates, they are not introduced.  We have about 22,500 trees, plants, and vines growing on the 90 acres of scion orchard.  I am in the process of writing about some of our introductions and the source.

My history in the business is from 1946 to now 2014.  From a time of limited choices to today's many choices, I am told there are 150 Red Delicious apple selections which fit a commercial need, but not for the homeowner needs.  We select for the homeowner.

Bob Ludekens 12-29-2013

List of L.E. Cooke Co Introductions and History Behind Each One.