Skokie apple grower has 178 varieties in back yard, does not like to eat apples

September 24, 2013 (SKOKIE, Ill.)

For a north suburban Skokie man, that means he has the biggest little orchard since the days of Johnny Appleseed.

Gene Yale of Skokie has an average size backyard. But he has turned the small space into an apple lover's paradise. The apple trees are miniature, but the results are huge.

"More than 30 years ago, I started with a few miniature trees. I read about other apples that were available and... I kept planting apples," Yale said, adding he now has 178 varieties.

He has searched the world for the best tasting apples. Some sweet, some tart, some a combination of the best apple flavors. But he doesn't grow apples for their beauty. In fact, some are proof that apple ugliness is only skin deep.

"Some are knobbed like the ugly apple... The knobbed russet... But they all taste great," he said. "Ugly is more than beautiful in apples."

You're not going to find Delicious and Yellow Delicious and other popular names here. Here you find Yoko and Fireside and one called Fortune New York 429. They are as rare as Adam and Eve's apple.

Yale says you can't find them all in the supermarket. He grows thousands of apples every year and he gives most of them away.

So, how many apples does Gene Yale eat?

"Next to none a year. I hate to tell you that," he said. "Apples have never been -- I'm not a fruit eater. I love growing them... I don't eat them."

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