Old Swedes and the Apple
Ahh! Thanksgiving. The smell of pumpkin and apple pies. A little cinnamon or a scoop of ice cream. We’ll all indulge in having some dessert. Well if you choose a piece of apple pie think of the role a founder of Old Swedes had in growing apples.
Peter Gunnarsson Rambo, 27, came to the area on the second voyage of the Kalmar Nyckel in 1639-40. At the time he was a laborer, but served as a justice from 1655-1680. Rambo’s hospitality was well known. Not only were court sessions occasionally held at his house, but it was also a place where many visitors, including William Penn, were welcomed. Peter Rambo, 85, was buried at the Swedes’ log church at Wicaco on January 29, 1698.
Rambo had a prosperous farm, which included apple trees grown from seeds he had brought from Sweden. The “Rambo Apple”, which is still grown in several of the northeastern states, was Johnny Appleseed’s (John Chapman’s) favorite apple. The apple was the first to ripen in the season and was known as an excellent apple for cooking and cider.
There are two other apples which bear the Rambo name although it not known if they are related to Peter. Ripening in August, Summer Rambos make scrumptious pies and applesauce, and are especially suited to drying. The skin is yellow-green with a red blush. The Hauser Strain Rambo is a summer apple which is good for pies, jelly, and drying.
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission says it is still possible today to drive through the orchard country of Pennsylvania, or any other eastern state, and see signs advertising Rambo apples.
The Rambo apple has been extinct in Sweden for three centuries. Some Rambo trees were recently sent back to Sweden and in 2008 the trees will again be available in Sweden as part of the next Swedish-American Jubilee. The Jubilee honors the Swedish people who crossed the Atlantic for a new life
in America, taking with them reminders of what they left behind.
The Rambo apple entered pop culture as the source of the hero’s name in the “Rambo” book and movie series starring Sylvester Stallone. Author David Marrell wanted a strong-sounding name and chose “John Rambo,” after his wife brought home a bag of Rambo apples.
So the next time you have a piece of apple pie or hear about Rambo think of the connection to Old Swedes. Oh and have a Happy Thanksgiving.
(Riverside, November 2007)