Tolman Sweet is one of America’s oldest varieties. No one knows when and where it originated, but it may have been a cross between Sweet Greening and Old Russet that was found growing in Dorchester, MA well before 1700. Tolman Sweet is another of those names with lots of variations: Talman Sweet, Tomey Sweet, Tom Sweet, and Taulman Sweet are a few. Called a “sweet” apple because is has practically no acid in it at all. The tree is incredibly rugged and long-lived, which may explain why it remained popular for centuries and is still fairly common in old central and southern Maine orchards today. Two hundred years ago it was often used as rootstock for other grafted varieties. Eaten fresh, Tolman Sweet may have one the most recognizable flavors of any apple; an interesting and peculiar sweet taste that once tried is not forgotten—though some like it and some don’t! The moderately juicy, greenish-yellow fruit is often marked by a “suture” line running from top to bottom and sometimes has a bit of a brownish blush outlined with red. When grown in full sun, the coloring is beautiful.
Tolman is an all-purpose fruit, used traditionally for cooking, dessert and even animal fodder. One old source called it popular for “pickling, boiling and baking.” We recommend it for a sweet apple sauce. The rich, creamy sauce cooks slowly, and the skin mostly breaks up and disappears. Recently we've been told that, despite its relatively small size, it makes a superior baked apple when cored and stuffed with spices.
In 1849, S.W. Cole recommended baked sweet apples and milk as an important medicine: “We know a gentleman who, 10 years ago, was in a hopeless state of consumption, and by long and exclusive use of this dish, and a little bread for nutriment, and lime-water for a condiment, he was cured. ...This diet would cure thousands suffering from inflammatory diseases, caused by high, rich, constipating food.” We hope you don't have to try this, but it does sound a great deal tastier than most medicines.