Here to see three follow up stories about Hunter Sekine
Horticulturist Raises Many
In a book of nursery rhymes, which we had as a child, was a jingle something like this: "Did you ever see a ship sail on the land? Did you ever hold a mountain in your hand? Did you ever? No, you never! For it really can't be done, you understand.?" We were reminded of this other day when Hunter Sekine, the Japanese horticulturist who lives alone on his farm between Coram and Yaphank and experiments in the propagation of fruits and vegetables, showed us the results of some of his recent experiments.
Walking about his place. We were astonished to see a small apple tree bearing very tiny, cherry-sized yellow apples, larger sized crabapples, and ordinary-looking red apples, all at the same time. That, according to Mr. Sekine, is nothing - that tree (which is 16 years old) has only 10 different kinds of apples growing on it. He has another - a Japanese crabapple tree - that has 16 different varieties of apples growing on it.
This is effected by grafting, which he does by himself and uses shoots from China, Japan, Tibet and other countries. Grafting can be done any month of the year except November, he said. Still another of his trees has 13 different graftings including one from Manchuria. It is not necessary for him to tag the different shoots as he can recognize them as easily as he could recognize them as easily as he could recognize people of different nationalities.
There is also an apple tree, the trunk of which is 102 years old. It is nothing but a shell as the center has rotted away, but there is one branch of the original tree and it is still bearing fruit. There are four other branches which have been grafted on, all bearing fruit also. One is the "delicious" apple, one the "star king," one the "MacIntosh" and one the "Rhode Island greening" and they are all sound, first class fruit. This seems to be an exception to the Bible statement that "neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." There are two or three other old apple trees upon which new shoots have been grafted.
A pear tree, bearing fruit which is ripe and edible now, as well as fruit which will not be ripe until winter , is also a surprise.
Another unusual thing which Mr. Sekine raises is a chestnut pumpkin. Pumpkins have been raised for 2,000 years and have been improved upon from time to time. This new variety, upon which Mr. Sekine has been working for 27 years ripens two or three weeks earlier than American pumpkin and is well liked when eaten as a vegetable. He also raises Japanese cucumbers which are in season from July until frost and are 10 and 12 inches long. He also raises white radishes which grow as long as 14 inches, and Japanese muskmelons, watermelons and grapes.
One of the secrets of Mr. Sekine's success is the fact that part of his property lies in a valley that is protected by hills on all sides. Just south of his farm is a piece of land said to be the highest elevation in Brookhaven town and the second highest in Suffolk county. Because of the protection afforded his valley, the growing season is a month earlier in the spring and lasts a month later in the fall. Also the soil seems to be peculiarly adapted to the growth of small fruits and melons.
Mr. Sekine owns 116 acres, of which he cultivates 15 or 20 acres. It is part of what was originally the Overton farm - David Overton if Southold having settled in South Coram by 1738. The Old Town road which went from Setauket to Fireplace (Brookhaven village) passes right next to the farm. The Alfred Overton pond is north of it.
Mr. Sekine is a graduate of the University of Tokio and was formerly employed by the British government. He has lived in Middle Island for 10 years and previous to that he came there for several years only at planting time. Wistaria is his particular hobby and he has many varieties. He planted the first here in 1901.
He does not make a practice of selling things locally but sells his produce to a chain of five restaurants located around Times Square, which send a truck twice weekly. Trees and plants are sold in various ways, to some extent through nurseries.