CHICAGO
09/25/2013 06:27 pm ET Updated Sep 26, 2013

Gene Yale, Chicago-Area Apple Grower With 178 Varieties In His Yard, Doesn't Like To Eat Apples

A suburban Chicago man famous for his mini backyard apple orchard comprising an astounding 178 varieties recently revealed a rather surprising fact.

He doesn't really like apples -- at least not eating them.

Gene Yale of suburban Skokie told ABC Chicago Tuesday that his apple intake is "next to none a year. I hate to tell you that."

"Apples have never been -- I'm not a fruit eater. I love growing them... I don't eat them," the 83-year-old former salesman said (embedded above).

Yale's love of apple growing has made him something of a Midwestern orchardist celebrity. He's been growing dwarf apple trees in his 2,400-square-foot backyard for more than 40 years, according to a Medill Reports profile from 2009.

(See a map of Yale's back yard from 1997.)

“It started out as a hobby that went wrong,” Yale told Medill. “We had an apple and a cherry tree in our yard when I was growing up on the South Side, and as the eldest boy I laid claim to the apple tree because it was the best for climbing.”

There are some 2,500 varieties of apple grown in the U.S. according to the University of Illinois Extension, though just a handful of them are sold commercially (think familiar names like McIntosh, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious).

Yale's apples, on the contrary, are considered "ancient and rare" and come with names like Fortune New York 429, Yoko and Fireside.

As for the bounty from his 178 dwarf trees, he simply gives it away.

Yale is a longtime member of the backyard orchard enthusiast group Midwest Fruit Explorers (or Midfex for short) which is holding their annual Harvest Festival at the Chicago Botanic Garden Oct. 19-20 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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