Monday, February 13, 2017


In this space, I recently published some misinformation about some research into the breeding ancestry of the Honeycrisp apple.

I regret the error. Here is the real story.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

McIntosh x Delicious

Breed the noble McIntosh with the ubiquitous Delicious, and you'll get a different variety every time you do.

But when the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station at Cornell University did so in 1945, it created Empire.

This apple is a reliable, crisp variety that boasts generic versions of the berry-and-wine flavors that characterize most of the vast McIntosh family.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Stellar notes

Have you noticed the absence of apples in the night sky? Apples feature prominently in classical mythology. Meanwhile, we have constellations to things like The Fly.

Enlightenment thinkers esteemed the pomacious fruit but neglected to place any in the heavens, meanwhile frescoing the southern sky with The Clock and The Chisel and The Compass Case, for goodness sakes.

Snakes and birds galore.
Well, this post is not about any of that. Rather it is my annual rating of the apples I've tasted for the first time, using a Michelin-esque three-star scale.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The young Turk apples are aging well

I have been feasting this month on Pacific Rose, Opal, and Piñata apples.

These three millennial varieties bring something long absent to the table: flavor. They are part of the leading edge of what I hope will prove to be a long-term trend towards taste.

Don't get me wrong: You could always get flavorful varieties at orchards, if you know where to go. Here's what I mean in terms of supermarket apples (North America version).

Friday, January 13, 2017

Empire versus Rubyfrost smackdown

Two years ago I had the idea of comparing Macoun with Rubyfrost.

This was an appealing thought because both are products of the same breeding program in New York, separated by 90 years. But it proved not a fair match.

So this year I am back with what ought to be a more apt comparison: Rubyfrost (r) versus Empire, also from the same breeding program.
Those tiny white streaks are snowflakes.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Green Dragon

Here on the East Coast, new North American varieties usually debut in winter. Green Dragon entered the market here in December.

These are shapely tapered apples just on the green side of the yellow border. The color flirts with that border, sometimes crossing it on the sunward side where some examples sport a pale and tentative orange glow.

Ribbing is moderate, though in some samples there are nearly flat regions that intersect to create a distinct edge.

The many small light lenticels are all but invisible except where russet or some other agent discolors them. Green Dragon bears the striking fragrance of green-apple candy.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Best wishes for 2017

Very best wishes from me to you for the year to come.

This has always been a seasonal blog, overflowing with images and ideas in the harvest season but with fewer and more contemplative columns in the winter and spring.

But this year, to my surprise, I stopped writing for four whole months. I didn't plan that. Am I finally running out of steam?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Decio too

Dense, hard Decio impressed me as a likely keeper apple when I tried it for the first time last November. So I held one back to eat near the end of the year.

Superficially, the older Decio is rock hard. It seems to have weathered well the past month in my perfectly ordinary refrigerator.

My sample's sweet aroma is leavened with a yeasty note that is probably related to its crown of russet.

Otherwise it similar to my November sample. I'll add that Decio's stem is thick and its calyx is wide open.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Jonathan and Ruby Jon

I took this photo back in October to show that the beautiful color of Jonathan (right) has the same deep tone as Ruby Jon's.

As his name implies, Ruby Jon is a sport of Jonathan—a genetic mutation that entails some difference or improvement valuable enough in this case for farmers to cultivate.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Apples on the web: A radical orchardist speaks

Since 2014, Eliza Greenman has been sharing her perspective and knowledge about growing apples in her blog, Unconventional Stories from an Apple Farmer.

Greenman's observations often have a critical edge that borders on the subversive, from her exhortation to "Eat Ugly Apples" to her questions about "the ethics currently involved in producing the status quo" in the fruit world.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Mysteries in yellow and red

Imagine the World's Most Interesting Apple Gentleman, and an unknown apple.
Some unidentified apples.
He (the gent) inclines his head politely. Squints and sniffs at the apple before taking a bite, measuring its blush, parsing its lenticels.

He swirls the bits in his mouth. Pronounces, "Of the Snow family, I think."

Spits, bites again, chews. Swallows. "Yes. McIntosh branch. Not that that helps us much." The next bite is pensive. "But something else. Cidery."

Another bite. "Well balanced. Sprightly."

Saturday, December 3, 2016


Let us sample what may be the oldest apple cultivar of all, dating from Roman times.

Of my two Decios, the photo shows one that is shaped almost like a prune plum, though with a little flattening on the top and bottom. The other, not shown, is squatter and more oblate.

Both have a streaky dull orange-red blush over a shade that is perhaps lightly more yellow than green Tan lenticels are not prominent. These small-to-medium apples have almost no ribbing and short, thick stems.

In the photo above, part of what appears to be the nurturing twig is still attached and nestled against the top of the fruit. (Click for a closer look.) The peel has a soft sheen.

Decio feels rock hard and bears no aroma.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Russell Orchards

On the north shore of Massachusetts, on the road to Crane Beach, is an apple orchard with an impressive selection of fruit and other good things.

Map of Russell Orchards

Russell Orchards is a big place, with hundreds of trees. It's the sort of family-oriented orchard that has apple picking, farm animals, and hay rides. For older folks, Russell also bottles their own fruit wines, ciders, and perries. Their sweet cider is unpasturized.