Monday, December 29, 2008

Spencer

Spencer is shapely, on the large side of medium-large, slightly ribbed and slightly conical.

The light red blush is not saturated; it almost lets the yellow-green skin peep through.

On my sample it covers perhaps two thirds of the surface, and there are light green lenticels throughout. The calyx is open to reveal great depth behind it.

The flesh is crisp and a little tender, perhaps past its prime. It is white and dense and juicy as befits a descendant of McIntosh.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Seasons Greetings

Our winter beauty is an exceptionally dark Macoun.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Golden Russet Redux **

Got a few more of these at Red Apple Farm and they are in better shape than the one I initially reviewed, which may not even be a Golden Russet at all.

These apples are coppery brown almost all over except around the crown and in streaks radiating down the side. A few have slightly larger unruseted patches.

They are small (or on the larger side of small) and slightly ribbed, with open calyxes.

The flesh of Golden Russet is crisp and juicy, creamy yellow, and coarse. Clean sweet-tart balance with a little bracing acidity, notes of cane sugar, vanilla, lemon, and pear. Nice!

I'm unsure of my original Golden Russet example, which I've relabeled as unidentified. It might just be an anomalous sample; my thoughts about that are here.

Variously recommended for cooking, eating, and cider, Golden Russet has been grown in New England for two hundred years.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Enterprise *

The blush on this handsome medium-large fruit covers all, but ranges from a lighter orangey red to deep crimson on the sunward side. Large white lenticels are an attractive decoration. The apple is slightly conical, slightly lopsided, and slightly ribbed. The whole apple is firm and has a mellow and sweet aroma that reflects its Golden Delicious ancestry.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Golden Russet Revised

I now suspect that my original Golden Russet review may have been based on the wrong apple. In any case, it does not describe a representative sample of this variety, several of which I have been enjoying since Thanksgiving.

Consequently I plan on retitling have retitled my first review "Mystery Russet" and will post have posted a new Golden Russet description shortly.

I originally bought an apple so labeled from Kimball Farm at the Arlington Farmer's Market in October, and wrote up a review accordingly. I'd have bought more than one but was back then was straining to taste as many of the then-dizzying number of varieties as I could.

That apple was interesting but a little mealy. I did the best I could with it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Brock *

These globular apples run to medium-large with a red blush, patchy in places, covering green. There is a little ribbing, and my sample has a few bruises and a spot of the eminently ignorable flyspeck.

The flesh is a creamy white with yellow-green highlights, and at this point in the season (note: mid-November) is tender-crisp and juicy. No acidity to speak of. The flavors are balanced with sweetness predominating, and there are hints of berries and a whiff of spices in the general cidery taste, a distinctive touch.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Monroe *

Monroe is medium-sized, slightly conical, and clearly ribbed. Attractive red blush covering a green-tinged yellow. Many irregular light-brown lenticels. My sample has a light dusting of russet, plus black specks, plus other blemishes. It smells of cider.

The light yellow flesh is on the finer side of coarse (if that makes sense) and is more tender than crisp. Flavors: Cider, a brief hit of roasted grain, rich and mellow with moderate sweet-acid balance.

This is not a common variety and I suspect my sample had been off the tree for a few weeks. However I really enjoyed its even flavor.

Monroe looks and to some extent tastes like an old-fashioned apple but was introduced in 1949--one of the hundreds of varieties introduced by the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York. It is a cross of Jonathan and Rome Beauty.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hampshire *

Props to Gould Hill, where Hampshire was born (map). This modern apple originated the old-fashioned way--as a foundling, not as the product of a breeding experiment.

Handsome Hampshire has a wine-dark blush freckled with light lenticels of varying size. It is medium sized and well formed, slightly conical and slightly ribbed. Its calyx is open.

My apple is at least a few weeks off the tree (at tasting, not posting!), but remains very crisp and juicy. The flesh is a creamy white and just shy of fine-grained.

The flavor is rich and sweet, with nice balancing tartness and acidity. Volante, who sold me this apple, describes Hampshire as "similar to McIntosh," and though that is not really accurate I can see the resemblance in its wine-like depth and hints of flowers and spice.

In some ways maybe Macoun is a better analogy, though Hampshire does not reach the complex intensity of either Macoun or McIntosh. There's some nice lingering astringency after the finish.

Hampshire is an outstanding late-season choice, and a good keeper to boot. It oxidizes slowly.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Apples on the Web: National Fruit Collection (Brogdale Farm, UK)

Note: As of 2009, Brogdale's web site is no longer the host for information about the National Fruit Collection, including the database of apple varieties. I've lightly editing this posting to reflect that and to provide live links.

Despite a slow and unintuitive user interface, Brogdale's searchable catalog of apple varieties in the the National Fruit Collection (in Kent, England) rewards the persistent with perhaps the most comprehensive list of apple descriptions online anywhere. As of late 2008 the index describes and depicts 1,882 distinct varieties.

Brogdale's catalog is a database, part of the dark web that is not indexed by internet search engines. You won't find these descriptions and photographs in Google; you must dig for them.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Baldwin **

The story of this antique apple is especially bound up in the place where I live in Massachusetts. Baldwin originated perhaps as early as the 1740s in an orchard a pleasant dozen miles' bicycle ride north of where my house sits today. It was cultivated and popularized by Loammi Baldwin, a Revolutionary War colonel who was also the chief engineer of the Middlesex Canal.

Any of the above might make a rewarding study, but I'll stick to apples.

All the Baldwins I've seen this year are on the small side, so I am tasting a medium-sized apple with a saturated blush of cheerful red that mostly covers green yellow. There's russet that is centered around the base, where the calyx is for the most part open; many small light lenticels decorate the skin.

The Baldwins have been through the wars this year and have the scars to proved it. Besides the russet--which also crackles the blush in patches--there's flyspeck and many round smudgy spots, which I take to be the evocatively named sooty blotch. These marks are the same size as hail scars.

Baldwin is a little ribbed, some more than others. It is very firm in the hand.

The flesh is firm, crisp, medium coarse, and light yellow. Baldwin is juicy with a rich, even taste, balanced sweet and tart enlivened by acidity. Older Baldwins are quite palatable too, though mellower, not acid, and less crisp. Cider, trace of pear, and some spice make this worth seeking out in October or later. Some pleasant astringency after the finish.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Apple of Steel

Get the right tool for the job, right? Look at what happened when my apple slicer met the mighty Blue Pearmain:


The poor thing never stood a chance.

That is one tough apple.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Blushing Golden **

The seller was clear: Blushing Golden improves with age. So I have kept my apple refrigerated for nearly a month.

Now for the moment of truth.

This is a medium-to-medium-large apple with a thin orange blush over perhaps a third of its otherwise yellow surface. It is ribbed and decorated with lenticels that take on three distinct appearances: in the blush, as darker spots of blush, and elsewhere as dark brown or, fainter, dark green spots. There are a few patches of flyspeck and one of regular russet. The fruit smells sweet and cidery.

The flesh is creamy yellow, medium coarse, juicy, and crisp, which is very pleasing for an apple that has been off the tree for so long. The flavor is lush and rich: a balanced sweet-tart, with a little lively acidity. It has something of the even sweetness of a Golden Delicious and hints of pear, honey, and banana.

This is a good late-season pick and I am pleased that I was able to buy some more on the day before Thanksgiving--the final day of the Davis Square farmers' market.

Compare Blushing Golden with Jonagold, another Jonathan - Golden Delicious cross.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Taking Stock, Stocking Up

By Thanksgiving week, the trees are bare and most growers have packed it in. A few will be open until Christmas.

Even though it is the end of November, there are good Macs, Macouns, and Empires in the supermarkets. By stocking up on some of the late varieties I can have varied choices through the end of the year.

I had to travel to in Greenfield, about 90 miles west of my home, last Monday, so I took the opportunity to make some end-of-season visits.

First stop was Phil's in Harvard (map), for some unpasteurized cider. Phil presses two varieties, a blend and a varietal, and was offering samples of both. I preferred the cider made from McIntosh apples, but unfortunately Phil only had the blend for sale that day. I took half a gallon. (Update: It is really good stuff!)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Black Twig *

This is an old Southern apple, reputed by some to have been Andrew Jackson's favorite. And it has a name like a medieval pestilence (or a second-tier superhero.) But what can we say about the Black Twig in person?

A medium-large apple, very firm in the hand, that has a patchy red blush over a green yellow skin. The apple is decorated with small lenticels that are light inside the blush and green elsewhere. Its calyx is closed, and my sample bears one scar from the July 2 hail storm. The unbroken fruit has a rich cider smell.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Orleans Reinette **

My photograph fails to do justice to this understated Vermeer of an apple, with its deep orange red blush peeping though a painterly coating of rusty brown.

These russets are medium-small and well-formed with a hint of ribbing. The russet covers most of the skin, which is silvery green except for the blush. Large irregular lenticels are most prominent in the unblushed areas and match the skin. There are also smooth orange patches in the russet, though it's hard to say in which layer the source of that color lies.

Click on the photo for a close-up.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Marks of character

No verbal airbrushing here. My descriptions of apple varieties include, to the best of my skill, an account of the fruits' cosmetic imperfections.

I hope you are not put off by apple russet, or those little black speckles, or even the large dark indentations I've found on some varieties. I'm not. But I do wonder: What are they?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gold Rush (Goldrush) **

Gold Rush originated at the Purdue Horticulture Research Farm in West Lafayette, Indiana, where it was named "GoldRush" in honor of (1) its color, (2) a purported "rush" of flavor, and (3) some goofy marketing theory that says if you jam two words together and capitalize letters in the middle, more people will buy the apple.

Sorry guys, but nobody calls it that, and it is a tribute to the actual qualities of this variety, not your marketing acumen, that people like it enough to reinterpret the name back into English.

Gold Rush is a medium-sized ribbed apple with waxy yellow skin--tinged with green--flecked with dark lenticels. A light bronze blush shows where the sun has been.

The flesh is yellow, firm, and crisp, still on the coarse side but more fine-grained than that of many yellow apples. Its flavor has the honeyed sweetness of a Golden Delicious, wedded to a pleasing tartness with a touch of acidity. The tension between these flavors is just right and there are fleeting hints of pear, citrus, and spice to keep things interesting. Plus a little metalic fizz on the tip of the tongue.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Imperfect French

The web logs for this site (no personal data) show that yesterday a vistor using a French internet-service provider requested a translation of my Melrouge review via Google Translate, an automated online translator.

This is another freebie from Google, and you do get what you pay for.

There is something charming about reading one's prose rendered in French. At least, if one doesn't look too closely. See for yourself.

To get some idea of the quality of this translation, I fed it backwards through Google Translate, French to English.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mystery Russet

This may be a Golden Russet, as advertised when I bought it. Or it may be something else. (Any theories, anyone?) In any case it is not a representative sample, as I later discovered when I bought a second batch of Golden Russet apples from Red Apple Farm in Phillipston.

That story is here and the true Golden Russet review is here.

My original review follows.

This russet variety runs medium-small--a bit large for this kind of apple. Patches of rusty-brown russet sit atop the Golden Russet's spring-green skin, small continents and archipelagos of vegetation upon some fantastic planetoid. The russetting does not cover everything but is present in the brown lenticels.

My sample is unfortunately a little mealy, though yet toothsome. It still manages to be reasonably firm. Its flesh is creamy white with yellow highlights and coarse.

The flavor is mellow and sweet, with accents of pear and a little citrus. Its skin is on the chewy side and the finish leaves a lingering spirit of cream soda.

Variously recommended for eating, cooking, and cider, Golden Russet has been grown in New England for two hundred years.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Newtown Pippin (Newton Pippin) *

What is the name of this apple? Red Apple Farm sold it to me at Lexington's farmers market under the name "Yellow Newton Pippin." Wikipedia tells us, "Green and yellow varieties are sometimes distinguished but it is not clear that they are in fact distinct cultivars," and lists it as the Newtown Pippin (and a parent of Gingergold). As "Albemarle Pippin" Vintage Virginia calls it "the most famous of Virginia apples" and dates it back to 1700.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Searching for well-kept fruit

This is the time of year I find myself asking, Who has good Macouns? The season for them is quite over and they are not great keepers generally, but if properly stored they can be very good.

So at farm stands and supermarkets I buy them in small quantities, to avoid paying for a week's supply of mushy apples. Today I bought three Macouns at the farmers' market in Davis Square, Somerville. The Arlington market has closed until June, but two of Arlington's three apple growers are hanging in there in Davis Square until the season ends the day before before Thanksgiving.

Happily the fruit is good--definitely late-season Macouns, mellower and with less assertive crackle than at peak, but still satisfyingly rich, juicy, and crisp.

I also got some Baldwins, a late-season favorite of mine and, just for grins, a Brock. All of which I'll share here, along with a bunch of other varieties. Tune in tomorrow.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Phil's

Phil's, in hilly Harvard Massachusetts (map), is one of my favorite places for unpasteurized cider.

Just some apple trees on a hillside, and a shed with a cider press, Phil's is the anti - Shelburne Farm (or Honey Pot Hill, or other orchard that sweetens its offerings with hay rides, a moon bounce, a corn maze, donuts, or Morris dancers).

No one was home when I stopped by midweek, but the orchard was open for business on the honor system.

The bare-bones approach is appealing and means that on sunny October weekends a trip to Phil's will dodge the mobs of families. Kids who do come by on weekends can help operate the cider press, which is not motorized.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Northern Spy *

A famous cooking apple--sometimes called "Northern Pie"--this heirloom is also great for eating and is still enjoyed across the Northeast.

Northern Spy is large, very ribbed, and a little gnarly. A streaky red blush mostly covers yellow-green (actually more yellow than green). My example has a small patch of tiny black russet spots, a wen-like extrudence, and numerous small dents and bruises. Most of these are probably from my own ham-handling, but they suggest a sensitive vulnerability.

So, no beauty queen, but a right stout-looking apple. It smells faintly, and sweetly, of cider.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cox's Orange Pippin ***

A famous, fabled apple that many feel is simply the best. And, yes, it is fabulous.

Cox's Orange Pippin runs medium to medium-large and is round, oblate, and ribbed. The blush is indeed an orange-red, sometimes uneven, over yellow green and with considerable russetting. Brown lenticels freckle the whole surface, which is matte, not glossy. Cox's sits firm in the hand and smells slightly mossy or grassy.

The flesh is creamy light yellow and more fine-grained than that of its reputed parent, the Ribston Pippin. It's got a tender, but substantial, crunch and carries a moderate bit of flavorful juice. And, those flavors!

This is a wonderfully well-balanced apple with a complex bouquet of tastes: cider, a hint of cinnamon and hazelnut, and strong orange and mango notes. The even sweet-tart balance is the perfect backdrop against which these flavors gracefully unfold.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Picked. Over.

On Halloween I pedaled out to Littleton for another visit to Nagog Hill Farm. There were no apples left on the trees.









Compare the photo at right to the one I took back in July (as told here):












All in all two bookends to the season.




Monday, November 3, 2008

Jonagold

Jonathan + Golden Delicious = Jonagold (at least sometimes, see below). The fruit is is medium large, round and regular with slight ribbing. Its skin is a light yellow-green (not gold) spotted with darker green lenticels. An orangish-red blush, streaky in places, covers about half the surface; there the lenticels appear light tan. The unbroken apple smells mellow and sweet, very like I remember a Golden Delicious.

(My apple also has small patches of tiny black stipples. At some point I will find out what that is. In any case it does not put me off in the least when I see it, which is often.)

The flesh is very juicy, also crisp, firm, yellow, and coarse-grained. The apple is evenly sweet and mellow with some acidity but only a little balancing tartness. The flavor, like the smell, reminds me of Golden Delicious (but more lively, and the texture is better), though it has been years since I sampled one. A little pear, perhaps, and honey.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Shelburne Farm

Heading west from Boston, apple country begins in the Town of Stow, blessed with many orchards. A cheerful example is Shelburne Farm, north of the center of town on the road to West Acton.

Shelburne is one of those pick-your-own places that caters to families. Besides the basic picking experience, there is a hay ride, ponies, a moon bounce, kettle corn, cheddar cheese, and such warm goodies as apple crisp, mulled cider, apple turnovers, and cider donuts.

(The farm offers still other ancillary blandishments in season and can frankly be quite a mob scene on weekends. They even had a Morris dancing team out this year.)

I was riding my bicycle down the road and just had to stop--you could smell those donuts a quarter of a mile away. (They're selling the baked goods from the little stall at the right of the photo above.)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Rhode Island Greening *

Various sources date Rhode Island Greening to 1650, making it one of the oldest New England varieties still enjoyed today.

This fruit is generally medium-sized, though my test apple is a little bigger than that. It is lopsided, ribbed, and a yellow-green with darker green blotches. A light orange-red blush covers perhaps a quarter of its skin, which has large brown lenticels, also similar brown russet spots radiating from the base.

(Other photographs of the Greening show light lenticels, so perhaps the brown I observed is really more russetting, in this case of the fruit's pores.)

Greening's flesh is light yellow and coarse, firm and somewhat tender. The flavor is lively, mildly tart and acid with some balancing sweetness, hints of cider, grape, and lemonade. In towards the core is more tart and acid, with a little pine. Slight residual astringency.

Other names for the Greening are Burlington, Ganges, and Green Winter Pippin. It is also esteemed for cooking.

New Englanders have been eating this flavorful apple since Colonial times. Rhode Island made it that state's official fruit in 1991. A gustatory time capsule, its refreshing qualities continue to please.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Have a bite

These Apples are, of course, only a personal labor of love published on that greatest of all vanity presses, the internet. I'm pleasing myself--and creating an opinionated catalog of apple varieties.

If I also please you, that pleases me too. I know I have readers by the web logs of this site (no personal data about you, have no fear).

If you've wandered here and are surprised or informed or amused, please leave a comment, here or in response to any post.

If you have a favorite orchard or apple, or you've sampled these apples and have your own tasting notes, memories, stories, or links, I hope you will share them.

Here's to Autumn in New England, to you, and to the pomaceous fruit!

Update: Here's a quick tour of the site.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Things are winding down

Today was the last farmers market in Arlington until next summer. Lexington's was yesterday. Many of the same vendors will continue in Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston until Thanksgiving. Davis Square, I'll be there.

I took my bicycle out by several orchards over the weekend. Some were closed--picked out, owing in part to the exceptionally nice weather we have had on the weekends this fall. (No doubt my letter to the Boston Globe also had something to do with this.) Most others had their last pick-your-own day on Sunday.

Ozark Gold **

The well-known Golden Delicious lends its even flavor and pomocultural robustness to many offspring varieties, including today's apple.

Ozark Gold is a medium-large apple with light yellow skin that has a hint of translucency. My sample shows the gentle mark of the sun, a light rose blush in a few small patches. Tiny dark lenticels are red inside the blush. Its shape is generally round and more than a little cylindrical. There are a few small patches of tiny black stipples. The whole apple itself has a sweet fragrance.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Macoun Ages Gracefully

I waited--oh how I waited--when the first Macoun and McIntosh apples first appeared at the market in late summer.

I did not review these New England beauties then because the extra-tart, extra-acidic, not-quite-ripe early apples would not have been representative. You see, I eat to serve.

Instead I waited until maturity, tasting McIntosh at the very end of September and Macoun a week or so later.

Now at the end of October, these apples have changed further. Their color is deeper. Their flesh no longer has green highlights. They are less acid, and their flavors have melded.


Look at the beautiful deep red, almost purple, of this Macoun. The blush covers virtually all of the apple, and there is even a little dusty bloom almost reminiscent of that of a Blue Pearmain (a much larger and very different variety).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pomme Gris (Pomme Grise) **

So why isn't it "Pomme Grise?"

A classic, the first of the russets that I usually see around here, Pomme Gris is good for eating or cider.

A small apple, firm in the hand, the Gray Apple is more of a rusty brown suede, with variegated colors--green streaks and a rosy orange blush--peeping shyly through the gauzy russet. Its shape is irregular and I'm not sure whether to say it has a little ribbing or none.

The flesh is a creamy yellow and tender, medium coarse.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Apples on the Web: Vintage Virginia Apples

I am, alas, nowhere near the Rural Ridge Orchard in North Garden, Virginia. Fortunately that family farm not only grows but also has described many apple varieties at its web site, Vintage Virginia Apples.

Rural Ridge offers a lot to tempt both the grower and the enthusiast, including fruit (not just apples, but also peaches, quince, pears, and plums), seedlings, tasting events, and workshops about pomiculture. To this distant voyer, however, the main attraction is its thoughtful and evocative catalog of apple varieties, based substantially on Apples: A Catalog of International Varieties, by Tom Burford—which Vintage Virginia also sells.

This listing is indexed by use (cider, cooking, eating) and describes more than 100 American varieties.

Update: The web site has been reorganized to feature the orchard's cider venture, the Albemarle Cider Works.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Blue Pearmain *

Nor is it every apple I desire,
Nor that which pleases every palate best;
'T is not the lasting Deuxan I require,
Nor yet the red-cheeked Greening I request,
Nor that which first beshrewed the name of wife,
Nor that whose beauty caused the golden strife:
No, no! bring me an apple from the tree of life!

Thoreau asked for apples of the spirit, but many sources say that the Blue Pearmain was one of his earthly favorites.

This doughty apple gets its name from what many call a "deep blue bloom." I'd describe this as a dusty bluish coating over the blush, which is itself crimson with deep purple streaks. The "bloom" rubs off.

Many small light-brown lenticels freckle this handsome finish, which is also (to my mind) made even more striking by a touch of orange russet, mostly in and around the stem well. The fruit itself is ribbed and very firm in the hand, and--unbroken--smells sweet and grassy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The market explodes


We are now at peak season and the apples are getting wild. The extremely popular McIntosh and Macoun crop is nearly all harvested, though still available (and delicious), and they have no obvious late-season heir. (The Honeycrisps are similarly done.)

Instead, many different and colorful apples vie for attention. Today the three growers who sell at Arlington's farmers market are selling Brock, Cameo, Shamrock, Baldwin, Northen Spy, Empire, McIntosh, Fuji, Macoun, Golden Delicious, Splendor, Red Delicious, Pink Lady, Roxbury Russet, Honeycrisp, Blushing Golden, Cortland, Jonagold, and Mutsu.

Compare that bounty to the summer or early fall.

Nodhead *

Another great name! Though apparently "Jewett Red" may sometimes be preferred.

Nodhead is roughly medium sized with pronounced ribs and a blush that runs from streaky (over greenish yellow) to crimson with deep purplish streaks (rather like the coloring of Blue Pearmain). The blush is accented with many small light lenticels.

The flesh is a tender coarse yellow and carries a good amount of juice. Nodhead is mild and mellow, not at all acid but also not overpoweringly sweet, and with enough range to be interesting. A mild old-style apple with cider and watermelon notes.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Frankenfruit!

Today, gentle reader, step into my laboratory for a tale of science run amok. As related a few years ago in The Fruit Blog, two years before the accident at Three Mile Island researchers in Ohio decided that a little radiation might create a better Melrose.

Mutant apples? Oh right, like you've never thought of it.

Large amounts of scion wood was collected and sent to the Ohio State University Hospital in Columbus where the wood was exposed to radiation. Calls to radiation experts found that no one had a guide for how much radiation was necessary, so the scion wood was divided into three lots and exposed at a best guess rate and rates to either side of it.

The experiment was not a success:

Instead of “shaking up the genes” in an effort to find a beneficial mutation, we had fried the graft tissue.

Ouch.

But, dear reader, does sublime Science give up so easily? Nay, of course not--but to make a long story short

. . . so much for nearly 25 years of research. I use this as an object lesson for why there are fewer and fewer tree fruit breeding programs at our state universities. You are not guaranteed success, no matter how much time, effort, and resources you bring to the program.

The Fruit Blog leans towards serious growers but still has plenty of matter for amateurs like me. The above story is from John Schmid (whom I picture reminding us that mutations occur naturally all the time).


Friday, October 17, 2008

Ribston Pippin **

When I asked for some Cox's Orange Pippin at Gould Hill Orchard, the staff apologized and offered these. They are an introduction to a whole different cohort of apples, full flavored, dense, and complex.

Also know as Glory of York, this apple's story is summarized in Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable as follows:

So called from Ribston, in Yorkshire, where Sir Henry Goodricke planted three pips, sent to him from Rouen, in Normandy. Two pips died, but from the third came all the Ribston apple-trees in England.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hubbardston Nonesuch (or Nonsuch) *

Don't you love that name! A real crotchety English apple name. A name for a Hobbit. It says, This apple has been around for a while and if ye don't like them apples then who asked ye?

Modern apples have names invented by marketing departments, like Gingergold and Zestar and Honeycrisp. Old apples have names that sound like a Morris dance tune or a craft beer. Hey ho, lad, get me some a that Auld Whistlin' Pete's Pegleg Stout Pearmain.

Hubbardston Nonesuch is an old apple named for the Massachusetts town (are those apples on the Town Seal?) where it was found in the early 19th century. I got this one at Gould Hill. It's on the large side, firm, classically shaped with some ribbing. The blush predominates and runs from orange-red to red over yellow-green. It is attractively freckled with light lenticels, and there is a little bit of russet.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Gould Hill Orchard

Gould Hill Apple Orchard, in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, is one of my all-time apple favorites. The selection of heirloom and other apples for sale around Columbus Day weekend is truly fabulous, including one variety that is exclusive to Gould Hill.

Besides the apples, Gould Hill presses its own cider and sells it unpasteurized, and offers sweeping panoramic views. There are no corn mazes or moon bounces or cider donuts, but there is an unusual small nature museum and guided nature trail.

The orchard also sells seedlings in the spring and, in the summer, peaches that a friend tells me are the best anywhere.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Apples on the Web: All About Apples

Another ambitious site with lots of apple information, All About Apples seeks to be no less than "the premier internet site for the Apple Industry."

(Update: All About Apples merged with Orange Pippin in 2011 and as of 2012 nearly all links to AAA redirect to OP.)

Chief attractions here are hundreds of apple descriptions and a geographical catalog of orchards, which invites listings from growers. But there is also a bulletin board, a short list of articles of interest to orchardists, book reviews, and other bells and whistles.

Still, All About Apples feels a little like a labor of love that is on hiatus. Except for the bulletin boards, where people post question and, sometimes, answer about apple varieties and pomaculture, there doesn't seem to be any new content on the site since 2008.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Macoun ***

Ah, Macoun, lady fair! If McIntosh is the king of the New England apples, then Macoun, with its distinctive bouquet, is surely queen.

Macoun (pronounced "Ma-cow-an") is medium to medium-large and sports a red blush that runs from deep and purplish to streaky over bright green, freckled with small light tan lenticels. The fruit is ribbed--I've had three-lobed Macouns that boasted a triangular horizontal cross-section--but with considerable variation. The stem is short, which poses some problems for growers.

The flesh is a snowy white sometimes tinged with green, fine-grained, juicy, and very crisp. Macoun tastes wonderful--a nice sweet-tart balance with hints of strawberries, plus spice and floral notes.

The fruit's wine-like acidity swims thrillingly in the river of these flavors. Macoun's distinctive savor lingers like a cool drink and elevates this apple to the first rank. Eating one is a treat.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Melrouge*

I had read about Melrouge, a sport of Melrose, but I didn't expect to find any around here. Yet this week they were a few bins down from Melrose at farmers market.

This medium-large apple sports a partial crimson blush over yellow-green. Its large lenticels are light tan (greenish where the blush doesn't reach). It is moderately ribbed and firm in the hand.

My sample apple has a very deep stem well and what may be two kinds of russet--brown stripes in one area and little black stipples in another. The apple also has very dark red dimples in the blush, about 5 mm across. All in all, character rather than beauty.

Botany lesson

The Botanical Society of America has published this charming poster and, online, an annotated photo essay showing the development of an apple from bud to fruit.

Of course the illustrating apple would be the popular McIntosh.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Stayman **

Also known as Stayman Winesap, though the Winesap is a different (and even older) variety.

These run medium to large and have a deep red blush that is matte rather than glossy, freckled with light spots. The Stayman I am sampling today is on the large side and is oddly asymmetrical--from one angle its profile describes a rough parallelogram. It sits nice and firm in my hand.

The flesh is a creamy off-white, not as fine-grained as McIntosh and its offspring, crisp but yielding, and a little dense. You chew a bite of Stayman a bit longer.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Melrose

Today on our menu: Melrose.

This medium-large apple is firm and well-formed with slight ribbing, a little oblate. Note: The word for the day is lenticel, the name of those tiny freckles that decorate most apple varieties. Melrose's are largish (still small), light against a streaky red blush that covers green-yellow.

Its flesh is yellow, on the coarse side, very crisp, and juicy. Flavor uncomplicated and sweet, with pear notes. Pleasant, but there isn't nearly enough tartness or acidity to balance that sugar.

Melrose's crunch is fun. If you like sweet and simple, but Honeycrisp is a sugar lump too far, this might be your apple.

Although Melrose, a Jonathan-Delicious cross, has a light-and-sweet modern sensibility, it was introduced in the 1940s in Ohio. Some sources suggest that Melrose, a good keeper, grows more fragrant and flavorful a few weeks (or longer) after harvest.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Losing ground rejoinder

Today's Boston Globe includes my letter in response to last week's story about the decline of local orchards:

It's sad, and ironic, that local apple growers are losing ground to imports ("Local apple growers losing ground," Sept. 28).

The durable industrial apples from Washington or Chile are welcome in the spring, but why would anyone eat them during apple season in New England?

Besides the popular seasonal McIntosh and Macoun apples, many local orchards still grow wonderful heirlooms such as Jonathan, Baldwin, and Opalescent. Some are available nowhere else.

October is high season for apples, and there is no better time to visit an orchard, farm stand, or farmers' market to try some of these authentic--and singular--New England treats.

The Globe also echoed these sentiments in an editorial praising local apples:

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Apples on the Web: Orange Pippin

Web searches for apple varieties often find a link to Orange Pippin, an ambitious and impressive web site that is all about apples.

The site includes an apple tree registry with the goal of charting "an international map of apple tree varieties;" anyone with a tree is invited to contribute. For lowly apple enthusiasts like me there is an index of apple varieties and descriptions; though some descriptions are short readers are invited to comment and share their own tasting notes (many have). Other descriptions provide a wealth of information.

Orange Pippin also provides articles about apples and orchards and a service where readers can help each other to identify apple trees. The site is based in the United Kingdom and provides a British perspective; it apparently is also a labor (or labour) of love, with no obvious commercial ties. An admirable and useful work that will always be a work in progress.

The site is named for Cox's Orange Pippin, an excellent dessert apple popular in Europe and much prized by the site's webmaster. They are not common on this side of the pond but I will get some this month if I can.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Honeycrisp *

Full disclosure: Honeycrisp makes my teeth hurt.

Lots of people like the sweet juicy guys, though, and you might too.

It's a handsome fruit, running medium-to-large, with a streaky red blush over yellow (to yellow-green). There's a little ribbing and some russet in the stem well, and spots that look light tan against the blush and a darker green where there is none. The surface is a little uneven, with minor pocks and swells, but the effect is not unattractive.

The flesh is firm, a crisp coarse yellow that holds a lot of juice. The flavor is super sweet with very little balancing tartness and negligible acidity; there are accents of pear and melon. Honeycrisp's flavor is simple, direct, and consistent from the beginning of the first bite to the end of the last.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A bumper crop of apple news

Today's Boston Globe strikes a cheerier note than Sunday's economic report: this year's wet weather has produced a great crop of apples.

Reporter Jesse Kimler writes,

Local orchardists are unanimous that this year's crop is not to be missed. One says the fruit is "bursting with juice."

The Globe also published a companion directory of area orchards, and on its web site is hosting a recorded interview (about 7 minutes) in which Northborough grower Mo Tougas (of Tougas Farms) is enthusiastic about the harvest.

McIntosh **

Perhaps the most famous, familiar, and popular of Northeastern apples. Available year-round, though quality varies. Also known as "Mac." They even named a computer after it (misspelling the name).

McIntosh is generally medium-sized and nearly perfectly round, though some show a little ribbing. Its attractive crimson blush can be streaky and is accented with light spots that are larger than most.

The flesh is fine-grained, juicy, and white, sometimes with green highlights. It is reasonably crisp and firm though yielding.

McIntosh's superb flavor is tart balanced with sweet, with some acidity and a mix of berry and spice. There are hints of melon and zinc, and the skin is on the chewy side.

The net effect is greater than the sum of the parts of this description. Some describe the result as vinous (as in wine). This is an immensely satisfying apple with a complex and appealing taste that lingers pleasingly. It is well worth seeking out in season and is often a good bet after the season is done.

Many sources agree the McIntosh was discovered by John McIntosh on his farm in Ontario in 1811. O, Canada! The Mac is the sire of many other varieties, including Macoun, Spencer, Empire, Spartan, and Cortland.