Thursday, October 29, 2009

Westfield Seek-No-Further **

This variety wins a spot in my unwritten list of especially marvelous apple names. It came my way courtesy of a generous reader.

Specifically, Seek-No-Further reached me via U.S. mail, carefully packed, eight scarred apples of small-medium size. Each has a ruddy red blush, streaky over green yellow, and an oblate shape that is ever-so-slightly ribbed. There is a dull brownish bloom, which is not terribly attractive (it washes off), and large light lenticels that are widely spaced.

My samples display many superficial defects, from fly speck to what I take to be sooty blotch, and even a few small holes that may be caused by insects. (Click here or on the photo for a warts-and-all close up.) There's a little russeting in the usual places--the stem well and some of the lenticels.

I brave these for you, gentle reader, and also because they are really no big deal.

The calyx is slightly open, and the apples are not entirely firm, perhaps because they have been traveling (from Michigan to New York to me) for what is likely more than a week. They have a very faint sweet aroma.

The flesh of Westfield Seek-No-Further is a light buttery yellow, firm but tender, and moderately fine-grained. Its taste is nicely balanced, honey paired with a sprightly acidity that is never harsh. Rich mellow flavors, including pear, are accented by lemon-like citric notes. The memory of vanilla haunts the aftertaste.

The general effect is that this fruit is kin somehow to the russet family, which has similar flavors and texture, though Seek-No-Further is less tart and lacks the suede waistcoat.

This variety originated about the Massachusetts town of Westfield more than 200 years ago (and was widely grown in New England and parts of the Midwest). Ironically, I do not know where they can be found around here today. Consequently I am especially grateful to have the chance to taste some.

I really like these apples, and recommend them. My benefactor may tell more in the comments; I'll just say, thank you.

20 comments:

  1. Spending time with in laws in Phoenix who originate Springfield, MA. My father in law RAVED about Westfield apples he once had as a kid. Wish I knew where to get them for him.

    Thanks for your posting!

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  2. My Seek-No-Furthers came from the Midwest, and I both hope and suppose that there are bearing trees yet in the Connecticut River Valley. They are lovely fruits and certainly worth searching for.

    The Westfield used to be quite the thing, before McIntosh came along, before Baldwin even. A century ago, they were still popular, according to Apples of New York, which called them "peculiarly pleasant."

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  3. I found one of these guys planted on the grounds of Fort Johnson yesterday.

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  4. It's cheering to see a young and well-tended Seek-No-Further growing today. What kind of place is raising this tree?

    I see a little placard with some information about the apple. Is this a historical site?

    Thanks for sharing these photos!

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  5. There is a farm in Whately MA called Bear Path farms that has some Westfield Seek no further's. Not sure how many trees he has, but he does have at least some of the variety.

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  6. I am very glad to know that this fine old variety is still being grown in the Connecticut River Valley where it originated more than 200 years ago. Thank you for the information!

    Bear Path's fruit operation is pretty small, according to the farm's web page. However, owner Bill Obear boasts 17 varieties of apples including several heirlooms.

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  7. My Westfield Seek-No-Further tree just started bearing in Denver, Colorado this summer on a semi dwarf rootstock. (I picked this variety for its lovely name). It's a sturdy little tree, and took about four years to start bearing. It is now bearing well. The apples aren't very pretty, being yellow green in color with a red blush, but it has a lovely distinct flavor, sweet and not too acid. Some reviews say it is a dessert apple, but I have been drying them, and they are fine for eating that way, and for applesauce as well. I froze some for pies. I wonder how they will be for winter keeping. You could do worse than this variety.

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  8. Mary: Apparently Westfield still has a following after all these years. I am pleased to know it.

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  9. An apple orchard was originally planted in the late 19th century by Herbert Gardner in what became an unincorporated community of Gardiner, Washington. Among his orchards were apples of this variety. Today there are only a small number of the trees remaining, the others victims of land development. One of those trees is on my property and we enjoy a continuing annual harvest.

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  10. Thanks to anonymous from Gardiner, above, for that story. By the late 1800s they heyday of the Westfield was passed, so I guess that Gardner knew his apples when he planted these.

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    1. There's an entertaining little book by Eric Sloane regarding this apple titled 'A Reverence for Wood' that you folks might enjoy. I have several of his books about early Americana and they all are a joy to read.

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    2. It took me a little while to find this curious book. It's not really about the Seek-No-Further, but the apple does crop up in the story here and there.

      It is available online, but is the sort of book you want to hold in your hands.

      Thanks!

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  11. I Know the book A Reverence for Wood, and have a copy too. I'll check out his reference to this apple. Thanks! By the way, my Westfield produced a bumper crop here in Denver, CO, this year....they are getting a lot more productive now and I am still drying them, making pies and applesauce. I keep the tree short by cutting off the upper shoots in the fall which makes picking the fruit a lot easier.

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    1. It's nice to know this apple is still cultivated and loved.

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  12. Just picked up Westfield Seek-No-Further at the Copley Farmer's Market, from Keown Orchards (Sutton, MA).

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    1. I am glad someone has found a source for these here in Eastern Massachusetts, but you are making me jealous!

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  13. We're selling the Seek-No-Further at Palo Alto and Santa Cruz City Farmer's Markets...one tree produces a lot of beautiful fruit from here in Davenport, California. Molino Creek Farm.

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  14. I am eating one of these as I write this. They are from an orchard in Northeast Ohio, purchased at one of the downtown Cleveland farmer's markets. It reminds me of apples from one of my neighbor's trees when I was a kid.Slightly tart, dense, and juicy. I feel sorry for all the folks whose only experience with apples is from the grocery store giants - the old style apples are the BEST!

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  15. FWIW the Nicewicz farm people have them, and they're a boston-local farmer. (They show up at several of the farmers markets)

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    1. Very worth knowing, thank!

      It took me a while to find this out, but one of the Nicewicz brothers brings Westfield to Belmont's farmers market.

      I've also seen them in Davis Square, and perhaps Nicewicz sells them elsewhere too. (Not Arlington, though.)

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