Monday, August 2, 2010

Apples of July (2010)

The apple season started early in July along with dire predictions of a McIntosh harvest in mid-August. The idea of a "normal" harvest date is elusive, but Lodi was available the week of July 14, more than two weeks premature.

This harvest follows a warm spring with unusually early blossoming--"not a little bit weird, it's high weird," as one grower said.

However, the early Lodi apples proved unripe--picked prematurely. Other varieties, though early, seem to be so by about a week, not a fortnight.

I personally saw six local varieties for sale in July: Vista Bella, Lodi, Paula Red, Jersey Mac (and Early Mac, as near the same thing as no never mind), Yellow Transparent, and Zestar. In a normal year, if there is such a thing, most of these would not be available until early August.

A seasonal import from Argentina, Autumn Greeting, also made a brief appearance in mid July, though these had not been handled carefully and some were the worse for wear.

It's tempting to dismiss these first-of-the season apples--after the first joyful rush of gratitude at tasting something local and fresh and real--as substandard substitutes for high-season favorites. This is certainly justified for Jersey Mac and her kin, but I have come to appreciate some of these varieties and even miss them once they are done.

They are tricky, with short seasons and each with the shelf life of a mayfly, but catch a Vista Bella or Yellow Transparent at the right moment and you will see what I mean.

You can also read What to Eat in July.


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