Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Finding your apple

A reader asks,

I just have one simple question where can I buy Russet Apples, NOT the tree the actual apples.

You could swap in almost any variety for this request. One fellow wrote to me three times asking if I could ship Baldwin and Northern Spy apples to him, and would I like his credit-card number. (Needless to say, I do not grow apples--I just eat them.)

Russets are great apples, a whole continent of taste (and great keepers), but out of fashion today because of their appearance. They'll be in season in a few weeks.

The apple industry is dominated by a few varieties, the ones you see in supermarkets year round.

These can be good, but I cheer when others take the trouble to find any of the 7,000 or so other varieties of the fruit. Variety is the spice of life, and besides some of these less-famous apples are real gems.

They are typically only available in season from the growers at their farms or at green markets. The good news is that the season is now.

I was able to refer my reader to an orchard in her area. But I am not, and do not seek to be, an encyclopedia of apple farms. The Internet is your friend, and once you have located orchards near you, call and ask for what you want. Many fruit farms, especially older ones, have a few heirloom trees but may not advertise them.

I have found many interesting varieties at farmers' markets. These served to introduce me to the farmers; visits to their orchards often yield further delights.

However you do it, I commend to you the hunt for apples, especially this time of year. It will, if you allow, nourish your palate, your stomach, and your spirit.

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