Friday, December 31, 2010

Black Oxford *

Not the shoe and not the fabric, today's fruit is named for its unusual deep color and a county in western Maine.

It is small and quite dark, spattered with rust-colored lenticels like some polished victorian curio of exotic hardwood or stone.

The blush is a deep red with purple overtones, almost mahogany, sometimes described as having a blackish bloom. The apple is slightly ribbed and classically shaped, round to conical. Its unbroken peel has a faint grassy smell.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Unnatural selection

The apple thought of the day must surely be this one, about Hawkeye's slow evolution into Red Delicious:

More than 30 mutations later, we have an apple that’s gotten redder and redder, with lots of emphasis on an elongated conic nose.... The ones in a supermarket could be as much as a year old, and they’ve had quite a journey.... So when you bite into one, you’re often disappointed.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Esopus Spitzenberg

I snagged a small bag of these elusive apples this year and a few were in pretty good shape.

So while I am keeping my original review in place (of an imperfect sample), here are tasting notes based on fresher fruit.

Esopus Spitzenberg is attractive: large and classically shaped with prominent ribs and a slightly conical profile. The red blush has a matte finish and runs from various shades of true red to orange to the underlying yellow. Many large irregular tan lenticels accentuate the shape.

Esopus has a lovely old-fashioned cidery smell with a whiff of spice.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Apples on the Web: My Grandpap's Apple Orchard

John Henderson, a farmer and social-sciences librarian at Ithaca College (New York), shares three generations of apple lore and memories at My Grandpap's Apple Orchard.

This no-frills web site succeeds on several levels: as a catalog of apple descriptions, a collection of memories and stories, and an an impressive and well organized collection of links, categorized with a librarian's sensibility.

Henderson's farm includes both a small new orchard and "remnants from a much older apple orchard now part of a mixed deciduous woods." On a parallel web site he describes those apples in terms of physical and growing characteristics, and also ratings from various historical sources, meticulously documented.

Back at Grandpap's, the apple descriptions are layered, being Henderson's account not just of the apples in his grandfather's Pennsylvania orchard but also of what his grandfather and other family members thought of them. These are all as viewed though the lense of Henderson's father's memories, adding a patina of family tradition to these descriptions and stories.

Anyone lonesome for apples in the winter months could do worse than to graze here, or among the many interesting links.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Suncrisp **

In October, Phil's pitches these as tasting like Macoun. They are very different apples, yet I can see parallels. Both are excellent and have floral overtones in their respective flavors.

As a bonus, Suncrisp is a great late-season keeper to hold and eat in December.

This large medium-sized apple, conical and slightly ribbed, is mostly a light spring green, the hues shifting through various shades to nearly yellow.

The blush is a translucent red wash, rendered a bit orange and dull by the peel color behind it.

Suncrisp has irregular lenticels rough with russet and is nice and firm if you squeeze one.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Roll Call

The apple-blogging niche is not crowded, but things change and people come and go.

Here is where things stand at the end of 2010.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Winter Banana **

Besides the blush, this apple is really two-toned: a banana yellow (sure enough) tinged a little with green, and a distinctly green-yellow hue. Flecked with brown lenticels, the resemblance to the long tropical fruit is clear, if not necessarily obvious.

The blush is small, a light pink whose translucency, over the yellow, makes a peachy orange. The general effect is striking.

The apple runs medium to large and is ribbed and slightly conical. The skin is naturally waxy. A week off the tree it is firm and has a sweet grassy fragrance.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ananas Reinette *

"Ananas" is "pineapple" in French. This small-to-medium variety is ribbed and conical.

I selected the apple for today's photoshoot for its striking lime-green stripes over a lighter spring green. However, some other samples have distinctly yellow regions, and one has a pale orange blush over one third of its surface.

The lenticels are dark green, though much less prominent in the blush, and the apple is quite firm. It has no scent.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Apples of November (2010)

The local apple season starts with a thin trickle in July and slowly builds to its October climax.

In November things drop off the edge of a cliff.

This year the end of the harvest felt particularly abrupt. At those few farmers markets that continue past Halloween, pickings were slim compared to last year, when you could buy Blushing Goldens the day before Thanksgiving.

I chalk this up to the vagaries of the harvest, from this year's odd Spring to Fall's windstorms. I wonder how long the Macouns will last in supermarkets this winter.

Treasures were few this month, and if you are reading this wondering what to buy in some future November I refer you to the guide I wrote last year.