Saturday, October 26, 2013

Notes on a bumper crop

We won't have final numbers for a month or so, but there has been every sign that this fall's is a blowout apple harvest.

After last year's bad-weather debacle, that is welcome news.

One indicator is prices. Honeycrisp and Macoun commanded $3 a pound last year. Last week I saw both for a third of that.

Economists need look no further for a demonstration of the effects of a growth of supply on price, all else equal.

Similarly, this farm in New York is having a 50¢-a-pound pick-your own weekend:
(Found that one on my stream of orchard tweets.)

Beyond supply and demand, I am seeing some huge apples, McIntoshs and Opalescents that are too big to eat at one sitting.

There is also unprecedented variety at farmers market, including such heritage apples as Ashmead's Kernel (!) and Westfield Seek-No-Further.

The Ashmeads, sadly, were picked at least a week or two early (why do they do that?), but finding one at my local greenmarket is a little like spotting a unicorn in my back yard.

To be sure, finding these treasures at the market also suggests that a healthy interest in heirlooms by both growers and consumers is bearing fruit. Hooray!

Ashmead's Kernel
But a bountiful harvest will naturally push farmers to find new outlets, bringing to market apples that might otherwise just be sold at the orchard.

In supermarkets, I am finally seeing piles of Sweetangos (not at their peakiest peak, but pretty good), and also Ambrosia and Piñata, usually reserved for December and January respectively.

What does all this mean? First of all, this is the week to buy apples. There's not much left on the trees, and many farm stands and markets will shut down after Halloween.

Second, bounty bodes well for the winter. Last year the Macouns gave out early in supermarkets. I reasonably expect to be eating them into February of 2014.

Finally, at a dollar a pound, I hope the farmers are making it up in volume.

6 comments:

  1. Hi Adam!

    Love your blog-- just found it last week when I was looking for more information on the very tasty Sister of Fortune apples from my Boston Organics box. (Turns out I am just one town over from you.) This week we got Fuji, which I've never been a fan of, and Spencer, which to me taste mostly like a slightly tired Macintosh. I may have to actually go shopping. ;-)

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  2. "The Ashmeads, sadly, were picked at least a week or two early (why do they do that?),"

    This is a continual problem for me trying to taste apples in the store. Wicksons and King Davids were in the store a full month before I picked mine. I didn't bother to taste them. I harvested maybe a little late trying to peak sugar and flavor, which resulted in some blemishing, but they sure were good! Golden Russets and ashmeads were barely good from the store, let alone awesome like they should be. So, I've had to ask myself the same question. I think maybe if they are picked sooner, they are in the market sooner. Most farmers are just getting by, so there is an economic incentive. Also, early picked apples hold up longer in storage. Those are my suspicions. Either way, it's sad to see all that potential cut short!

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    1. That was more of a rhetorical question, since it is not hard to understand the economic pressures that farmers face.

      Every day the fruit is on the tree is a day that something could happen to it. Meanwhile the fruit may be green but it still sells.

      The thing that puzzles me is this. Growing Ashmead, which is not so easy, shows some farming panache and well-deserved pride of stewardship.

      So why not let the fruit mature fully?

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  3. I am much more "into" apples this year than I have been in the past, but it seems like we are getting more variety and quality in the local produce-oriented independent grocery stores here on the West Coast. I have had some great Jonathans and Empires here; the Empires had NY stickers, so we're probably also benefitting from the great crop back east even out here in California.

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    1. Empires are mainstays around here through early summer. Funny to think of them as exotic varieties out west.

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