Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Calibrating the stars

For the third February since I introduced my system of rating apples with stars (1, 2, or 3), I am making some adjustments.

I find it best to add and revise ratings once a year rather than continuously, and it give me something to do in the dark months.

Today is the astronomical heart of winter, exactly half way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.

The changes mostly involve adding apples I tasted for the first time last year. Some of these varieties are quite old, but still new to me.

There have been 17 such since last February.

However, the first apple to earn stars is not one of those. It is Holstein, which I first tasted and reviewed in 2009.

Unfortunately, I neglected to apply the "apple review" label to that report, which meant I lost track of it as a reviewed apple. Think of it as a filing error! I noticed the problem last fall.

Today Holstein belatedly earns the star I should have awarded when I inaugurated ratings in 2012.

Stars also (one each) to Barnack Beauty, Lemonade, Mother, Smitten, Starkey, Tydeman's Early Worcester, Virginia Beauty, and York Imperial.

One star is "worth choosing;" two are "worth seeking." This year one new apple earned that distinction, well-flavored Sweet Winter Pennock.

Any of these might be revised next year based on further experience. Two that won no laurels but that might deserve them are promising Ramsdell Sweet and surprising Razor Russet.

I just didn't have the best samples, sorry to say, but I refuse to praise on spec.

Similarly, one-star newcomers Starkey, Virginia Beauty, and Mother might credibly deserve 2 stars at peak. I'm just not in a position to say based on experience.

However, I stand on firm ground in promoting one-star Stayman to two this year, making this apple one of 47 doubletons.

This reassessment is based mostly on a greater appreciation of that apple's keeping qualities. I think it improves in storage.

There are no new 3-star apples this year, but I am as stingy with those ("worth a quest") as I am generous with single stars.

The tally now stands at 106 one-star apples, 47 with two, and just 5 with three.

221 Apples by Rating

I've sampled 63 other cultivated apple varieites that are, mostly, not bad at all but that do not rate any stars.

The ratings, as I'd hoped, attract attention. I like to think that the stars open a door or two for people to find some new things to eat.

I'll be revising the reviews for these newly stellated apples over the next few days to reflect their new status.

The site may be active and disorganized while I do that, and subscribers (sorry!) may see some related activity.


  1. I think we need an applause track or drum roll at certain parts of this article. It was great! I was particularly excited to see the upgrade on Stayman. I have never tried it but hope to this year as it was grafted onto my tree a while back.

    1. Matt, I hope you enjoy the Staymans. I liked them best in November and December.


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