Saturday, December 26, 2009

Apples on the Web: Apples of New York

Set the Wayback Machine to 1905 and put your finger on the pomological pulse of New York and the world.

The New York State Department of Agriculture has just published the latest edition of The Apples of New York, including detailed descriptions of every variety then grown in the Empire State (regardless of place of origin).

Today, this work is out of print, in the public domain, digitized, and online.

Look in vain for modern favorites, but thrill to descriptions of lost flavors of yesteryear.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Black Gilliflower

The Black Gilliflower is a large medium apple, ribbed and very conical, of which more below. The "Black" in its name refers to the color, which can be a striking deep shade of red if allowed to mature. On my sample this blush covers most of the fruit, except for one streaky segment. I also note a very deep stem well.

Many small irregular light lenticels decorate the upper half, and there are a few small patchy streaks of russet. The apple has a sweet cidery smell.

I got this apple late in the year and was not very surprised to find that it was well past its prime. However, I am disappointed. The dry flesh--white, fine-grained--was granular, headed towards mealy. I almost declined to review, but instead will post this and then, perhaps, will have a chance to write a new review of a fresher sample some fine Fall day.

Black Gilliflower's flavor is balanced and mild, with notes of sweet corn and grass. The latter is perhaps from the peel, which is not all all bitter.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Don't just take my word for it

I said King Luscious was big, but see for yourself.

His Royal Hugeness looms left; at right is the merely large Macoun, Queen of Autumn. Both flank Wickson just for grins.

My King Lush was a full twelve inches around--one foot--and even when you divide by pi that's pretty impressive.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Northwest Greening

Today's apple runs medium-large-by-large, a yellow-green sphere with slightly raised lenticels, some russeted to brown.

Some of these apples have a small faint rosy blush, and my tasting sample has a dramatic splash of russet spilling out from the stem well.

Northwest Greening's calyx is open and shallow, and the firm unbroken fruit has a very faint sweet aroma scented with pear.

The flesh, a very light yellow with green highlights, is medium fine-grained and a bit dry. It's crisp and dense, with a little give to the tooth. I don't think Northwest Greening is primarily an eating apple.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Where to find local apples in December

For some of us I gather this is not a trick question. However, I live in New England, and mine are in my refrigerator.

I took a little census earlier today. and here's what I have left:

Fifteen russets 
Five Blushing Goldens 
One American Beauty 
Four Cox's Orange Pippins 

The Cox's, which I picked at the end of September, have hung in longest of all and are still quite good.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Golden Russet Cider

In season, Bolton Orchards (map) presses this elegant varietal sweet cider from the Golden Russet.

This clear amber liquid is surely filtered, although the label only notes that the cider is UV pasteurized and has a little preservative added. There is absolutely no residue, and the cider is as transparent as filtered apple juice.

This cider's flavor and aroma are both sweet, light, and with strong pear notes. Had someone told me this was pear juice I'd have believed it.

Compared to regular pressed cider, GR cider is lighter and milder, as its appearance suggest. Like other cider, however, it is best served cold to mute an intense sweetness that would otherwise cloy.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

King Luscious *

The overwhelming impression is size. King Luscious looms like a hulking gas giant in the apple firmament. (Update: More on his size here.)

Certainly his color is not terribly distinguishing, a streaky, somewhat dull red over yellow green. The green of the skin in the stem well is bright and saturated like that of Granny Smith.

King Luscious is decorated with many small light lenticels and has no aroma. He sits firm and heavy in my hand.

Due to His Majesty's girth, I did not follow my usual habit of just nibbling away down to the core. Instead, I sectioned the King with a knife.

King Luscious has wonderfully crisp flesh, halfway between fine-grained and coarse, of a light buttery yellow color. His juicy breaking crunch is very satisfying and unusual for this time of year.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What to eat in December

The season is all but over in my part of the world, where "what to eat" is a question of (1) what keepers you've already stockpiled, plus (2) what you choose to buy at supermarkets.

A few orchards, however, are still selling what they have left, on winter hours. If you get the chance, you might still be able to stockpile some good keepers for the month. Here's my report on how some of them fared last winter.

Phil's, in Harvard, was still picking apples the week of Thanksgiving, though I don't imagine that will go on much longer. He will have his excellent unpasteurized cider, and crisp sturdy Enterprise apples, available through December.

This time of year I extend my love affair with fragile Macoun at the supermarkets. The quality can be very good. In the past markets have sold this variety, professional stored, through early February; we'll see what happens this winter.

I have also already seen lovely Ambrosia for sale. Whatever you buy, apples from the Northern hemisphere will be freshest this time of year.

Update: Here's a report on what was good in December.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Wickson ***

"Is that a really tiny apple or a really big cherry?"--my daughter's reaction to Wickson, which is either a small apple or a large crab.

With its bright saturated red blush (over a yellow not unlike that of a Rainier cherry), round, slightly elongated shape, and long stem, this small apple bears more than a passing resemblance to that fruit. Its skin is glossy and the small fruit is firm.

Wickson has coarse light-yellow flesh that is juicy and wonderfully crisp. It is well-balanced, tartness predominating but tempered by sugar, and with distinct malt-sugar notes.

This is not a flavor I have encountered in any other apple and I wonder what kind of cider these would produce.

In any case they make an excellent snack, full of snap and spice—but each is just a few bites. I found myself gnawing every eatable scrap of these little gems.

Trees of Antiquity says that Wickson was named for a famous California pomologist, and that it is indeed a "perfect cider apple."

Vintage Virginia Apples, among other sources, says that Wickson is bred from Newtown Pippin and Esopus Spitzenberg, two wonderful antique varieties. This was an inspired cross. (Update: But see this comment below).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ida Red *

Ida fire-engine Red is decorated with light yellow-green lenticels of varying size. The arresting blush covers the entire fruit, through it grows streaky around the base and my sample has russet in the stem well.

Ida is a large medium fruit, globular with just a little ribbing. Unbroken she is firm in my hand.

Her creamy-white flesh is on the fine side of coarse-grained, crisp though a little tender, and juicy. The balance is pleasantly tart, with sugar lurking underneath. Vinous and spicy flavors, and an astringent finish, combine to make Ida Red bracing and refreshing. There is also a hint of melon.

Ida Red, a Jonathan-Wagener cross, is a product of the University of Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station, introduced in 1942. Many sources say it is good for pies and applesauce.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


J.R.R. Tolkien's elves divided the year into six seasons, not four. Between autumn and winter came fading, an ebb in the tide of nature.
Halfway between the cross-quarter day of Samhain (Halloween) and Yule, the trees at Nagog Hill Orchard stand bleak and bare under a gray November sky, so very different than that of early fall.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Apples on the Web: Heirlooms in the Ark

Slow Food USA identifies 129 heirloom apple varieties for its Ark of Taste, from American Beauty (reviewed here) to Yeats.

This is an interesting catalog, including may photos, and I should like to taste every one of them. Unfortunately, there are detailed descriptions of only a few of the selected varieties (seven at this writing), and no simple way to find them!

Until now, that is. Links below:

Capitol Reef
Granite Beauty
Harrison Cider
Hauer Pippin
Newtown Pippin
Sierra Beauty

To make matters more confusing, not all of these seven are on the list of 129.

Slow Food USA, like its international counterpart, promotes local food, biodiversity, and appreciation of good things to eat.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hudson's Golden Gem *

If your idea of a russet apple is small and round, meet Hudson's Golden Gem.

These conical apples are medium to medium-large and obviously ribbed. The russetting, like that of other varieties, is a treat to look at: rusty, toasty brown and not entirely opaque, creating subtly shifting colors wonderfully variegated.

Green-brown lenticels, some with light specks in their centers (more russet?), provide further visual interest. Some samples have a bit of coppery blush. The firm fruit has a sweet smell of grass and yeast.

Hudson's flesh is firm but tender, coarse, pale yellow, and juicy. The texture is pear-like, though not melting, and the flavor suggest that of a Bosc. The mild flavor favors sweet, with strong pear notes, a faint nutty quality, and a hint of vanilla. Its flesh oxidizes quickly.

This variety is very pleasant and easy to eat. Even for those with conservative tastes, Hudson would make a change of pace that is easy to appreciate.

The Golden Gem hales from Oregon in the 1930s.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


On the small side of medium, this cheerful yellow variety recalls both Red and Golden Delicious. Coville has the exaggerated ribbed and tapered profile of the former and the color and dark lenticels of the latter, from which it surely must be descended.

Some have a small slight blush, rosy orange. At the base a circle of bumps surrounds an open calyx. These bruise easily and have a lush sweet aroma.

Coville's flesh is a very coarse-grained light yellow, and almost impossibly juicy. Indeed the flesh of both of my tasting samples is marbled with veins so saturated with juice as to be translucent, the beginings of water core. I cannot imagine that this variety would be good for cooking.

All Coville's juice is mild and sweet, with just a hint of tartness to liven things up. There is a hint of Golden Delicious's honey, and a tiny suggestion of melon. All these flavors are mild, light, attenuated, and eminently accessible.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ever fresh?

A fellow apple fanatic emailed me recently about a rot- and pest-resistant apple that will stay crisp and fresh for two weeks at room temperature.

Breeding will out, and the new variety has great genes, according to its patent.

Horticulturalists tout the fruit's green potential to save growers money while avoiding the need for pesticides and energy-intensive storage.

But--and excuse me for asking this--how does it taste?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pip pip

A pair of apple seeds from a Cox's Orange Pippin, November 2009.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fortune *

Today's pick is a pretty apple, medium-sized, lobed, and conical, with a blush that is deep red where saturated and studded with tiny light lenticels. It has no aroma that I can smell.

Fortune is part of the McIntosh family, and looks it, so I was surprised that its flesh is a light yellow, on the coarse side. (One sample's flesh had a green tint.) It is nicely crisp and juicy but with a little tenderness, and its peel is quite chewy: I imagine this variety travels well.

The apple's flavor is also a little unexpected. It is well balanced and generally rich, with a hint of melon and spice, but initially some tartness presents itself and overcomes everything else. Be patient, however--the fading aftertaste is sweeter and holds a little mango and tangerine. When even that has faded attend carefully and you will be rewarded with some distinct, if distant, cantaloupe.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Photos of Kazakh Apples

A vigilant reader provides a link to this BBC photo essay of apples in Kazakhstan, where the fruit originated and still grows wild.

Thanks, ascorbic!

A friend who has been there tells me of fabulous, huge Kazakh apples--not the ur-apples in ascorbic's link, but maybe shown here, and mentioned in this companion news story.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Turbo-charged apple trees

Matt Gunderson, writing in last week's Boston Globe, describes an experiment in high-density apple farming at Shelburne Farm and ten other orchards in Massachusetts.

According to the UMass Extension Program, this technique entails using dwarf rootstock and training, rather than pruning, to direct tree vigor into the production of fruit rather than wood. Trees are small and close together, and very high yielding; furthermore they produce earlier, and yield larger fruit. Gunderson describes, for example,

a 1.5-pound honey crisp specimen - the size of a small pumpkin - from the new orchard.

Acromegalic Honeycrisps? I admit to mixed feelings about that.

But I am glad to see apple journalism in my newspaper, and this seems to be the season: the Globe also published a recipe for apple cider sorbet. Yum!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Winesap **

This antique variety--more than 200 years old--is beloved, even legendary. It has a wonderful name, at once old (think Nodhead or Hubbardston Nonesuch) and new (Honeycrisp, Jazz).

I have never tasted one before, so you can imagine my keen interest.

I am holding a large, classically shaped apple with a red blush, both saturated and streaky, over yellow green, a little on the dull side. Light lenticels, mostly at the bottom, decorate the blush; they are barely visible elsewhere.

There's some ribbing and, on my sample, flyspeck. Its calyx is closed, but not tightly, and it sits firm in my hand, with a faint cidery aroma.

Biting into this apple for the first time reveals dense white flesh with a faint yellow cast, medium-fine grained and crunchy crisp. Winesap's flavor is surprisingly mild, neither tart nor sweet. Perhaps this why I am able to notice a nutty taste, though it is not a strong flavor.

Monday, November 2, 2009

What to eat in November

From October's explosive bounty, the transition to November is stark.

One week there might be nearly a score of choices at the market. Next week the harvest is in, the apples are picked, and the market is closed until June.*

There are still late season choices, at orchards, in supermarkets, and at the farmers markets (mostly in cities) that remain open. Not everything has been picked, and much of what has been picked keeps well.

Early November is also a chance for a last bite at varieties that don't do well in storage, at least not the storage that you or I can provide. Sometime this month the quality of the Macouns in supermarkets, industrially stored, will surpass that of those available from the farmers who grew them.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Coromandel Red (Knottenbelt Red, Coradel) *

With its cherry-red blush, tapered profile, and prominent light lenticels, today's photo suggests nothing less than an enormous strawberry.

Coromandel is a medium-large apple, ribbed and conical. The lenticels are rough and slightly extruded, providing an unusual tactile sensation.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Westfield Seek-No-Further **

This variety wins a spot in my unwritten list of especially marvelous apple names. It came my way courtesy of a generous reader.

Specifically, Seek-No-Further reached me via U.S. mail, carefully packed, eight scarred apples of small-medium size. Each has a ruddy red blush, streaky over green yellow, and an oblate shape that is ever-so-slightly ribbed. There is a dull brownish bloom, which is not terribly attractive (it washes off), and large light lenticels that are widely spaced.

My samples display many superficial defects, from fly speck to what I take to be sooty blotch, and even a few small holes that may be caused by insects. (Click here or on the photo for a warts-and-all close up.) There's a little russeting in the usual places--the stem well and some of the lenticels.

I brave these for you, gentle reader, and also because they are really no big deal.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

American Beauty (Sterling) *

Today's apple grew in the same orchard where this variety was first discovered one hundred and fifty years ago.

American Beauty, large, round, and ribbed, has a dark red blush, sometimes streaky, over yellow green. Russet, rough to the touch, gives this fruit a sandblasted aspect. Lenticels are light, on the large side, and numerous.

My apple feels quite firm and smells of cider.

It takes a little effort to bite into the Beauty's dense, juicy flesh, which is medium coarse and the color of light yellow cream. Her flavor is delicately sweet, with hints of refined sugar; there are some generic floral and (nearly) vinous qualities too. Despite her size and heft, American Beauty is light and delicate.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Gray Apple Riddle

A reader asks whether another name for Pomme Gris is "Grey Pearmain."

My answer follows, but if you know better, drop us a line in the comments.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A fresh Empire

Available nearly year round, this durable variety is a personal mainstay in the winter and spring, when they are shipped from controlled-atmosphere storage to the supermarkets.

I've already reviewed Empire, but since I eat so many of these felt I should, for once, try one fresh from the orchard.

That's the story of today's apple: the grower picked it, put it in a wooden bin with its brothers, and drove it to Arlington's farmer's market on October 7. I bought it and ate it, as follows.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Great Maine Apple Day

This year's annual celebration and exploration of apples in the state of Maine is this Saturday the 24th.

The event is sponsored by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, in Unity, Maine.

Activities include cooking workshops, apple and cider tastings, an expert panel (to identify your mystery varieties), and the fellowship and good cheer that ripens where apple lovers gather.

Thanks to Kenn for this information!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Roxbury Russet *

A local apple—Roxbury today is part of Boston—these are medium to medium-large and only partly rusetted over spring green.

Some have a coppery blush. The patchy russet is a grey brown and the underlying colors show through a little.

Roxbury's lenticels are small and often rusetted; some are larger and slightly raised. My samples run from ribbed to slightly ribbed, with a closed calyx, and are quite firm in hand.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Liberty **

This medium-sized apple has a splotchy, streaky blush that is quite a deep purplish red in places; the unblushed skin is a light yellow-green. It is slightly ribbed.

The lenticels are tiny, sparse, white, and insignificant, and there is a good deal of harmless flyspeck, perhaps because this apple grew on an organic farm.

The apple has a sweet vinous smell mixed with cider.

Liberty's flesh is wonderfully crisp, a fine-grained white tinged with creamy yellow. Its flavor is similarly light and crisp, with a good balance of sweet and tart but distinct citrus notes, like melon with lemon. There is a little bit of a vinous quality, and some depth, though nothing like a McIntosh or Macoun. Liberty is a very refreshing and enjoyable apple.

Liberty was bred by that apple powerhouse, the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, from Macoun and a noncommercial variety. This variety resists disease, making it a good choice for an organic farm, but its lively flavor commends it at least as much as its vitality.

More on Liberty from its breeders here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Splendour (Splendor)

This apple is on the large side of medium, ribbed and conical. Its coloring is subtle, a dull faint pink blush over light green, with green lenticels.

Splendour's flesh is quite crisp and medium-fine-grained, white tinged with green, and juicy. Bites chunk off satisfyingly.

The flavor is balanced with a very little vanilla caramel, and is slightly vinous, though these flavors are mostly generic. This is a pleasant apple that is easy to eat. There is a slightly metallic aftertaste that does not linger.

Trees of Antiquity says that this variety is also know as Starksplendor and is a late-season apple. If so, my samples were early, but did not taste green. I bought mine on September 24 at Arlington's Farmers Market.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Buffalo nickel

They stopped making these in 1938. This one was minted in 1923, a year before my mother was born.

You could buy an apple for a nickel back then. Baldwin was still the most popular apple in America.

These coins were growing scarce when I was a kid. I remember being amazed when I got one in change back in the 1980s.

So today I bought some of apples, including some promising heirlooms, from Volante Farms. (You have to love this time of year.) I gave the man a ten and got back a single and some change, including this guy.

How many of these are still in circulation? What are the odds?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Spartan *

This medium-sized apple, bought at farmers market on September 30, has a glossy deep red blush that is half saturated and half washed out. Lenticels add a sparse decoration of tiny light spots, and one of my tasting samples has a few crackles of russet on the skin.

Spartan's flesh is medium-fine-grained and white with yellow highlights. It is very crisp and juicy, sweet with just a little tempering tartness. The even flavor is slightly vinous, with floral notes and a little spice, recalling its McIntosh parent. It is sweeter than Empire, which it somewhat resembles.

If McIntosh or Macoun is too tart for your tastes, you might give refreshing Spartan a try.

The product of a breeding program in Western Canada, Spartan was introduced in 1936. It is a cross between McIntosh and a variety that is unknown (other than not being Newtown Pippin, according to Wikipedia.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Brogdale and the National Fruit Collection

It's been nearly a year since I briefly described the searchable catalog of apples in the National (UK) Fruit Collection.

This database profiles nearly 2,000 apple varieties, the most extensive available online. It had been hosted by Brogdale Farm, in Kent.

Since then, Brogdale and the Collection have reached a new relationship. The National Fruit Collection, including the catalog, is today curated and administered by the University of Reading.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Suncrisp (but early)

The growers around here seem to harvest Suncrisp in mid to late October. All but Nagog Hill Farm, who had these for sale on September 19. I asked about this, to be told, Just let them sit for a few days.

I waited a week, but I'm not convinced these were really ready to eat. Read and judge for yourself.

This variety runs to large medium, conical, ribbed, and very firm. The skin is rougher than most, and bright green, with a pale pink blush that covers about 20% of my sample. There is a crown of russet radiating from the stem well, and tiny faint lenticels are all but invisible.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What to eat in October

October roars in like a pride of lions--at least in terms of the breadth of choice in what you can pick or buy at the orchard, farmstand, or farmers market. By Halloween, however, the riot of choices will have dwindled.

In the mean time, enjoy!

McIntosh and Macoun, king and queen of autumn, belong at the top of any list of apples to buy this month, at least in the Northeast. Indeed these beauties are at peak now, depending on where you live.

What are you waiting for?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Burgundy *

True to its name, this handsome apple has a very deep purplish-red blush, accented with light lenticels. The apple itself is a large medium of classical shape with just a suggestion of ribbing.

The blush on my sample is its full deep saturated color over half of the apple, and the rest is light and streaky. The only unblushed skin, in the stem well, is a light and vibrant green.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

One perfect apple

Yesterday I pedaled out to Nagog Hill Orchard in Littleton. This is an agreeably bare-bones pick-your-own place, but of course you can buy by the pound and they have a lot of trees and varieties from which to chose.

There's not a lot of room in my bike bag and I only bought one, a Macoun. The woman behind the table helpfully offered a paper towel to protect the apple, a nice thing to do because Macouns bruise easily.

By the time I got to Bedford all the little jostles and jounces had rubbed that apple inside the paper towel to fine polished perfection. I did not pick the apple with looks in mind, especially, but it was one pretty specimen, tapered, lobed, and glossy, with lenticel freckles seeming to rise from the base of the apple like bubbles in a champaign glass.

Sorry, I did not have my camera with me, and besides sometimes you just have to go with the flow and enjoy.

Exercise and appetite make the best sauce, but this was about the most perfect apple I can remember, each bite a crunchy chunk of balanced flavors soaring in a vinous sea.

Consider this the best time to get your hands on some Macouns; they are at their peak, at least around here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sansa *

This conical, medium-sized apple has a light red-pink blush over a bright green yellow peel. Its "ribs" are apparent in the photo. The blush has two discrete parts, a light translucent pink and a more-saturated orange red. There is some russet on the blush and in the stem well. Lenticels are dark, and the apple has a faint sweet smell.

Sansa's flesh is light, crisp, white, and coarse, with a delicate crunch. Its flavor is generally sweet, but washed out, with a little tempering tartness. Hints of sugared grapefruit, cane sugar, and grapes add interest.

Refreshing, light Sansa makes a great palate cleanser, or have two for a snack. This variety was fresh at the start of September.

CF Fresh (now called "Vivaterra," for goodness sakes) had an entertaining account of how this variety, a modern Akane-Gala cross, was first bred.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Milton *

Excellent Milton is a medium large apple with a blush that runs to a deep red over a green yellow. Its many irregular lenticels are a darker green (though not in this photo--see below).

The fruit is classically shaped with just a little ribbing, and there are some minor scratches that look like fine lines of russet. It has a faint grassy smell.

Milton's flesh is firm and crisp, a fine-grained snowy white. The flavor suggests a sweeter McIntosh (one of Milton's parents, with White Transparent): balanced and somewhat vinous, with berry notes. There is also whiff of citrus and spice. This is a very satisfying snack in season.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Chestnut Crabapple **

"Ugly, but sweet," said the sign for these little gems at Farmers market.

Ugly? I beg to differ.

These small ribbed apples have an orange red blush over yellow, with light green lenticels. My three tasting samples are each different. One is mostly blush, and one is mostly russet (with little blush). Today's photo showcases the one with some of everything.

"Striking" I would say. "Not airbrushed barbie-doll perfect," I grant you. But ugly? Click here (or on the photo) for the close up and say that.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pristine **

This striking small medium fruit is light yellow with light green lenticels. It is ribbed and has little bumps, or "chins," around the calyx. My sample has some russet in the stem well and a mellow aroma that suggests pear and Golden Delicious.

Pristine's flesh is tender with a little snap, a coarse light yellow. The balance tends towards tart, with lemon, pear, and vinegar notes. These pretty little apples taste as bright as they look. There's a nice astringent finish. I think Pristine would make a sophisticated accent in a salad of greens.

According to the breeders of this apple, Pristine ripens a full month (or more) before I bought mine on September 2. I'd like to to try these right off the tree some year.

Update: I did and they are great; details here.

Further Update:
I now rate these at two stars, "worth seeking."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Jonamac *

Bonus question first: With the name "Jonamac," what could the two parents of this apple be? This variety is a straightforward blend of many of Jonathan's and McIntosh's fine qualities, with an emphasis on the Mac.

Jonamac has a streaky dull red blush over a bright spring green, decorated with light lenticels. It is medium large and ribbed. My sample is slightly conical and wears a few spots of flyspeck.

Its flesh is white and medium-dense, with both crunch and juice. A good sweet-tart balance sets up a pleasing vinous effect, with berries and a little spice, and some real depth.

Despite my posting date, this is an early apple—I bought mine on September 2. This Jonathan-McIntosh cross is very successful at bringing some Mac-like flavors at the start of the season.

Update: A reader says my sample is really too early and that Jonamac peaks around the end of September.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Redfree (Red Free)

The name refers to this apple's (a) color and (b) resistance to disease and general ease of care.

Red Free is a classically shaped apple, ribbed and medium large. Its red blush ranges from streaky to saturated over light yellow green. This coloring is decorated with faint light lenticels. Its calyx is clenched tight.

Red has white juicy flesh more dense than coarse, crisp but not breaking. Its flavors are mild, balanced, and light. A slightly vinous quality adds interest.

The official name is Redfree, as bestowed by the cooperative apple breeding program of Illinois, Indiana and New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Stations. The colloquial two-word version is also used.

Red is that rarity, an early apple and a good keeper. I suspect my sample was at least a month off the tree when I bought it in New York City on September 2. It would have been crisper in early August, but is not bad a month later. Still I'd be inclined to pass it over at the start of September, when so many interesting choices abound.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Big Apple

We spent last week in New York City--not for the apples but, happily, apples there were.

New York is a great enough city to draw all good things to it; moreover it sits near farms and orchards in the fertile Hudson Valley, Long Island, and New Jersey.

Travelers who want to touch the land and lives of the places they visit could do worse than to visit markets where local food is sold.

Monday, September 7, 2009

What to eat in September

September is a transition month. Some orchards don't grow any early apples. But by the end of the month high season is well underway.

Some of last month's picks are still in season. I was surprised to find some good Gravensteins at Nagog Hill Orchard yesterday, and there are Gingergolds and Zestars.

I also look forward to finding more Tydeman's, reviewed last week, and handsome, elegant Opalescent, one of my favorites from last September.

The big event of September, however, has to be the debut of Macintosh and Macoun, two magnificent apples with rival fan clubs. (You can compare them side by side and judge for yourself.)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Tydeman's Michaelmass Red *

Large, ribbed, and lobed, this cross of McIntosh and Worcester Pearmain wears a red blush over spring green, with many light lenticels visible in the blush. One sample is lopsided, with odd lobes and scars; the other more regular and with russet radiating from the stem well.

Tydeman's flesh is tender crisp, a dense white with green highlights. It is sweet with tart, faintly vinous, with suggestions of light maple syrup and cider (see below) and delicate hints of unripe melon and caramel. This is an elegant apple with subtle flavors; it goes down easily. The chewy peel is not unpleasant.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Duchess of Oldenburg

Today's variety, Duchess of Oldenburg, runs medium-sized with a pinkish blush in pronounced streaks over yellow green. The apples are ribbed and wear many green lenticels a little darker than the skin. My tasting sample has a little russet in the stem well, and her calyx is closed.

The Duchess is renowned as a cooking apple, especially if picked a little early (as I suspect mine may have been). But what would you have me do? Suppose I did cook some into a pie (or a pancake). Yummy for me, but there would be no frame of reference to compare these apples with the other sixty-odd varieties I've reviewed.

So I'm just going to stick to my old habits and eat this one raw.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A wonderful old orchard survives

Beautiful Gould Hill Orchard, which had apparently closed for good as the owners prepared to retire, is again open for business under new management.

Gould Hill, in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, grows many heirloom apples. Efforts by the Leadbeater family to sell the farms to a community trust fell through last June. When their web page went dark, it seemed a sure bet that the 80 acres, with their beautiful view, would be chopped up into lots and developed.

What a loss! Gould Hill has been a farm for more than 225 years. The Leadbeaters have run it for the last 70. In addition to such old apples as Hubardston Nonesuch and Ribston and Cox's Orange Pippin, their Hampshire was discovered there. Kearsage grows only at Gould Hill.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Forbidden fruit

With one exception, this blog has been about apples, anchored by my reviews of apple varieties.

It's worth noting, though, that most growers grow other fruit. My favorite farms, maybe yours too, are selling some very fine peaches, plums, and apricots right now.

If the peaches aren't ripe, put them in a paper bag overnight.

Monday, August 3, 2009

What to eat in August

It's still early days for apples, of course, but at least in New England there will be some interesting choices at the markets as early as next week.

I will be on the lookout for four varieties this month.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Vista Bella note

Appreciating the all-too-short Vista Bella season is easy: in July, they are the only game in town.

But these apples would be noteworthy any time of year, and today I found a new taste in Vista Bella's sweet-tart berries-and-wine mix: fake watermelon notes. Not true watermelon, but something very like the artificial watermelon flavor you might find in a child's sweet. (But in a good way!)

I think my previous tasting samples might have been too early off the tree for me to find this flavor.