Friday, September 24, 2010

Gray Pearmain *

Gray Pearmain is a medium-to-medium-large apple, oblate with barely any ribbing. Its peel is a pale yellow with regions of pale yellow-green. The closest thing to a blush is a small rosy tinge.

My tasting samples bear many inconsequential marks of Nature's affection: russet, fly speck, sooty blotch, and other imperfections. The fruit feels firm with a faint promising fruity aroma.

The Gray Pearmain's flesh is crisp and firm, a coarse pale white. Its flavors are nicely balanced though on the sweet side of that range, something like a russet but without the lemony acidity. There are honey and pear, something like an Asian Pear, and a kiss of vanilla. These are subtle and mild.

This delicate, elegant apple is a pentimento of a gentler age that should appeal to many tastes both callow and sophisticated. Kudos to Hutchins Farm for growing it. I nibbled mine down to the seeds.

There is surprisingly little information about this apple on the web. It is mentioned in agricultural publications of the late 19th and early 20th century. The oldest of these seems to be of the Maine Pomological Society in 1885; others include West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The database of the National (UK) Fruit Collection holds no Gray (or, to be Anglo, Grey) Pearmain, so perhaps this is a purely American variety.

It is not, as a reader of this blog once asked, the Pomme Gris, a russet apple with origins in Quebec or perhaps France. I suspect it is not McAfee or Gray Pippin either. It is its own gray self, and you'd be a fool not try it if ever you can.


  1. Hello,
    I finally found several heirloom apple varieties yesterday. My first taste-off was between Blue Pearmain (which looks just like your photo of same) and Gray Pearmain (from Hutchins Farm). The former were fairly small. Going from the blue to the gray, I slightly preferred they gray. They both had an interesting burst of flavor as one started to chew them. Going from gray to blue, I leaned even more strongly toward the gray. It was wonderful and interestingly different. I need to get more of them, in spite of their imperfections.

    More taste-offs today.

    Jean B.

    1. Jean, what an interesting pairing.

      I can well believe that Gray would overwhelm Blue in a face-off like this, but I still hold that the Blue Pearmain is worthy and interesting on its own.

      It really has some singular qualities and I like to have a few every year.

    2. Hi again, Adam. Yes, I decided that I would not eliminate the Blue Pearmain on that basis because I was also impressed with it until I went from the Gray Pearmain to the Blue Pearmain. The Blue Pearmain was simply overwhelmed by the Gray.

      Thus far, the Gray remains my favorite, but my taste-offs are ongoing. As I say this, I also am now wondering whether this is a meaningful exercise. I had an interesting conversation with John at Hutchins in which I learned that different soils, amount of rainfall, etc. affect the taste of the apples. (I had observed this with other fruit.) So, I am wondering whether my rankings this year will change in subsequent years.

      Okay, I have babbled enough for now.

      Jean B.

    3. Jean, apple quality also depends on when harvested, seasonal conditions, and other factors.

      I get around this by seeking each variety's "peak" eating qualities: best Macoun, best Blue Pearmain etc., but as you can imagine sometimes the data are thin.

      Also some apples are more reliably great than others. It's hard to get a really good Sweetango, for instance, but the good ones are really good.

      It's just another dimension of apple quality.


Join the conversation! We'd love to know what you think.