Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thome Empire *

What a pretty color!

Thome is a sport of Empire--a genetic mutation, with but a single parent.

Looks count at the market, so a sport that is redder or prettier than its parent can be valuable.

The fruit is medium to large and ribbed, a slightly elongated sphere. The deep plum-purple blush is decorated by many small light lenticels and a dusty blue bloom. It's nice and firm.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Washington Royal (Palmer Greening) *

The variegated skin of this ironically named antique mixes shades of yellow green and green yellow in an attractive way. You can see what little blush there is, faint spotty brownish orange, in the photo on the tops of the lobes of this ribbed apple.

The lenticels are dark and the peel--see it shine?--is waxy.

This variety is also known as Palmer Greening, which was apparently the more popular name in New England. It is hard to know which name to use today, but it is mostly an academic question, since it is so little grown.

Whatever name, unbroken it is very firm in my hand and has a sweet grassy fragrance.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Jonagored (Jona-Go-Red) *

Jona-gored? Worst name ever, but let's eat it.

This apple is "just" a sport of Jonagold, but is redder and much, much bigger. My sample approached King Luscious territory, and was far from the largest in the bin.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Apple haiku no. 2

From the back roads of Massachusetts at the end of October.

Scent of
apple fades
and trees
fall into
drowsy sleep

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lyscom **

Large and prominently ribbed with distinct lobes, Lyscom has an open calyx and a very shallow stem well. Its blush is a streakey blotchy wash of dull red and purple over green: the effect is almost brown in places.

Large Lyscom unbroken has a sweet grassy aroma and a firm feel.

The flesh is light yellow, moderately crisp, and slightly coarse. Lyscom's flavor is balanced with some tartness, pear at first giving way to some astringent notes: lemon, spice, and a vinous quality.

These assertive flavors may not appeal to the sweet-tooth crowd but Lyscom is fun to eat. Texture, size, and flavors combine with a light acidity to make a refreshing substantial snack.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

November sun

The lovely low light of November's sun kisses the trees at Nagog Farm like a stone skipped over a pond.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


This large, classically shaped apple is visually striking, with a variegated blush (quite deep red in spots, but mostly streaky over yellow) and some unusual effects from russet and other superficial defects.

Of course this sort of thing is the kiss of death in the big-time fruit world, where obsession with physical perfection has been known to compromise quality. But this fruit is from an organic farm and wears its blemishes like dueling scars. I find it ruggedly handsome.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ben Davis

Seldom sought (or grown), obscure Ben Davis is the sire of sturdy stalwart Cortland.

Ben is a big ribbed guy with a streaky red blush over a bright yellow green. The blush is almost granular, like small discrete blobs of pigment washed over a green canvas. His calyx is dry and open.

My sample is nobbed and gnarled and host to a harmless skin condition called sooty blotch. It is quite firm and, unbroken, has a sweet yeasty fragrance.

Ben's flesh is a fine-grained snowy white, not very juicy, and firm but yielding and chewy rather than crunchy. Spongy, even. The flavors are very mild and balanced--there is nothing here to offend anyone--with some delicate floral notes and a cool hint of the vine.

Though pleasant to eat, the dry texture is subpar, and Ben is not going to rock anyone's world. He has all but faded from view.

Jim Cummings has a pretty good story about Ben. It is interesting to contemplate the alchemy that crosses McIntosh with this variety to produce Cortland.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Topaz **

Proposition: Today's apple, crunchy, juicy, and flavorful, is the un-Honeycrisp.

I have two Topaz apples, one medium sized and one quite large. Both are ribbed oblate spheres with an attractive red blush, streaky over a vivid yellow green. Tan lenticels are of varying size. The whole apple is rock hard (but not to the tooth, see below).

Inside is very crisp, very juicy coarse yellow flesh. Despite considerable balancing sugar the flavors are tart with some pleasantly fizzy acidity. The taste is spicy, with hints of corn and grass, and one sample has mineral and brine notes.

Jon Clements, the UMass Extension Fruit Advisor, has recorded this short video about Topaz.

These flavors work very well, and the crisp firm juicy flesh is tops. Still I could not in good conscience recommend Topaz to a Honeycrisp lover, except for one with broad tastes.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Apples of October (2010)

Left to Right: Winter Banana, Thome Empire, Ananas Reinette, Roxbury Russet.

October is always exciting, the principal month for apples in the principle apple season. (Further emphasized by the abrupt end of the harvest around Halloween.)