Wednesday, November 3, 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.)
Here in the U.S., Columbus Day weekend (Canada's Thanksgiving) has emerged as the most fevered of this pitched apple activity. On that weekend I bought a number of heirlooms from the orchard at Tower Hill.
I was so busy with these and other "new" (to me) apples that I had moments of resentment--they were keeping me from enjoying my beloved Macouns. These and McIntosh reigned over most of October as usual, and their quality is still pretty good as of this writing though they have been off their trees for nearly a month, or more.
(Ironically, I haven't posted reviews for most of the Tower Hill apples yet. It takes me a bit to pull the writing and research together, and I always fall a bit behind this time of year.)
I never find all of my favorites, but this year it seemed to me that growers were especially conservative in what they brought to the farmers markets that are my principal source for apples.
Perhaps I have just grown more jaded, as there were nearly a score of varieties to choose from this month (and many more if one traveled to orchards and farm stands).
Still, I was sorry not to see Wickson or to find any Cox's Orange Pippin or Winesap this year. Also unfortunately the local russet apples have not been their usual crisp flavorful selves, though I did find some good ones from Vermont. Regrettably when the Chestnut Crabapples showed up at the market (a few weeks late--they are more of a September treat) they were dry and mealy.
On the other hand, Baldwin has been outstanding: spicy, hard, and crisp. Friends report that Cortland and Empire have been unusually flavorful, too.
I was drawn to crunchy, snappy Liberty towards the end of the month. I also had some great Melrouge apples, intensely colored, highly flavored, and wonderfully crisp.
I was also pleased to get some fine Hampshire apples this year.
The quality of the harvest really differs from year to year and for different varieties.
For the full picture, all the October apples I review are here.
Many late-season apples keep very well. Some, such as Blushing Golden, improve in storage. So it is quite reasonable to wait to buy them until November--if you can.
The end of the harvest corresponds to the tilting of the planet and the turning of the year towards dark winter. Apple blogger Chris captures this moment perfectly in a lovely elegiac essay, "The Last Apple."