Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hunt Russet *

Medium-sized, large for a russet, this apple has a rough golden jacket over bright green peel. Some blushed stripes peep though at intervals, and a small patch of dull red blush is mostly russet free.

Lenticels are also full of russet and really only noticeable in the blush, though they do bulge out slightly into small tactile bumps.

Foolishly I held on to this one a few weeks longer than I needed and there's a bit of give to it when I squeeze, but russets can hold up marvelously and it is only November 12.

Hunt's texture is yielding but still good, fine-grained flesh shot with green highlights. Not super juicy but full of sugary flavor enlivened by some sprightly tartness. The usual russet flavors of pear and cane sugar are well presented, and also a hint of lemonade, a nice touch.

These flavors leave behind a very pleasant persistent aftertaste.

The Hunt Russet is named for Hunt Farm in Concord, Massachusetts, where it originated in the 1750s (though Beech notes at least one earlier claim). Since that town is just is about a dozen miles from here I am naturally curious to discover the erstwhile farm's location.

I was prepared to visit the historical collection at Concord's wonderful Free Public Library, but it seems that the fame of this farm has endured online, and largely because of its association with the apple.

John Moore, in his "Native Seedling Fruits" read to the February 1875 meeting of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and reproduced in many horticultural journals, tells this tale:

The Hunt Russet apple was cultivated about Concord, Mass., more than any other apple, until the introduction of the Baldwin. It is now more sought for than that apple, for consumers have found out its good character, it being much better in quality as a cooking apple, better for the table, and better for keeping than the Baldwin.

From all the traditions, which seem to be well founded, this apple originated on the old Hunt farm, in Concord, Mass. This farm is located one mile north of the village, on the south side of "Punkatasset" hill, overlooking the old North Bridge of Revolutionary fame....

That places the old orchard next to the present-day Hutchins Farm, which is on the south side of the same hill a bit further from town.

Based on various accounts of this apple as a great keeper and a late ripener, I'm guessing that my sample may have been picked a little early. But still a very pleasant variety, which ought to be more widely grown.

Other names for this variety include Golden Russet of Massachusetts, Golden Russet of New England, American Golden Russet of New England, and Fay's Russet. The true Golden Russet, though, is not Hunt despite some like tastes and a russet jacket of similar hue.


  1. Looks like Ribston

    1. I can see the resemblance! But Hunts is unmistakably a russet beneath the skin.

  2. Your account and the excitement this apple generates elsewhere have persuaded me to try Hunt Russet in eastern Washington state. In its first season (on P2) it has had one pink bloom, endured a sudden cold snap better than six other cultivars and been very healthy. I hope it is precocious since I'll have to wait at least three more years before first fruit!

    1. Nutting B, I hope it works well for you!

      Yes this was apparently the Honeycrisp of it's day, at least around here, but I was not aware there was any contemporary buzz about it.

      Can you tell any more about "the excitement this apple generates elsewhere?"

    2. Your own response was guarded to this first try, and I hope you get other opportunities to try it. I have yet to sink my teeth into Hunt Russet. Entries old and new describe it as excellent tasting: useful fresh, cooked and in cider, as well as keeping until June. When members of NAFEX or the N. American Scion Exchange learn I am trying it, I get several responses of approval and encouragement. It seems to be one of those apples people think may be very good but aren't sure they want to try a russet. I've grown Ashmead's Kernel and can attest to the value of russets, although I think there are several russets more worthy of the space in our back yards than AK, which is gangly the blooms are frost tender, it is triploid and late to come into light cropping. So, I am excited about Hunt and seek to prove its worth.

    3. I might also mention several people across the country have asked for scions from my baby tree - more than I can provide at this stage. With the 30 degree daily range of temperatures typical of my region (Spokane) this might prove to be a jewel!

  3. I tasted two sample fruits of Hunt last fall: tangerine and rose in the long finish, with 18 & 19% sugar, measured with a refractometer. Enough acidity to balance sweetness. Outstanding! Because of high light and 30 degree temperature swings day to night here, my samples were red nearly all over, with little russet. I continue to get more requests for Hunt scions to graft with than I can supply - must re-plant it and bury the graft union so the bud wood can begin sending roots, thereby allowing it to grow to the fullest size possible in dry and sandy conditions. If this continues to bear such excellent fruit, it will bump Winesap to second place among my favorite apples.

    1. Wow, thanks, NB! This might be a case of an apple doing better far from where it originated. Still I will be keeping my eyes open to try this again someday.


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