Sunday, December 30, 2012

Arkansas Black & white

Season's greetings from Adam's Apples and Arkansas Black.

Friday, December 21, 2012


Professional league apple bobbing? Fruit Quidditch?

Nope. Biologically, a sport is a spontaneous mutation that produces offspring with abnormal variation from its parents.

Pomologically, there is this added twist. Apples are propagated by grafting, which produces genetically identical trees. An apple sport does not just differ from its two parents, but from itself, or at least its graft antecedent.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Apples on the web: The Fruit Gardener

What could be better than an opinionated catalog of apple reviews, sometimes blunt, sometimes wrong, never boring?

Why, two such collections, each with a different take.

At The Fruit Gardener a blogger named Eric is busy cataloging and rating apples of all kinds. Eric lives a northwest of Albany, New York, and has access to some great varieties.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Kiku vs. Fuji smackdown

I wouldn't normally do this. You see, Kiku, at left, is Fuji. It's a minor variant, a genetic mutation called a sport.
Heavily marketed Kiku, at left, is really just the brand name for Fuji Kiku Fubrax. A regular Fuji is at right.
Sports typically have better color, or ripen earlier, or bear better, or have other qualities that recommend them to growers.

Only rarely is there any appreciable difference in flavor, with a unique name to differentiate the sport from the sported. The name is the claim that calls for an apples-to-apples comparison.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The apple trees sleep

The dreams of the trees mass like gray smoke on the slope of Punkatasset Hill, at Hutchins Farm in Concord, Massachusetts, earlier today.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


This large apple, slightly conical, has next to no ribbing. Its streaky red blush, over yellow, is accented with many tan lenticels.

It's firm in hand, with a glossy peel and a sweet cidery aroma with floral notes.

Kiku's flesh is crisp and coarse-grained, light yellow and very juicy. It is sweet and light with a little tempering tartness behind the scenes.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cider smackdown: pasteurized vs. raw

In the U.S., "cider" is sweet cider; fermented cider is called hard cider.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Wickson vs. King David Smackdown

There's no compelling reason for today's side-by-side comparison.
Wickson (L) and King David (R) are both small apples

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

So long, and thanks for all the fruit

Kimball Farm slings the fruit in Davis Square earlier today in November's fading light.
Farmers market is done as of today.

In Davis Square, two growers had but five apple varieties to rub between them: Jonagold, Cortland, Brock, McIntosh, Empire, and Fuji.

Have a great winter! Farmers market resumes in June.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rusty Sweet

A bin of Rusty Sweet looks so much like a mass of Golden Delicious that I asked the seller if these were only a sport or variant of that variety.

No, she told me, they are something else.

This large elongated yellow apple, on closer inspection, is blockier and less conical than Golden D, though there is some taper. A little ribbing, too.

A small faint blush washes orange along with a few saturated red dots like spatters of paint. Lenticels are small and green, and the peel is satiny rather than glossy.

In hand Rusty is nice and solid with a sweet cider aroma. Its calyx is closed.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


The month of November is brought to you by the dark and lovely Arkansas Black.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sweetango (Sweet Tango, Minneiska) **

Sweetango's fame exceeds its availability, but I've finally got some promising examples.

This medium-sized apple is conical and slightly ribbed. The blush can be stunning, red saturated in streaks and tinged with orange. On some samples this darkens to whole solid sections.

Large brown lenticels are prominent on the glossy peel. The apple is firm to the squeeze and has a sweet cider-laced aroma.

What does it do in your mouth?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pound Sweet (Pumpkin Sweet)

Cooking apples, like Pound Sweet, are not necessarily good to eat. If so, that does not make them bad cooking apples.

Today's is a hefty one, though I can't vouch for its exact weight, name notwithstanding. 

I notice right away its extreme ribbing, which remind me of the excellent culinary variety, Calville Blanc d'Hiver.

Monday, November 12, 2012

No more apples this year

The trees at Red Apple Farm have been picked bare for weeks.
My personal subtitle for this photo is, No cider for me next June.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

King David **

I've got three small dark apples to try, classically shaped with a slightly ribbed taper. They are little bigger than crab apples.

The blush runs from a streaky red to a lustrous dark crimson. Unlike some deeply colored apples, the red of this blush has no purple tint.

The unblushed color, visible only in one small patch, is yellow tinted green. Small light lenticels are nearly impossible to see in the darker blush.

King David is solid in hand with a faint sweet cider aroma.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


This apples dates from a time of boastful apple names. Seek no further! Nonesuch! King of the Pippins!

These are small to medium with a faint blush, streaky pink over a muted chartreuse, and varying amounts of russet.

The net effect is layered and complex.

Though squat these are also a little conical. There's no ribbing to speak of; okay maybe a hint of some.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Red Apple Farm

In season, Red Apple Farm brings a wonderful assortment of apples to Lexington's Farmers Market on Tuesday afternoons (map).

Possibly, it's all from one tree.

Red Apple's home base, just off Route 2 in rural Phillipston, Massachusetts (map), is even better.

Like many orchards, Red Apple adds a lot of value for family visitors. Attractions include hay rides, barbecue, excellent cider donuts, cider slushies, a farm stand stocked with all sorts of apple and maple goodies, walking trails, and seasonal events.

Their assortment of fruit is really impressive, and they boast an apple tree that bears 108 different apple varieties courtesy of some crafty grafting.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Fireside *

The thin orange-red blush that partially covers this large chartreuse apple includes some saturated red streaks and showcases many small light lenticels. (The lenticels are harder to see on the unblushed peel.)

I have two, round and slightly, but noticibly, ribbed. One is a little connical. Both have swaths and scars of russet, and there is a little flyspeck, visible at right on today's photo (click for close-up).

This apple is fresh from the orchard and, unbroken, has a sweet fragrance tinged with cider and banana.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Market contraction

Many area farmers markets close for the year in the week leading up to Halloween.
Arlington's farmers market took its curtain call yesterday, when 3 vendors offered 13 varieties of apples. Kimball Farm, above, sold 10 of them. Kimball will continue in Davis Square and some other locations through Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

Seasons greetings from Adam's Apples and a grinning Kendall.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tolman Sweet **

I had a tiny tantalizing sliver of this antique apple on a walk at Tower Hill. Now I've got a whole Tolman Sweet to eat.

Somewhere between small and large, this yellow apple is streaked with green, stippled with a light blotchy blush, and decorated with russety scars. Note the green seam running vertically down the left side of the apple.

Small lenticels are prominent only when darkened with russet (which is not unusual).

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Grimes Golden **

Not gold but light green, this large apple has a classic shape with a small amount of ribbing and a slight conical taper.

The green is subtly stippled and the peel has a matte finish.

Grimes sports no blush but each of my samples has a side that is smoother and shinier within which the large light lenticels are easier to see.

Both apples also have small webs of russet near their bases.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Door of apple knowledge

This is the inside of the door to the farm stand at Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, Massachusetts (map).

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Stark *

These classically shaped apples with minimal ribbing span the range between medium and large. A thin red blush washes over an intense spring green. The waxy peel shines.

Except where accented with specks of russet, the small lenticels are hard to see.

I wonder if these are fully ripe. They feel quite hard.

Stark's flesh is a medium-coarse yellow-green. That unripe theory looks pretty good, but lets see what there is to see.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Unexpected treasure

When I took a half-day off today to ride my bike in the crisp fall breeze, I left my knapsack at home. No apples today, I thought.

Instead I found a new (to me) variety ("Rusty Sweet," watch for it in a future review), more illicit Sweetangos, and some of the darkest, most beautiful Arkansas Blacks I have personally seen.

Those Blacks are from Red Apple Farm at Lexington's farmers market. Red Apple will be there for one more week next Tuesday.

Not Roxbury

The scene of today's professed oddity is Pease Orchard in Templeton, Massachusetts (map). There I was solemnly told that this apple was a Roxbury Russet—only without the russet!

Note that the skin of this small apple is smooth and shiny, not rough like the peel that can been seen peeking though the russet jacket of a normal Roxbury.

There's even a faint streaky blush. Unheard of.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Chandler *

This heritage apple is large, ribbed, and lumpy. A streaky red blush mostly covers bright green, and tiny light lenticels are not prominent.

Chandler unbroken has a pleasant cider aroma and a shiny waxy peel.

Its coarse butter-yellow flesh is juicy and crisp, with just a little give.

The sweet-tart balance is right in the zone to showcase flavors of sweet cider alongside something sharper that I will describe, for lack of a better, as pineapple, though that really isn't right.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Forbidden fruit

Psst: Hey buddy. You want a hot apple?

Not only is Sweetango this year's "it" fruit, this variety is also illegal to grow in Massachusetts. Patents and trademarks have this apple locked up tight. The consortium that controls Sweetango does not license them in New England.

So when I found some Bay State Sweetangos for sale last month, I looked furtively over my shoulderand bought two.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Gilpin (Carthouse)

Gilpin is a cider apple, so it may or may not be good to eat.

Bitter? Sourball? Let's see.

This medium-sized fruit is ribbed, lumpy, and riddled with stress-lines of russet.

It's pretty well blushed over yellow-green, dark in spots. The small light lenticels get lost with all the other stuff on the surface of this apple.

Gilpin has a cidery aroma and a shiny, waxy skin.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Two apple treasures

Apple number one is this big guy, 25 feet tall if he's an inch. (That's a bicycle at lower left.)

Is there anyplace quite like New England in the fall?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Candy Crisp (Candycrisp)

Could there be any apple name more likely to excite my antipathy than "Candy Crisp?" Apples should not be tooth-achingly sweet.

I shall nonetheless strive to give an accurate account of this variety, all the while hoping that the fruit will not live up to its saccharine name.

With its yellow-green peel, prominent lenticels, and faint pink blush, this large ribbed apple resembles nothing less than a Honeygold poured into whatever elongated mold is used to make Red Delicious.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What's Pickin'

A weekend trip to beautiful Western Massachusetts yielded many memories including this evocative message board hanging at Red Apple Farm in Phillipston.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Claygate Pearmain **

This small apple, minimally ribbed, blushes to a subdued golden orange over pea-soup green.

My sample is marked by the descriptively named flyspeck and sooty blotch, which have nothing to do with flies or soot and do not affect the flavor of the fruit.

A network of russet adds another layer to this variegated apple's peel, the texture of which runs from matte to rough.

Look closely to see small faint lenticels among all that texture.

Friday, October 12, 2012

October sun

October's sunshine falls on the apples and the root vegetables alike at Belmont's farmers market.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Honeygold (Honey Gold) *

There's not much gold on my Honeygolds. Except for a yellow tint within the faint orange-rose blush that covers perhaps one sixth of the peel, this apple is a bright spring green.

Maybe, then, mine were picked early. On the other hand, this has been an early season.

Honeygold clocks in on the small edge of large, slightly ribbed. Its many dark lenticels are prominent and feel a little rough, suggesting russet.

Monday, October 8, 2012


Staybrite is a sport of Stayman and presumably eats very similar.

These apples were so handsome that I could not resist buying a few to see if there are any differences in texture or taste versus the original.

My sample today, like many of the Staybites I saw, is big, much larger than other Staymans I have seen. But another one is just medium-sized.

The shapes vary, from oblate to conical. There is a little ribbing.

This apple has Stayman's understated blush, a dark red that is pretty solid over green, decorated with prominent light lenticels. It's very firm to the squeeze.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Crimson Gold **

This rescued variety was once lost, and some mysteries remain.

Though appearance varies, these are mostly medium-large to large and moderately ribbed, with a beautiful orange-red blush over dull yellow (or on some, yellow-green).

On one smaller sample the blush is a more-saturated red and a cap of russet seems to spill over the blush side leaving big fat spatters on the blush.

Lenticels for the most part are small. They fade into the blush but are dark and easy to spot against the unblushed peel.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Carousel (Cameo, Caudle)

Many of these large apples had the top-heavy, lopsided shape apparent in my photographed sample.

They are conical and markedly ribbed, with distinct bumps at their tiny bases.

The blush is twofold: a strawberry red and a deeper darker swath, prominent in the photo but comprising only about a fifth of the whole surface.

The strawberry effect at bottom is amplified by many small distinct light lenticels; these grow bigger and sparser in the top half.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Weak apple season prepares to end early

The apple crop is down, and some Massachusetts orchards have been hit really hard, due to last spring's early heat wave and late frost.

That's not exactly news to anyone who has been talking to the farmers this year, but yesterday it was documented by Kathleen Pierce in the Boston Globe:

a good number of apple growers across New England are trying to make the best of a season that started early, and is about to end the same way. And stores that buy apples wholesale say they are attempting to avoid big prices increases for customers at a time of year when the fruit is supposed to be plentiful and cheaper.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Four hills in the rain

An orchard on a crisp clear Fall day is a bit of country magic.

This luminous apple hangs in the mist at Gould Hill Farm.
Today was wet (though not very) but with some misty magic of its own. I seized the opportunity to visit four apple farms in a quest for fruit.

Another reward: less traffic on the highways and no crowds.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Smolak Farm

Smolak Farm, in North Andover (Mass.) offers a great selection of apples and ancillary activities in a beautiful setting.

On Fall weekends the joint is jumping with families attracted by acres of you-pick trees, plus ice cream, car shows, cider donuts, duck races, and celebrity chef dinners.

Way to pack them in! The draw for me, however, is Smolak's heirloom orchard.

These heritage apples are not always available on a pick-your-own basis, but on a recent visit I got some Esopus Spitzenberg and, just for grins, a Sheepnose at Smolak's on-site farmstand.

Visit midweek to avoid the crowds, or on a weekend in the fall for all the hoopla.

Friday, September 28, 2012


I'm used to thinking I've had every variety from farmers market that vendors are willing to sell there. So I did a double take when I spotted Kendall, then unknown to me, at this week's market.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pitmaston Pineapple

I am looking at 3 small apples, all classically shaped with only the slightest detectable ribbing. They are a muted green with a fine network of russet like the craqueleur of an old oil painting.

It's worth clicking on the photo for a close-up.

Two of these have small patches that are smooth and overlaid with a faint coppery orange (perhaps the blush) but mostly Pitmaston has a rough russet texture. All have at least a touch of sooty blotch, a superficial sign of a peel flora that is common on low-spray apples.

Beneath the russet layer some regions are more yellow, and some grayer, than others. The peel smells faintly of sugar and hay.

I try to start each tasting without preconceptions, but it's hard not to expect at least a whiff of pineapple.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Second nibble

I was underwhelmed, last year, by Lamb Abbey Pearmain but decided I should give it a second chance if that became possible. Fortunately I found another this year.

This sample, like last years', is small, less than 2 inches high. Compared to the earlier examples it is less blushed and more-typically pearmain shaped, slightly conical and with a little ribbing.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Holstein *

This big apple with the bovine name is slightly ribbed with a layered, variegated peel.

Start with yellow-green with streaks of spring green.

Add a thin red blush for an orange-brown effect covering maybe two thirds; put streakey dribs and drabs of more-saturated red inside the blush. There's an O of coppery russet around the base. Light lenticels are barely visible except where russetted over. The shiny peel gives a satiny finish.

Monday, September 10, 2012

It's Ashmead

Today I recognize the distinctive russet apple Ashmead's Kernel with three stars. It's the highest honor in my rating system, reserved for apples that are "exceptional...worth a quest" to find.

This post also completes my introduction of this qualitative system of ranking apples based on how good they are for eating of out hand. (Someone else will need to rate baking and cider apples.) In many ways I have saved the best for last.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The best of the early Macs

Left to Right: McIntosh, Novamac, Paula Red
By the time summer rolls around most of us have been living on a diet of supermarket apples for half a year, and it feels like forever. We are ready for the real thing.

The iconic McIntosh, that vinous, crisp apple native to the Northeast, does not ripen until September. Its fans are wooed in July and August by apples with the promise of Mac goodness, as with Jersey Mac or the various generic "Early Macs." Many of these fall short.

The best to my taste buds are Paula Red and Nova Mac, and last year these two varieties overlapped briefly with the true McIntosh.

Monday, September 3, 2012

More three-star apples

Today two more apples get three stars, the highest rank in my qualitative rating system. One star is "very good, worth choosing," two are "excellent, worth seeking," and three are "extraordinary, worth a quest" to find.

What sort of quest I leave to the judgment of the reader.

The stars rate only the eating qualities of apples, which is unfair to some spectacular cider and cooking varieties that don't happen to shine when eaten out of hand.

There is no accounting for tastes, so I trust you will treat these as advisory and keep your own list of favorites. Still, you may rely on these ratings and my reviews as a guide to something new, if you are in an adventurous frame of mind.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Empress vs. NY 652 smackdown

Once upon a time, at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, the apple known only as NY 651 earned a name: Empress.

Its close companion, NY 652, did not.

Ovoid Empress (L) and her consort, NY 652. Empress began life as NY 651.

Here's how they compare.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Three-star apples

Today I am please to introduce the third and final category in my qualitative system of rating eating apples. I also name three varieties that in my opinion deserve three stars, "exceptional apple, worth a quest."

Three-star apples, eaten at their peak, have superb flavor, texture, and appearance. Like the one- and two-star apples, they may be partially selected on the basis of being particularly good representatives of their type or having a special place in the history of the fruit.

None of the ratings give any weight to whether a variety is an heirloom or originates as a foundling pippin or is rare.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

NY 652

No name. Not even a nickname. This is just NY 652, of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station.

But the grower, Samascott Orchards, tell us that 652 is "like Empress"—as well it might be, as that named variety's original number was NY 651.

This medium-sized fruit has a blush over spring green that runs to a deep crimson. The blush covers most of the apple though only some is darkly saturated. The many tiny lenticels are faint on my photographed example, nearly invisible on another.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Good and bad news for the apple harvest

This year's apple harvest in New England is "bountiful" and early, but meager in the Midwest and elsewhere, according to the Boston Globe.

Globe Corespondent Wesley Lowery writes today that

while New England orchards are enjoying an early harvest, most of the nation’s top apple-growing states have seen their trees decimated by drought and late spring frosts.
Michigan, the nation’s leading apple-picking hub...will produce just 3 million bushels of apples this year, compared with 23 million bushels in a typical year, according to the Michigan Apple Committee.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Summer Treat

I've just finished the last of two Summer Treat apples, described by the grower as an "early Red Delicious type." This is reasonably accurate, though Treat and RD are not related.

Instead we have irregular, somewhat ribbed fruit on the smaller side of large. A red blush with darker streaks covers about half of each apple over a yellow-green peel. The apple wears many lenticels so tiny as to be nearly invisible.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Red Comet

The grower of this apple had sample slices at farmers market, so even before I bought any of these I had an opportunity to form a fleeting impression of watermelon candy and, perhaps, banana.

To make things even more intriguing, the grower admits that "Red Comet" is just a nickname, and indeed there's no information about it as a named variety at all.

What is in a name? This is large and round, slightly tapered, with almost no ribbing at all and a tightly closed calyx. A pretty candy-apple-red blush contains deeper carmine stripes and showcases many large tan lenticels.

The unblushed peel is a pale yellow green that almost seems to glow. Unbroken there is a faint cidery aroma.

This is the first new variety (new to me, that is) of the year and I am naturally excited to taste it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mcintosh vs. Paula Red smackdown

I do not always see these two together, but in 2011 Paula Red's season lasted well into September and overlapped quite a bit with that of McIntosh (left).

That raised an interesting question. In August, when the markets are full of inferior generic "early macs," Paula (right) seems the most genuinely Mac-like in texture and flavor. So how does she stack up against the real thing?