Sunday, February 3, 2013

Aligning the stars

Last summer I ranked the world of eating apples from zero to three stars.

Life does not stand still, fortunately, and it's time to make my first set of adjustments to these ratings. 

I expect to do so annually about this time of year, when the trees are still sleeping and there's plenty of time for review and reflection.

Indeed today is Imbolc, a very ancient holiday comically reflected in the fun-house mirror of American folklore as Groundhog's Day on February 2. (Imbolc, on the other hand, wanders about against the Gregorian backdrop.)

It is the very pit of winter, the hinge of the season, when nestled in darkness within the frozen world the passage to spring is already underway.

In my scheme, one-star apples are "very good, worth choosing." Welcome Fireside, Chandler, Honeygold, Opal, and Stark.

Crimson Gold
I award two stars ("excellent, worth seeking") to Grimes Golden, Tolman Sweet, Claygate Pearmain, and Crimson Gold.

Get these next fall if you possibly can, though they are not so easy to find.

No new three-star apples this year ("exceptional, worth a quest"), but I'd have any of the above any time.

On further consideration and experience I promote Topaz, Sweetango, and King David to two stars.

Topaz was especially fine in mid-November. If you are a Sweetango skeptic I urge you to hunt out a really good one (harder than you might think, but worth it) next fall and see what the fuss is all about.

King David is just a wonderful apple, not common in these parts. I'm grateful to Steven Edholm of Turkeysong Farm for providing me with some peak samples this year.

A few stars no longer shine quite so bright.

Elstar is now one star, down from two. It's a close call but I feel this reflects Elstar's true rank. Try one yourself and tell me what you think.

Chestnut Crab
I also demote Chestnut Crabapple from three to two stars. On reflection this great little fruit just did not quite seem to belong with the other three-star apples. My recommendation is still unabashedly "eat!"

That leaves us with 85 one-star, 39 two-star, and 5 three-star apples as of this writing. Also 44 that received no special recognition even though most of them are also good to eat (and some are great for cooking).

Why is this distribution so lopsided? I genuinely think most apples are very good, but I'm pretty stingy handing out laurels for the best.

I'll be making these changes on the blog in the next day or so.

It would be awkward and distracting to be always fiddling with these stars, so that's how things will have to stand for 2013.


  1. I am looking to grow a cold hardy smaller apple and was wondering if you have ever tried a frostbite apple from the unversity of MN and how the flavor might compare to a Wickson apple.


    1. Trevor, Frostbite has a bit of a reputation in the apple world, but I've never had one. Sorry to say!

      The variety has been around since the 20s, but UMinn has just named and commercialized it.

    2. Update: I had Frostbite for the first time last fall, and like it a lot. I give it two stars.


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