Saturday, December 5, 2015

Rubenstars of 2015

Rubenstar apple
I had a chance to try Rubenstar again while in California, probably picked in October, 3 or 4 weeks later in the season than the 2013 samples.

These are much smaller apples (see why that might be), and very pretty. The blush is streaky red over yellow, further varigated by many light lenticels.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A lazy man’s Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tintin, in the cast-iron pan it baked in.
Tarte Tatin is the classic French apple tart, a splendid if finicky marriage of Pâte Brisée crust and Calville Blanc d'Hiver apples.

On Thanksgiving I had Calville but did not want to fuss with that crust.

So I took a leaf from Rowan Jacobsen’s book, Apples of Uncommon Character, and made his easier version, which he playfully calls “Tarte Tintin.”

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Ruby Red

Ruby Red Apple
What a show stopper! You can see why some apple breeders become obsessed with creating red-fleshed apples that also have good eating qualities.

Did they succeed with Ruby Red?

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Spymac *

Spymac apple
Genius idea.

That was my first thought when I saw apples labeled "Spymac." Cross two classics, Northern Spy and McIntosh. I'll bet it's a great pie apple, too.

Spymac looks squarely in the Mac family, with a streaky-to-saturated red blush over green yellow, moderate ribbing, and large light lenticels.

Closer inspection shows a blush that is a little less purple, and less vivid, than McIntosh's.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Last call

The last farmers markets of the year will close up shop in a few hours.

Apples for sale
Last day of Farmers Market for 2015 in Davis Square, Somerville.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Suntan *

How much can I learn from a single flawed sample? A good deal, with some educated guessing.

Physically this Suntan is imperfect. Medium-sized, the apple smells promising but is lopsided and cracked, with spoiled parts. There won't be much to taste.

Probably this is a tapered apple with moderate ribbing, but it's hard to tell.

Superficially the apple is divided into three parts, as follows.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

D'Arcy Spice **

The appearance of this apple varies so much that I need two to show what they might look like.

Unrusseted, D'Arcy has a thin orange blush over green yellow, with some saturated red spots and splotches. There are faint stellations of tan lenticels. The peel is a little waxy.

The russet is a suede leather kissed with green, though over the blush it is thinner, patchier, more golden, and delicately patterned like the rind of a cantaloupe.

Click on either image for a closer look.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Apple Cider Press

It was hard to miss Apples, the large ceramic installation in the sculpture garden of the de Young Museum in San Francisco.

But there’s another apple-related statue just outside of the de Young, which is in Golden Gate park.

Sculpture: The Apple Cider Press
The Apple Cider Press (Bronze, ca. 1994) Thomas Shields Clarke

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Katherine *

I had one job.

Take a decent photo of Katherine.

And look.

Sorry. This is the photo I have to share with no chance of another sample any time soon.

Perhaps it will prove sufficient when married to my written description.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The art of the apple

Sculpture of apples on the lawn
Apples (2005; glazed ceramic) Gustav and Ulla Kraitz
During my Californa trip I found these playful apples at the sculpture garden of the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park (San Francisco).

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Eureka Canyon *

This medium-sized apple, a discovery from my California adventure, may be a bit of a local wonder, as I cannot find any reference to this variety online.

Eureka Canyon

Is there more than one canyon named Eureka? The most likely candidate lies in Watsonville, California, the apple-rich country just south of Santa Cruz.

The apple has a blush that runs from streaky to a dark red over yellow. It has moderate ribbing and is oblate and slightly tapered.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Apple breeding: Could flavor be the Next Big Thing?

I revere the old heritage apples. I love the idea of apple-as-time machine. Just bite to experience the flavors that were in vogue 200 years ago.

But lately I have also been hopeful about a trend in the newer apple breeds: taste.

Now comes the New York Times with a bushel of new “full flavored” apples, such as Opal, Junami, and Kanzi, all from Europe.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Pink Parfait *

Pink Parfait
A parfait is a layered confection, and true to its name Pink Parfait has a pink layer within its off-white flesh (below).

From the outside, Pink P is a medium-sized green-tinted yellow orb nearly entirely covered by a translucent blush

The blush is flecked with many dark red spots and streaks. The apple is round with moderate ribbing

All apples have lenticels, the pores of the fruit, but they are essentially invisible on the Parfait. The peel is glossy.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Waltana *

WaltanaWaltana is a product of one of California’s most talented apple breeders, Albert Etter.

Partially named for Etter’s brother Walter, the apple has a reputation as one of the master’s best works.

Waltana challenged me to identify its unusual flavors.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The hinge of autumn

Halfway between the September equinox and the December solstice, this weekend marks a profound change in the calendar.

Jack o’lantern apple

Friday, October 30, 2015

Allen's Everlasting **

Allen’s EverlastingHyperbole aside, the Everlasting enjoys a reputation as a keeper. And, it’s really good to eat.

My sample is small, oblate, and lopsided, but I saw larger examples. Most were broader than they were tall.

There's almost no ribbing on mine, but those ridges and bumps were more pronounced on some others.

Allen's Everlasting has a patchy orange blush with distinct red streaks over a yellow-green peel. It’s really quite striking; click on the photo for a better look.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The accidental apple tourist

There are so many wonderful apple events in the fall in New England: Tower Hill’s heirloom orchard walkGreat Maine Apple Day, and the Cider Days of Franklin County, Massachusetts.

The bounty of the harvest set out with increasing panache and sophistication.

But I was in California and stumbled on an extraordinary apple tasting entirely by accident.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Cornish Aromatic *

What a wonderful name for a fragrant apple.

My lovely Cornish Aromatic is quite big, ribbed and broad and a little tapered. It's got a very pretty translucent orange blush with darker red streaks in it.

It seems clear that the unblushed color would be yellow if we could see it, which we nearly can where the blush is thinnest.

All that is spangled with many large distinct tan lenticels. Look at it, like a huge round strawberry. I find it very handsome.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Red gold

These Ashmead's Kernel apples glint and gleam in the autumn light like pieces of eight.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Snowsweet again

I had a chance to resample this variety from the University of Minnesota, which has developed so many great cold-hearty apples.

The original review (one star) is here. I found a slightly different flavor profile the second time around. I think this batch may be a little fresher off the tree.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Gray gold

A lone Pomme Gris glows in the autumn sun, another burnished addition to my growing hoard. Happy fall!

Thursday, October 8, 2015


Belying its name, the Snapdragon is neither (a) snappy and sharp nor (b) especially floral.

Instead it's a pleasant and mellow new variety courtesy of one of the oldest apple-breeding programs in America.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

All-star cast

Left to right: Reine de Reinettes, Ashmead's Kernel, Macoun, Wickson, Cox's Orange Pippin
The gang's all here.

All 5 of the apples I've rated as "exceptional, worth a quest"—3 of 3 possible stars—together in one place.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Vanilla Pippin *


Yes, you can taste some vanilla in this pippin.

Vanilla is not an unusual flavor in apples, where it abuts vanilla caramel, cream soda, and banana.

You can taste a lot of interesting things if you leave behind the narrow bright circle of crunchy hard supermarket apples.

But first, take a look at this one.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Peace Garden *

Here's a word I've never used before to describe an apple: Adorable.

Just look at this squat little apple with its loose vertical stripes floating in a magenta-tinged blush. I dunno, maybe it's the size, or the way those tiny light lenticels accent the curvature of the fruit.

But you are probably more interested in how it eats.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Koru (Plumac) *

What's great about Koru, a new variety from that apple-breeding powerhouse called New Zealand, is flavor.

Texture and crunch are first rate (though perhaps not quite the thing for those who dislike hard apples).

But at this point crisp, hard, and sweet are standard for the new breeds—a kind of Platonic ideal for the industry and increasingly for the public.

So how to distinguish yourself in a marketplace crowded with nearly identical Platonic ideals? With taste.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Epicure (Laxton's Epicure) *

The National Fruit Collection (U.K.) says that the "preferred name" of this variety is simply "Epicure," but it was given to me as Laxton's Epicure.

Either way it is an old-fashioned apple with a period name, full of interesting flavors.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Rockit *

The modern breeds tend to be alike: sturdy, crisp, and sweet.

Today's new variety from New Zealand is all that but breaks away from the pack by virtue of its great crunch, distinctive appearance (these guys are little), and unusual flavors.

These classically shaped apples, a bit blocky, are only about 2 inches in diameter. A cheerful red blush mostly covers yellow.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Crabapple square dance

With Gingergold towering behind, diminutive Wickson (left front) and Chestnut crabs do-si-do in early September. (Alas, wonderful Wickson was harvested much too early.)

Friday, September 11, 2015


This cheerful yellow apple holds a surprise.

Crisp and juicy, Blondee offers uncontroversial flavors in the early harvest.

The surprise? The blond one is a sport of Gala, not the result of breeding. Gala is Blondee's sole parent.

Sports usually entail only minor differences form the parent variety, but I think Blondee goes beyond that.

It is truly its own variety, if not its own breed.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A study in scarlet

Red-tinged leaves of the Almata apple tree
The Almata apple, as we have seen, is a red paint ball, dripping with color.

it is intensely carmine from blush to core.

But the crimson tide does not stop there. It saturates the entire tree.

It colors the branches. It peeps at us from within each leaf. In the spring, the blossoms of the Almata are a dark pink.

The tree is entirely healthy—and brimming with red.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Almata apple

Saturated with color, Almata is a novelty.

Half an apple showing flesh that is a deep saturated red

It's interesting, it's unusual, and it's edible. But Almata is not a compelling pick eating out of hand.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Williams (William's Favorite) *

Williams is too understated to thrive in today's sugar-crunch market, but it was prized in the first half of the 19th Century.

One might also say that Williams (not to be confused with Williams' Pride) delivers some of the qualities promised, but rarely fulfilled, by Red Delicious, which it in some ways resembles.

My sample is on the small end of large with pronounced ribbing. The cheerful red blush over green is not so much streaky as spotted, like ripples spreading on a pond. In this background the small light lenticels are not obvious.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Red Astrakhan *

Tart and crisp, Red Astrakhan might give Paula Red a run for best early-season Mac-type apple.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Savage apples

A reader writes,

Last winter, my husband and I bought a house on 15 acres of land in the mountains of western Maine.

It had a little orchard, but since the previous tenants had fed the deer apples right in the middle of the orchard, our trees were eaten to nubs.

Nonetheless, we found about a dozen wild apple trees that had been planted by the deer maybe 30 years ago and had survived the browsing, the -20° winters, and the aggressive blocking of light by the neighboring pines.

When we asked ourselves what does our land want to grow, the wild trees told us on no uncertain terms: apples.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Fresh Pristine apples

I was very pleased to get these excellent apples at farmers market today, since I'd never found Pristine in New England before.

This tasting does not replace my initial review of the Pristines I got in New York in early September of 2008.

They were good then, but I wondered how much better they might be fresh off the tree.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Reflections on 7 years of apple writing

Adam's Apples' first apple harvest began 7 Julys ago.

It was easy. I could count on finding a "new" variety to review every week, usually several.

The reviews are still the heart of this blog, though new varieties are harder to come by.

Now, on the cusp of my eighth apple crop, I have no big changes in the works, nothing really new up my sleeve for this blog.

But I do have some second thoughts about the way I wrote those reviews. And I am planning to make some changes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

White apple pips

White pips are a sign that the apple is not yet ripe.

White pips from an unripe apple

The apple, an early Lodi, was super tart and obviously picked too soon.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Comment of the day

and rejoinder videos.

Steven Edholm, the polymathic paeleolith from Turkeysong ("a homestead in the beautiful coastal mountains of Northern California" as well as a blog) took the time to respond to yesterday's video about apple breeding from one of the big commercial breeders in New Zealand.

I've edited his remarks lightly, emphasis is added.

I noticed a while back how much breeding is the beginning of a line of thinking toward more and more sophisticated marketing. It seems like the trend is a little more skewed toward consumer satisfaction now.

I'm not convinced that they always know what consumers will want, given a broad choice [ya think?—Adam.], but apple quality in stores has certainly improved tremendously since I was a kid.

As many apples as it seems like they are releasing the entire industrial apple system will never be about diversity, or about really serving human needs or culture in a broader sense. It is, as the man said, a business.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A breeder's eye view of the orchard

Apple breeders consider consumer and production "fruit-quality traits" and even global economic strategy.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mahana Red (Braeburn)

Today's apple is attractive and big, with red to deep red streaks, sweet, juicy, and crisp.

And it's a fraud.

That is, it's a Braeburn marketed under another name. And frankly, I've had better Braeburns.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Thrilling apple tales!

So I collected a few of my favorite stories from this blog in one place:

To see the collection just click here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A cast of uncommon characters

The apple harvest may have been uneven, but we've had a bumper crop of apple books. They are a joy to read in the bleak off season.

The challenge in writing such a book is to stay engaging while stepping through many apple descriptions. To make the descriptions parallel enough to permit comparisons without falling into deadly similarity. To use the descriptions to say something as a whole as well as many things in particular.

Rowan Jacobsen, in his Apples of Uncommon Character (Bloomsbury 2014) won me over early with his voice and his views.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Bad apples

May and June, so far from the harvest, make an especially bleak season of the apple year. High-tech industrial storage only gets you so far, and the supermarket apples are really showing their age.

These babies are months away. June 6 photo.
This year where I live the problem is exacerbated by an inexplicable absence of apples from New Zealand, Chile, and Argentina.

Usually these fruits, fresh from the spring harvest below the equator, provide a welcome relief.

The imports ride in around the end of April and tide us over until the real thing begins here in late July.

Though unwelcome, this year's absence creates an opportunity for me to report on apples that I would otherwise avoid: those that have been in storage for as much as 9 months (and counting).

Thursday, May 28, 2015

New England apples from an expert in the field

Published last fall, Apples of New England is a rich guide to a topic close to my heart.

The small volume is somewhere between a coffee-table book, a primer, and a reference.

The author, Russell Steven Powell, is the former executive director of the New England Apple Association; he keeps his own apple blog. Documentation of each apple includes meticulous photos by Barr Lois Weeks, the current director.

In addition to a catalog of hundreds of varieties, Powell tells us some of the central stories about apples, with an emphasis on their New England roots in America.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Spring Gold

When I started this blog in 2008 it would never have occurred to me to hoard apples throughout the winter so that I could enjoy them in mid-May.

Fortunately, I've learned a thing or two since then.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Market prices make a hierarchy of apples

My own ratings notwithstanding, the market has spoken about the relative value of different apple varieties.

In the supermarket today, a few tried-and-true varieties are in the bargain bin, going for 99¢ per pound.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Will a chilly spring bring a bumper crop?

No blossoms yet! Though in 2010 trees flowered (above) on April 24.
It's been grey and cool in New England this month, an extension of an unusually harsh winter.

But Russell Powell, writing on his blog New England Apples, says that farmers are glad of the chill. An early spring

forces a premature bloom in the apple orchard, putting the delicate flowers and nascent apples at risk of frost damage for an extended period.

Colder weather delays the apple blossoms to a time when a killing frost is less likely.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

7 Victorian towns brawled for Baldwin Apple honors

Fisticuffs! (Public domain image)
In the 19th Century no less than seven New England communities professed to be the one true home of the original Baldwin apple tree.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Apples washing, waxing & packing

Here is how the pros do it:

This time of year, unless you've got exceptional storage, all of your apples probably go through something like this.

Video by Domex Superfresh Growers of Yakima, Washington.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Jazz. vs. Kanzi smackdown

Jazz (L), Kanzi
Jazz, at left, has the same parents as Kanzi.
Today's match pits Jazz (left), a Gala x Braeburn cross, against Kanzi, a, um, Gala x Braeburn cross.

So strap yourself in for some real sibling rivalry.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Study refutes apple-doctor relationship

"Evidence does not support that an apple a day keeps the doctor away," according to the abstract of a paper published on the web site of the Journal of the American Medical Association today.

Graph of apple health data

However, "the small fraction of US adults who eat an apple a day do appear to use fewer prescription medications."

That's according to the paper "Association Between Apple Consumption and Physician Visits: Appealing the Conventional Wisdom That an Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away" (JAMA Intern Med doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.5466).

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Kanzi (Nicoter) *

Kanzi, which means "hidden treasure" in Swahili, is a modern breed from Belgium.

It is large but not huge, tapered and conical, a cheerful glossy yellow partially covered with an orange-tinged-red blush.

Small lenticels are only prominent in the lightly blushed regions, and the unblushed yellow has green highlights.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

In praise of rubbery apples

Rubbery beats mealy.

Most apples grow mealy after enough time in storage, or in poor storage, and who likes that? Some sooner than others, some more and some less.

Even staunch Arkansas Black starts to go a little granular by April.

Yet a few apples take a different tack as they age. Varieties like Gold Rush and Esopus Spitzenberg keep their crunch and grow distinctly elastic.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Dan Bussey, appleist extraordinaire

I got nothin' today, so would like to share with you this linked interview with Dan Bussey from gardening writer Margaret Roach.

Bussey is producing an encyclopedia of some 16,000 apple varieties.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Government approves first GMO apples

Over objections from the apple industry, the U.S. government yesterday gave the green light to the first genetically engineered apples.

The gene-altered Arctic-brand apples are Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties that have been modified to resist browning when cut or bruised. Limited quantities could be brought to market as early as 2016.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Macoun vs. Rubyfrost smackdown

Today's head-to-head compares two apples, one well-established and the other very new, from one of the oldest large-scale apple-breeding program in the Americas.