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.

Extraordinary because the tasting, a fund raiser for the California Rare Fruit Growers, featured 58 different varieties of apple, exactly half of which were unknown to me in person.

California has its own apple culture and set of native varieties, including the jaw-droppingly creative work of apple breeder Albert Etter about a century ago.

Maybe I shouldn’t say so, but these apple tastings, with their glorious assortments arrayed in tiny chopped bits on plates, are profoundly frustrating to someone like me.

White Winter Pearmain
Ho! For the White Winter Pearmain.
Sure, there are all those little tastes. But you know my methods, Watson.

I like to take a whole apple, photograph it, spend time with it, eat slowly and deliberately, and document everything.

For me therefore these wonderful events are a high-pressure fire hose and I'm dying of thirst.

Plates upon plates of apples cut for tastingNonetheless, it's not about me. It’s about a living demonstration of the wonderful breadth of variety of apples available beyond the supermarket produce section.

Here are pink and red fleshed apples, apples that taste of lemons or coconuts, chewy apples among the breaking crisp. Huge Jupiter apples and tiny crabs, russets and red stripes.

Pay attention to people’s faces at these things; the looks of startled amazement are worth the price of admission.

Whole apples were not available for the likes of me; there would be hundreds of people expecting to be fed.

Thank goodness I had the presence of mind to ask when they’d be knocking off. I came back at the end of the day and walked away with a small hoard of California apples.

More plates of apples
Had I returned 5 minutes later than I did I’d have missed my chance.

Thanks to Freddy Menge and the other members of the California Rare Fruit Growers Monterey Bay Chapter for their pluck, their apples, and their generosity.

That’s my awesome California apple adventure. Click on any photo for a close-up, and stay tuned.


  1. Wow, what a bonanza for you!! Although those tasting pieces are awfully small. Lucky you got some whole ones. I'm looking forward to your upcoming reviews!

    1. I’ve already published 2 of them. More to come.

  2. I agree with you Adam- I cannot get a good "read" on any appple from a small bit or a skinny sliver, as happened with a famous apple authority in Virginia last year. I need a mouthful.

    1. These events are a lot of fun and are powerful advertisements for heritage and other non-mainstream apples.

      But yeah, if you want to spend time with the apples, hold them close, know their soul, then no.


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