Saturday, December 30, 2017

Careless surprise

I neglected to store my Suncrisps properly, and they wrinkled up.

Inside however the meat of the apple was still sound, and filed with intense flavors of caramel and brown sugar.

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Last of the Cortlands

Ice-coated apple on a tree
A reader provided this photo of an ice-encrusted Cortland apple in Harvard, Massachusetts, yesterday.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

SugarBee *

I thought my previous review would be the last for 2017, but happily a reader from Washington State decided to send SugarBee my way. Thank you, John!

The moment I unpacked these, something said "Honeycrisp" to me. It isn't size: these are large but not nearly as big as the H bomb. Nor is it shape.

I think its the orange tinged blush, which also has shimmery quality, at least in artificial light. That is Hcrisp-esque.

Either that, or I am just sensitive lately about Honeycrisp's outsized influence on the apple world, and was unconsciously triggered by the S word in SB's name.

In any case, my gut reaction proved true, see below.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Kidds Orange Red **

I am a sucker for this kind of look, a mix of colors layered provocatively.

Here russet tops the reddish orange blush, but on other samples the underlying yellow is also visible and sections of the blush are an almost peachy orange red.

This interplay of colors on Kidds Orange Red is further enlivened—or muddled—by large indistinct lentical dots smeared like the markings on an animal's pelt.

Friday, December 8, 2017

EverCrisp *

I didn't think I'd get a crack at EverCrisp, a ballyhooed Honeycrisp successor, for several more years. But today I have two.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

December fruit

Left to right: Blushing Golden, Golden Russet, Esopus Spitzenberg
It's December, and time to open up the chest of pirate booty and start eating those keeper apples you put down against the inevitable coming of winter.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Wagener **

Visually the most interesting thing about Wagener is the tentative, almost milky red blush, which washes in varying patches over a spring green that is practically yellow.

I don't mean that it is terribly beautiful, but it is surprisingly complex. The blush is also a bit streaky in some places, and there are small light lenticel dots.

The peel has a semigloss sheen. Click on the photo if you'd like to look closer.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Chieftain *

A lively little apple that tastes like melon. What's nicer than that?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Not with a bang

Farmers market in the rain

The last farmers market of the year ends in the rain, as it seems to do so often.

Old Fashioned Limbertwig **

I don't know how large these generally get, but my Limbertwigs (named for bendy, droopy branches) are on the small side of medium, stock sturdy Hobbits of the apple world.

They are just a little oblate, with ruddy red cheeks over a light spring green.

There is considerable iridescent russet and also a fair amount of sooty blotch. One sample has a patch of the black microdots known as flyspeck. (This cosmetic blemish has nothing to do with flies.)

Many orderly tiny white lenticels are clearly visible in the blush. These are tactile, little rough bumplets. Off the tree for weeks if not months, Limbertwig is rock hard and promising.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The harvest takes a bow

Union Square, Somerville, on November 18
It's the last week of farmers market.

But today you could buy 17 different kinds of apples in Union Square.

This Week: Blushing Golden

Blushing Golden improves with age.

A good pick for November, it gets better in December, when lush flavors bloom. Highly recommended.

Buy them now and eat them later. If you are like me, you can't get these in December. So, stock up while you can. Winter is coming!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Scarlet Crofton*

This old Irish apple has a marvelous painterly look, with Celtic knots of russet, lenticels, and sooty blotch dancing across the red-blushed peel.

I got seven heritage apples to try at Cider Days on November 4, and this is the gnarliest.

Sunday, November 12, 2017


This small, slightly oblate apple, perhaps 2 inches across, is ribbed, sometimes extremely so. It has a streaky red blush over light yellow, tinted orange where the blush is thin. The lenticels are effectively invisible.

I have two samples that bear a sweet cider aroma.

In early November, Benoni's flesh is soft and yielding, on its way to mealy but with plenty of miles left before it gets there. It turns out that Benoni is a summer apple.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Surprise *

Red- and pink-fleshed apples are experiencing a moment right now, though the effect is sometimes muted by climate.

Many of these varieties (but not all) need an environment milder than ours to develop their internal colors fully.

Still Surprise's pink marbling is striking.

On the outside, this medium-sized apple, ribbed, alternates yellow-green, green yellow, and a light orange pink.

Is that last a blush, or does it relate to places where pink flesh lies immediately beneath the glossy peel? The surface is decorated with brown lenticel dots.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


With its magenta-tinged red blush and prominent lentical spots, this large, round, slightly flattened apple reminds me visually of Opalescent. (Some are tapered.)

Pretty RosaLynn's shiny blush is streaky in places, but coverage is very good. The unblushed yellow region of the apple in the photo above shows where, probably, another apple cast its shadow.

These have deep stem wells and minor but real ribbing. Mine came all the way from Washington State. Enroute they lost any aroma they might normally have off the tree.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Crow Egg *

Wouldn’t it be handy if apples came labeled? Someone wrote “Crow Egg” on the top of mine with a sharpie. That's the mark of having lots of apples and wanting to keep things straight.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Frostbite vs. Wickson smackdown

This head-to-head became inevitable the moment I first tasted malty Frostbite. Wickson has some similar flavors and qualities, and both make weighty historical claims.

One thing that might not be obvious from my photo is that these apples are both small. Frostbite is about 2 inches in diameter, and Wickson is a large crabapple.

But which is best?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Cue's Favorite **

Joe Podles, who lives here in Massachusetts, named this apple (after "Cue," his dad) and has grafted it for other growers.

Back in the day, that would have been enough to make Cue's Favorite a full-fledged named variety.

In 1880, there might have been a report about Cue's Favorite in the proceedings of some horticultural society, and that would be that.

Perhaps Spencer Beech would have collected it into his book, the Apples of New York, in 1909—without as much as a single plant patent, trademark, apple club, or or Twitter account in sight.

But today this pleasing apple has no such status, and Cue's Favorite is but a nickname.

Which means, gentle reader, that your options for finding this apple are limited.

More on all of that below the fold.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Winesap vs. Stayman Smackdown

At farmers market, careless vendors sometimes confuse these two varieties, which are thought to be related (Stayman, son of Winesap). But they are not the same.

How then does each stack up against the other?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Bonkers *

“Bonkers” is a nickname for this otherwise nameless apple, but one that is used widely.

These can get positively huge, but I bought two that are merely conventionally large (one a little runty, in fact). Why: it’s mid October and I have to leave room to eat more apples.

The apple in the photo is squat and trapezoidal. Its cross section from the top is oval, rather than round. Turns out there is a reason behind the odd shape, though they aren’t all like that.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Leathercoat feast

Ashmead's Kernel, Roxbury Russet, and Golden Russett. When you see these three gentlemen, you know that the heart of the harvest has arrived.

Join me for a taste.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

A boom in heritage apples, in the UK

The Guardian, in a story published on Apple Day (today), describes

a burgeoning movement of growers and enthusiasts using old books and modern DNA testing to identify, propagate, and popularise Britain’s wealth of rare apples.

According to the story,

Britain is enjoying a remarkable apple boom, as hundreds of new community orchards revive lost varieties and contribute to a thriving heritage market.

These include many varieties not catalogued by the National Fruit Collection.

One organization even employs an Apple Diversity Officer. Now, there's a job to dream on!

Gather ye Apples while ye May

The scene at the Union Square (Somerville) farmers market earlier today.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Frostbite **

Is there a fitter name for an apple that is cold-hardy down to −40° F? (The tree, not the fruit.)

But the best thing? It's really good.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

This Week: Baldwin

Once the king of American apples, this variety is named for the Revolutionary War hero who popularized it.

Baldwins are crisp, hard, and richly flavored. They mellow in storage.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Ribston and Cox's Orange Pippins

Long have I sought to pair these two English apples. Cox's is legendary, and Ribston, also known as Glory of York, is widely supposed to be Cox's parent.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Firecracker (Bill's Red Flesh Crab)

According to the grower, these diminutive crabapples—the largest might be an inch tall—are super tart and used to make cider.

The staff at Shelburne Farm told me that these were Firecrackers. Maybe they are, but I have some doubts, aired (and resolved) later in this post.

The apples are certainly pretty enough, though imperfect. This orchard sustained a good deal of hail damage last summer.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

White Crabapple

I do not know if the name of this apple is an error, a joke, or something else (named for a Mr. or Ms. White?), but I was not expecting this flamingo-pink interior.

The elongated, olive-shaped  fruit is small, though large for a crabapple, about 2 inches high. Each has a glossy peel that blushes from a delicate pink-orange wash to a saturated red.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Chenango Strawberry

Spoiler alert: No strawberry flavors in mine. And it might not even be the right apple (but I think it is).

I have two of these charmingly named apples (SheNANGo, or so I imagine), medium sized, oblated, and with the merest ribbing.

The streaky red blush covers yellow green and is a dull crimson at its deepest. Prominent large light lenticels decorate the Strawberry's face. They provide some tactile bumpiness, and the strands of russet are rough to the touch.

There are also dimples and divots from hail, a grassy aroma, and a satiny finish.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Reinette Clochard (de Parthenay) **

Clochard is straightforward enough: it means "tramp" (sometimes translated as "hobo.") Reinette means...whatever it is that Reinette means.

That part is a little less straightforward, but in regard to apples if you read the link you will see why I take the word to be a claim of a kind of quality. A reinette is a cut above.

So "Reinette Clouchard" suggests a quality apple, but one with a rough common touch.

Let's see.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Harvest in Earnest

I didn't bother to count all the kinds of apples for sale in Davis Square earlier today.

Monday, September 25, 2017

This Week: Opalescent

For an old-fashioned, high-quality desert apple, try the splendid Opalescent—if you can! This heritage apple is hard to find.

Opalescent is large and handsome: I use this photo of it as my personal online avatar.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Antonovka Kamenichka *

A generous reader sent me today's Antonovka, along with some very fine Jonareds (sports of Jonathon) from his garden orchard. Thank you, Mark.

My squat, painterly Antonovka runs a mini rainbow from spring green to a faint peach, the latter a blush spread thinly over a peel that is largely yellow.

The small lenticels are hard to see except where filled with dark russet, and there is an odd glassy region on the side opposite the blush. Am I seeing watercore from the outside?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Akane *

Akane apple is pronounched "Ah-kah-nay"

I was unimpressed when I tried Akane back in 2010. But a reader told me to sample this variety fresh off the tree for the real story.

Given that my 2010 Akane was on the early side, and from a food co-op in Seattle, a redo seemed like a reasonable item for the apple bucket list. But it's not grown widely here, and this is my first crack at a second bite.

Friday, September 15, 2017

This week: McIntosh

Oh sure, you could find them for sale (unripe) last month.

But now McIntosh is finally at peak! All hail the King of Fall.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Puritan returns

Puritan was one of the first apples I reviewed on this blog, back in early August of 2008.

Rereading that review made me think that apple might have been picked early. So when I saw it again, in early September this time, I decided it was time for a second bite.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sticker Shock

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Testing the sugar waters again

I'm a fair minded guy so decided to revisit the Great Sugar Bomb, Honeycrisp.

No, I'm not a fan—through I do appreciate them in a sort of arms-length abstract way.

I've been told that Honeycrisp is not so super sweet in its native Minnesota. Today's apple only hails from Western Massachusetts, but was orchard fresh and different in appearance than the hulking planetoids I have seen in the past.

Anyway, I had hopes that my tastebuds would catch a glimpse of something different this time.

Monday, September 4, 2017

What's pickin'? Smart farmers tell

Three cheers for Volante Farms in Needham, and their website. In season, this web page reliably tells what apple varieties they have to sell.

Yesterday, Genevieve Weston, of Weston's Antique Apples, shared a list of a dozen apple varieties that are ready to eat, in a Facebook post.

Macks' Apples in New Hampshire reeled me in a few years ago with this tweet:

I'm no fool: I got myself right up there.

Clarkdale Fruit Farms has a weekly e-newsletter with current fruit information.

Here's the pitch. If you want to sell apples, tell people specifically what you've got today.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Genes bring apple history into focus

DNA orbit animatedWe all know that apples are from Kazakhstan. But today, gene resequencing techniques are telling us more about the long voyage of the apple from the wilds of the Tien Shen mountains to the U-Pick orchard.

In particular, the modern European-style apple is a cross between the original Kazakh apple, Malus sieversii, and the European crab apple, M. sylvestris.

Friday, August 25, 2017

This week: Paula Red

Are you missing McIntosh this week? That classic fall apple is still a good 3 weeks away (4 if you don't want yours green).

In the meantime there is Paula Red, the best of the early Mac-like varieties of August (take that, Jersey Mac!)

Friday, August 18, 2017

This week: Gravenstein

This apple, tart, sweet, and complex, may be the best of August. Gravenstein makes me think of an early Macoun.

It is the one to get this week! and probably the next.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

What a difference nine years makes

I've finally replaced the worst photograph I've ever published on this blog with something better:

It's a Jersey Mac, reviewed here in 2008. It was the second apple review that I wrote for this blog, and the second apple that I photographed.

I still think I nailed it with the review, but the photo was just awful.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

At the start of my tenth apple harvest

I jumped into this blog at the start of the harvest in 2008, eager to see what farmers market had in store.

There have been pleasant surprises every year, and I have always tried to fulfill my promise to share wonder without adding too many frills.