Sunday, January 22, 2017

The young Turk apples are aging well

I have been feasting this month on Pacific Rose, Opal, and Piñata apples.

These three millennial varieties bring something long absent to the table: flavor. They are part of the leading edge of what I hope will prove to be a long-term trend towards taste.

Don't get me wrong: You could always get flavorful varieties at orchards, if you know where to go. Here's what I mean in terms of supermarket apples (North America version).

Friday, January 13, 2017

Empire versus Rubyfrost smackdown

Two years ago I had the idea of comparing Macoun with Rubyfrost.

This was an appealing thought because both are products of the same breeding program in New York, separated by 90 years. But it proved not a fair match.

So this year I am back with what ought to be a more apt comparison: Rubyfrost (r) versus Empire, also from the same breeding program.
Those tiny white streaks are snowflakes.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Green Dragon

Here on the East Coast, new North American varieties usually debut in winter. Green Dragon entered the market here in December.

These are shapely tapered apples just on the green side of the yellow border. The color flirts with that border, sometimes crossing it on the sunward side where some examples sport a pale and tentative orange glow.

Ribbing is moderate, though in some samples there are nearly flat regions that intersect to create a distinct edge.

The many small light lenticels are all but invisible except where russet or some other agent discolors them. Green Dragon bears the striking fragrance of green-apple candy.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Best wishes for 2017

Very best wishes from me to you for the year to come.

This has always been a seasonal blog, overflowing with images and ideas in the harvest season but with fewer and more contemplative columns in the winter and spring.

But this year, to my surprise, I stopped writing for four whole months. I didn't plan that. Am I finally running out of steam?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Decio too

Dense, hard Decio impressed me as a likely keeper apple when I tried it for the first time last November. So I held one back to eat near the end of the year.

Superficially, the older Decio is rock hard. It seems to have weathered well the past month in my perfectly ordinary refrigerator.

My sample's sweet aroma is leavened with a yeasty note that is probably related to its crown of russet.

Otherwise it similar to my November sample. I'll add that Decio's stem is thick and its calyx is wide open.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Jonathan and Ruby Jon

I took this photo back in October to show that the beautiful color of Jonathan (right) has the same deep tone as Ruby Jon's.

As his name implies, Ruby Jon is a sport of Jonathan—a genetic mutation that entails some difference or improvement valuable enough in this case for farmers to cultivate.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Apples on the web: A radical orchardist speaks

Since 2014, Eliza Greenman has been sharing her perspective and knowledge about growing apples in her blog, Unconventional Stories from an Apple Farmer.

Greenman's observations often have a critical edge that borders on the subversive, from her exhortation to "Eat Ugly Apples" to her questions about "the ethics currently involved in producing the status quo" in the fruit world.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Mysteries in yellow and red

Imagine the World's Most Interesting Apple Gentleman, and an unknown apple.
Some unidentified apples.
He (the gent) inclines his head politely. Squints and sniffs at the apple before taking a bite, measuring its blush, parsing its lenticels.

He swirls the bits in his mouth. Pronounces, "Of the Snow family, I think."

Spits, bites again, chews. Swallows. "Yes. McIntosh branch. Not that that helps us much." The next bite is pensive. "But something else. Cidery."

Another bite. "Well balanced. Sprightly."

Saturday, December 3, 2016


Let us sample what may be the oldest apple cultivar of all, dating from Roman times.

Of my two Decios, the photo shows one that is shaped almost like a prune plum, though with a little flattening on the top and bottom. The other, not shown, is squatter and more oblate.

Both have a streaky dull orange-red blush over a shade that is perhaps lightly more yellow than green Tan lenticels are not prominent. These small-to-medium apples have almost no ribbing and short, thick stems.

In the photo above, part of what appears to be the nurturing twig is still attached and nestled against the top of the fruit. (Click for a closer look.) The peel has a soft sheen.

Decio feels rock hard and bears no aroma.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Russell Orchards

On the north shore of Massachusetts, on the road to Crane Beach, is an apple orchard with an impressive selection of fruit and other good things.

Map of Russell Orchards

Russell Orchards is a big place, with hundreds of trees. It's the sort of family-oriented orchard that has apple picking, farm animals, and hay rides. For older folks, Russell also bottles their own fruit wines, ciders, and perries. Their sweet cider is unpasturized.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bottom of the Bin

The very last apples in wooden crates

The apple crop ends here, at the Copley Square (Boston) Farmers Market the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

The apples have been picked over leaving only these sorry bruised remains. See you next year!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Tremlett's Bitter (Geneva Tremlett's)

Beware any apple called Bitter. It will not be good to eat.

The virtues of Tremlett's Bitter live in cider, not eating. But cider apples are interesting. They may be spitters but their potent flavors show the heights and depths this fruit can reach.

I have three of these small apples, gnarly and fragrant. One is particularly knobby and ribbed, but on all the blush is a streaky red so dark that some vertical smears run nearly black, hinting at tannic riches. The underlying peel is probably yellow.

They are round and oblate with tiny clenched calyxes in the base. The peel ranges from matte to semigloss.

Anyway, here goes, spitkerchief at the ready.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Oceans of apple butter

There were “oceans” of apple-butter and great loaves of snow-white bread that “took the cake” over anything that came within the range of my experience.... A slice cut from one of them and smeared thick with that delicious apple-butter, was a feast fit for gods or men.

The quote is from a 1908 book by a Mr. James Harvey Kidd, but it is located in a small ocean of research about old-fashioned apple butter curated by Steven Edholm on his blog, Skillcult.