Friday, December 30, 2011

Karmijn de Sonnaville (Karmine) **

This Dutch apple has an attractive dark orange-red blush over a muted green that blends with sandpaper-colored russet. Large lenticels are similarly russeted.

I've only got one sample, a large medium or small large, but have no idea how typical its size may may be.

Karmijn de Sonnaville is an offspring of the exceptional Cox's Orange Pippin and shares some of its qualities. The flesh is fine grained and light yellow, and the flavors are balanced but with some acidity. Some Cox-like flavors, such as orange and mango, pair with a peppery spiciness.

Compared to Cox's Karmine tastes more acid and spicy and lacks Cox's nutty qualities. It's a first-rate apple with flavors that are big, bold, and lively. More of this sort of thing, please!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Black Oxford redux

David D'Angelo of Hawk Farm in Maine gave me a few of these earlier this year, the best examples I have had yet.

I'm not replacing my 2010 tasting notes for Black Oxford, but here is a post script.

These were nice and dark, a deep red with both purple and mahogany overtones. Many light lenticels of varying sizes are sprinkled across the dark like stars in the night sky. Biting in shows dense white flesh with streaks of red from the richly colored peel.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Where the good stuff is

If you enjoy this blog but skip comments from your fellow readers you have been missing out. Especially this fall.

We've had tasting notes from all over and check-ins from orchardists and writers far more knowledgeable than I.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Terroir

Today we borrow a word from the Very Serious World of wine and ask, Is it a useful way to think about apples?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Maiden's Blush **

This small medium apple is light yellow, sometimes with a green undertone.

The eponymous blush is a very light orange red wash with specks of intense color. The result is like a poorly mixed oil-and-water emulsion or flecks of pigment in oil.

It's a very striking effect.

Maiden's lenticels are small, sparse, and dark; some in the blush are stained a deep saturated red. My sample also bears a corona of russet in and around the stem well and the usual superficial blemishes.

The apple is firm in hand with a sweet fruity aroma.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Star Song **

Oops, no photo for this one! So, picture a big yellow apple, ribbed, with a very partial light orange blush that is streaky.

David D'Angelo, an apple farmer from Maine, shared one of these with me in November. Our sample has cracked a bit around the crown where the apple grew too fast "like an heirloom tomato," as David said.

There are large dark lenticels and a cidery aroma with more than a hint of the Golden Delicious.

Star Song has light yellow flesh, fine-grained, with mild well-balanced qualities that showcase a hit of banana and, we agreed, something else tropical (though we could not lay our tastebuds around exactly what).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pomme Gris vs. Ashmead's Kernel smackdown

Pomme Gris (left) meets Ashmead's Kernel in a medley of fall colors
I was lucky this fall to bag two superlative russet varieties, Pomme Gris and Ashmead's Kernel. These were the best examples of these varieties I have ever had.

So which is best?

Friday, December 9, 2011

King David

A nice tart apple, but also a reminder to take my reviews with a grain of salt.

Today's heirloom is small and classically shaped with very little ribbing. Its red blush, streaky to saturated, covers half to most of the yellow-green peel. David's lenticels are small, dark on the green and light on the blush.

Squeezing one feels very firm, and there is a faint mossy smell.

The flesh of King David is medium-fine-grained and white shot with green. This apple has a great crunch and is a little chewy.

For taste, there is refreshing tartness balanced by some sweet, along with some active acidity. Cane sugar and lime notes leave a nice clean feeling in my mouth.

I'd want one of these guys as a chaser or as part of a medley of apples. Despite the acidity I nibbled David down to the core.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wild apples from the Father of Apples to the Big Apple

An alert reader notes the following account of a project that is planting wild apples from Khazakhstan in New York City.

Apples are from Kazakhstan, where the name of the capital city, Almaty, comes from an older name meaning "Father of Apples."

The New York Times's Matt Flegenheimer details a tree planting on Randall's Island, in the East River across from 100 to 125 St.

The project reminds me just a little of the Boston Tree Party around here.

Hooray for civic fruit!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hear Cox's Orange Pippin rattle

The seeds of Cox's Orange Pippin are said to rattle inside the apple. However, I've never found one with pips that did.
Until now.

I am pleased to bring you this sound, probably an internet first.



Click to play, or download the audio file.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lady Apple (Api) *

Today's apple may be the oldest variety I ever will taste. These are crab-apple sized and when Lady is bearing her branches are festooned with small fruit so thick as to resemble garlands of apples.
A garland of Ladies contra-dance against the October sky
A closer look at this ancient variety below the fold.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pippin

Although this word is sometimes just a synonym for apple, especially one that is green and tart, pippin's pomological meaning is an apple grown from seed. Not grafted. Wild, even.

Newton Pippin
(It also is slang for a person or thing that is exemplary, a corker, a right good one. Another meaning is just a pip, a seed.)

In its apple sense pippin is the opposite of the word cultivar, a plant variety developed and propagated via human cultivation.

Simple enough, if you don't look too closely. But think about it and your brain will itch. Because those pippins we know and love? They are all propagated by grafting.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reine de Reinettes (King of the Pippins) ***

This apple's name means--oh wait, no it doesn't. (And shouldn't that be des Reinettes?)

Etymological questions aside, I have two of these, both on the small side of large, round, slightly oblate, with the merest hint of ribbing.

Both have significant russeting on the unblushed peel, which is a muted green-yellow.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sweetango (Minneiska)

No new apple has had the buildup and ballyhoo enjoyed by today's variety. I have been hearing about it for years.

Today we'll learn if Sweetango lives up to its reputation.

Sweetango is breathtakingly beautiful. The glazed red blush of many of the the samples I saw ran strikingly deep and dark on the sunward side, though elsewhere the color is more of a pink wash tinged a bit orange, no doubt from the underlying yellow of the peel.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tarte aux yum

When I saw those Calville Blancs at Farmers Market the day before Thanksgiving, I knew I had to bake a real tarte aux pommes.

My first tarte aux pommes
Despite the black bits this was a delicious holiday desert, and what really made it so were the apples.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pomme de reinette et pomme d'api

Pomme Gris and Lady Apple
There's an old French children's rhyme, nowadays rendered as follows:

Pomme de reinette et pomme d'api
Tapis, tapis rouge
Pomme de reinette et pomme d'api
Tapis, tapis gris.

In English:

Pippin Apple and Lady Apple,
Carpet, red carpet,
Pippin Apple and Lady Apple,
Carpet, gray carpet.

describing a carpet ("tapis") of red and gray apples lying on the ground. Russets perhaps, for the gray.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hunt Russet *

Medium-sized, large for a russet, this apple has a rough golden jacket over bright green peel. Some blushed stripes peep though at intervals, and a small patch of dull red blush is mostly russet free.

Lenticels are also full of russet and really only noticeable in the blush, though they do bulge out slightly into small tactile bumps.

Foolishly I held on to this one a few weeks longer than I needed and there's a bit of give to it when I squeeze, but russets can hold up marvelously and it is only November 12.

Hunt's texture is yielding but still good, fine-grained flesh shot with green highlights. Not super juicy but full of sugary flavor enlivened by some sprightly tartness. The usual russet flavors of pear and cane sugar are well presented, and also a hint of lemonade, a nice touch.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Domine (Dominie) *

The larger of my two samples is medium big, classically shaped (though lopsided) with just a hint of ribbing. The smaller sample is oblate. On both, a dull red blush covers nearly all the yellow-green surface to differing degrees of streaky translucency. Tan lenticels of varying sizes irregularly mark the surface.

The larger apple had a few soft spots, from handling or perhaps Tropical Storm Irene, and was generally inferior. That's the one I photographed, but my tasting notes are based on the smaller, better Domine.

That one's flesh is medium-grained, white with a greenish cast. It's got a crunch, though a yielding one, and the peel is chewy but not bad. Domine's flavors are well-balanced with some sprightly tartness. It's a slightly vinous and there is also a little acidity, but there's also a good portion of initial sweetness, along with vanilla and spice.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Apple clubs versus the tyranny of the market

Last year a reader asked about the practice of "managed varieties," restricting to a cartel the rights to grow the hottest new apples.

Also called club apples, the licenses to grow these fruits fund the marketing that helps to create demand for them (or, if you like, that brings them gently before a discerning public).

Meanwhile another reader was already looking at club apples and their implications for agriculture, and this week he published his work in the New Yorker.

John Seabrook ("Crunch") tells a fascinating story that includes a brief history of the fruit before zeroing in on the apple club that grows Sweetango, heir (apparently) to Honeycrisp. His enthusiasm for this crisp and flavorful variety is infectious.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Clubs and the future of apples

For must-read apple journalism look no further than the November 21 issue of the New Yorker, where John Seabrook explores apples and the American apple industry.

His "Crunch" includes an engaging description of the modern apple-breeding program of the University of Minnesota, touching on the phenomenal success of UMinn's Honeycrisp and giving us a farmer's-eye view of the apple business.

This telling quote from Dennis Courtier, a Minnesota orchardist: "It doesn't matter if the apple is green on the inside, when the market is telling you that color is more important than taste."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Calville Blanc d'Hiver (Calville Blanche)

This legendary French pastry apple is not really for eating out of hand. But eat we must.

Calville is a large medium (or small large) apple with pronounced, even exaggerated, ribbing. It is yellow tinged with green and there is a partial blush over perhaps a quarter if the peel. Large green lenticels are prominent though not in the blush. In hand the unbroken fruit feels firm and solid and smells of pear and bananas.

Inside Calville Blanc is a light yellow with a tender crunch, fine-grained and dense. Its flavor balance tilts slightly to the tart but there is sweetness too, to frame pear flavors with a hint of banana in the finish. There are also some unusual salty, mineral notes.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Knobbed Russet

Its brooding appearance is daunting, but this was far from the most grotesque sample of this unusual apple. Others were so deformed as to be unrecognizable as part of any living organism, let alone as an apple.

Instead, the medium-sized sample I chose shows a little of everything: Yellow skin, mottled translucent orange blush, and disfiguring russet. Or perhaps its knobby bulges are not related to the russet at all. Small lenticels, where visible, are mostly russeted.

Where not deformed this apple seems to be modestly ribbed. Its calyx is open and it feels firm and solid. It glowers.

As I contemplate this unusual variety, I wonder: What if this is not just a curiosity? What if it's really good?

Only one way to find out.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Stayman ages well

I just ate my last Stayman, left over from early October. It had improved with age.

Still wonderfully breaking crisp and very juicy, spicy with some savory notes I had missed when I sampled these in October of 2008.

I wish I had a few more of these! Now I know.

I've updated my 2008 review of Stayman.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Eat like a pirate


I grew up, pre–video console, loving board games of all kinds. Roll the dice. Spin the spinner. Take a card. Collect $200. Advance around the game board, tap tap tap.

One such that has not survived into the present day was Milton Bradley's Pirate and Traveler. It was really two different games in one.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Belle de Boskoop

The appearance of this apple, subdued yellow-green mottled by russet, with a splash of translucent red blush, is not promising.

Belle de Boskoop is a large medium-sized apple with a slight amount of ribbing and a sweet cider aroma.

Light lenticels are not obvious except where russeted over.

Her flesh is a bit yielding, light yellow and halfway between fine and coarse-grained. The flavors are generally pleasant, for there is a decent amount of tartness to balance the pure cane-sugar sweetness.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Creston *

These run large to very large, though not tall, and are conical to a nearly top-heavy extent.

A translucent red blush covers about half of the peel, which is otherwise yellow tinted with a little green. The underlying yellow gives the blush an orange cast but it is subdued.

Small lenticels are also understated (except when russeted), presenting as green against the yellow and an almost invisible tan against the blush.

Creston smells sweet and rich like a Golden Delicious, Creston's dam.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Lamb Abbey Pearmain

I have two of these, quite small, one crabapple-sized. Will they be enough?

These are classically shaped with barely detectable ribbing and a streaky red blush over yellow-green.

The lenticels show light against the blush and faintly green on the naked peel.

One sample, shown, has a crown of russet radiating about its stem well. The aroma is sweet and complex, but I can't isolate scents.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The apple harvest takes a bow

Yesterday, Volante Farms in Needham, Mass. was selling an astounding 28 varieties of apples, while they last. If you live in eastern Massachusetts, go there now.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Not with a bang

"We're freezing out here."--Overheard today at farmers market.

It didn't snow, but the last day of farmers market in Belmont was bleak and raw.

Belmont followed the end of Arlington, which followed Lexington for the year this week.

Paw Paw *

A fruit named, seemingly, for another fruit.

I have two examples of Paw Paw, and while the one in my photo is less round and more blushed, both are medium-sized apples with a streaky red blush and many large light lenticels.

The red streaks are deep and dark in places, a quality my camera just will not capture. The peel has a glossy finish and the unblushed part is spring green.

The flesh of one sample is dense and fine grained, white noticeably tinted with green. It's crisp, nearly breaking, and is mild and well-balanced with no acidity.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Season's greetings

Nothing to say today, but had to share these seasonably dark and lovely Sisters of Fortune.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Red Canada *

Red Canada is round with some ribbing and a deep stem well. A thin red blush covers about two thirds of otherwise spring green, and many large green lenticels cover the surface. The apple has a sweet aroma.

(A second sample, shown, is smaller and more oblate, with a blush that is stronger, deeper, and more complete.)

Red has fine-grained white flesh tinged with green, crisp though not quite breaking. It is pleasantly balanced and mild with cane sugar, kiwi, and a little light caramel note. The peel adds a chewy vegetable touch at the end of each bite. This is an agreeable apple that anyone should be able to enjoy.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Granite Beauty *

This October apple is a large medium, slightly ribbed and slightly conical, with a streakey red blush that mostly covers spring green. On one sample the small light lenticels have rusetted over and are prominent, but not on the other.

Inside, the Granite Beauty has crisp (but not breaking) snow-white flesh with green highlights, and its taste is correspondingly balanced, with some tart accents. Flavors feature some spicy floral notes and a vinous quality, and there is an echo of cream soda towards the end.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The season turns

The past fortnight has been tremendous for apples. At Farmers Market you can choose from more than a score varieties, and many unexpected heirlooms have cropped up in the hinterlands.

Some choices at the Belmont market yesterday
This week there were 23 different apples for sale at the Arlington Farmers Market, 26 in Belmont.

But this sustained, ecstatic crescendo masks a profound shift. In a week most of the harvest will be in and these markets will have folded their tabernacles for the year.

The haul in Belmont yesterday: Baldwin, Cameo, Cortland, Empire, FujiGala, Gingergold, Golden Delicious, Golden Russet, Granny SmithHoneycrisp, Jonagold, Jonathan, Liberty, Macoun, McIntosh, Melrouge, Mutsu, Paula Red, Red Delicious, Shamrock, Sister of FortuneSpencer, Stayman, and Swiss Gourmet.

Get them while you can.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Deacon Jones *

Tower Hill (which conserves this heirloom variety) describes Deacon Jones as medium-sized, but my sample is larger than that. It's elongated, even conical, and just a little ribbed.

The Deacon's green peel is half covered with a brick-red blush decorated with many tan lenticels that are all but invisible in the unblushed green.

The skin is matt rather than glossy and the fruit has a staid beauty, quite solid in hand, with a sweet aroma of cut grass.

The flesh of this fruit is dense and fine-grained, white, and crisp but a little yielding. The peel is chewy and dominates the end of each bite perhaps a bit too much. Deacon's flavors are mild and sweet and pleasant, with no acidity. There is a little melon and seedless grapes, and a third flavor that is something like this.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

McLellan

Tower Hill asserts that this antique apple is named for the famous Civil War general, but that seems unlikely.

My two samples are a medium and a large medium, each with a red blush (translucent to saturated) that almost entirely covers a light yellow. The fruit smells sweetly of cider.

McLellan's flesh, white and fine-grained, has a soft crunch with light cantaloupe flavors, vinous highlights, and a hint of honey. Its delicacy is overwhelmed by a chewy peel. Overall, nicely balanced, though the crunch could be more assertive.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wolf River

After hearing about this variety for years, I am pleased finally to sample one. Wolf River is big, in more ways than one. Will it prove more than I can chew?
It's a hefty apple. My sample's 12-inch waist line nears King Luscious proportions, though the round, slightly ribbed fruit is somewhat squat and thus less massive than if perfectly spherical.

Wolf River has an attractive red blush that is streaky over a light greenish yellow; the streaks are quite dark in places. The surface is decorated with many light tan lenticels that vary in size.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Kearsarge

This variety only grows at Gould Hill Farm in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, where it originates.

The large and slightly blocky apple is ribbed, with a streaky red blush over perhaps a third of its otherwise spring-green surface. Green lenticels are not prominent but show as light against the blush and dark elsewhere. Its calyx is quite clenched, and it smells pleasantly sweet-tart.

Kearsarge's flesh is somewhat yielding, a light creamy yellow, medium-grained and reasonably juicy. It has mild balanced flavors: sweet cider and a faint hint of pear. A very small amount of acidity and a weak bitter note (perhaps from the peel) are enlivening and confer a little spicy character.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Twenty-four apples at one farmers market

No photo today, just a quick report (with lovingly hand-crafted links) of all the apples for sale at the Arlington (Mass.) Farmers market:

Baldwin, Blushing Golden, Cameo, Cortland, Empire, Gala, Gingergold, Golden Delicious, Golden Russet, Honeycrisp, Jonagold, Jonathan, Liberty, Macoun, McIntosh, Melrouge, Mutsu, Paula Red, Red Delicious, Roxbury Russet, Shamrock, Spencer, Stayman, and (pant pant) Swiss Gourmet.

And that's not counting the Asian Pears.

There will probably be even more varieties at Belmont's market tomorrow afternoon.

What a great time of year. Get out there and eat!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jonafree *

The blush of this small medium-sized apple runs from streaky to saturated, where it can be a true deep red. It is round with some ribbing and small light lenticels that are widely spaced.

Jonafree's flesh is satisfyingly crunchy and juicy, a coarse-grained yellow. It is firm and crisp enough to break off into delightful chunks. The flavor is sweet with balancing tartness showcasing simple rich fruity flavors with perhaps hints of cane sugar, pineapple, and, briefly early on in the chew, bananas.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A feast for the eyes

Toronto apple enthusiast Suzanne Long has a wonderful set of photos from an apple tasting in Dobbington, Ontario last weekend (the Canadian thanksgiving).

Suzanne writes she is

still reeling from Saturday's road trip to a new-to-me grower's tasting. An almost overwhelming list of old varieties I'd only read about.

Update: Suzanne writes

the tasting was at O'Keefe Grange, owned by Bill and Lyn O'Keefe, the wonderful hosts of the annual Thanksgiving apple tasting.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Honeycrisp vs. Topaz smackdown

Two modern varieties, products of breeding programs rather than chance.



At left towers Honeycrisp, the popular sugar bomb that is taking the market by storm. The much-less-well-known challenger at right is Topaz, David to Honeycrisp's Goliath.

I pit them against each other because both bring outstandingly crisp, juicy flesh--and fundamentally different flavors.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Priscilla *

This large ribbed apple sports a blush that runs to a deep brick red where saturated. Her small lenticels are pink; you must look closely to find them at all.

My sample, besides the usual cosmetic belemishes, is not in the best shape, with a few bruises and soft spots that are perhaps souvenirs of Tropical Storm Irene. Indeed my first bite was mealy, but fortunately not representative. Priscilla's calyx is closed and the fruit has a faint cidery smell.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hard apple cider American style

Bon Apetite's Andrew Knowlton sampled 50 American hard ciders and picks four tasty favorites.

Cider used to be at least as big a deal here as in the United Kingdom but never recovered from Prohibition. Today in the States the word "cider" refers to the sweet unfermented version as it comes from the cider press.

I've enjoyed some French ciders (and poiré (perry), pressed from pears), but have been underwhelmed by domestic brews. Of course, it helps to know what to drink.

These are welcome signposts to new-world cider, from Oregon to Michigan to New York to New Hampshire.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sweet Sixteen **

This medium-sized apple is mostly round with just a hint of ribbing. Its pretty red blush, streaky for the most part, is faintly marked with light lenticels that vary in size; the unblushed peel is a pale yellow tinted with green. Its calyx is clenched shut.

Sweet Sixteen's flesh, coarse-grained and dripping with juice, is a light apricot yellow. Its flavors are mild, generally sweet with a little tempering tartness. Lush fruity cider flavors and cane sugar predominate, with the merest hint of spice and wine around the edges.

Although Sixteen is sweet, there is enough going on that it does not cloy as so many modern varieties do.

The extreme juiciness of the coarse-grained flesh and the striking orange-yellow color, which suggest a stone fruit, are unusual and attractive. One corespondent finds a hint of anise in the flavor mix, but for whatever reason I could not.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mcintosh vs. Honeycrisp Smackdown

Left to right: McIntosh, Honeycrisp. Click photo for close-up.
On the left, "the Mac," McIntosh, an Ontario foundling, for decades the preeminent apple of the Northeast, successor to Baldwin, sire (and mother) of many varieties, vinous, sweet, and tart.

And looming large at right, from the breeding program of the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, surging in popularity, the younger, bigger, and much much sweeter Honeycrisp.

Of all my pairings, this head-to-head must be my most antagonistic. Not only is upstart Honeycrisp stealing market share from the venerable Mac, but the Province of Nova Scotia has deployed the big guy as a pomicidal weapon, paying farmers to rip out McIntosh trees and plant Honeycrisp.

This is a real grudge match.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Crimson Crisp *

True to its name, this medium-to-medium-large apple has a lovely pure red blush.

The color, a shade less orange than in my photo, can be deep and even dark on the sunward side but unlike some well-colored varieties is not purple.

Tan lenticels, though numerous, are so small as to be hard to see, making for a very red apple.

The fruit is classically shaped with some ribbing.

Also true to its name, this apple has wonderfully breaking crisp flesh, light yellow, which is firm and dense, even hard, and more fine-grained than coarse. It holds a lot of juice and has a very good sweet-tart balance.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

So you like McIntosh

If you read this in September and are enjoying McIntosh, you are in good company. This quintessential New England apple, crisp, flavorful, and juicy with plenty of sugar and tart, is a classic.

But what do you eat in October or August? And what other apples might you like?

If you don't know, or would like to broaden your horizons, here are my suggestions.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

26 apple varieties in one day


Today I could have bought 26 different kinds of apples at 4 different farm stands. 28 if you count all 3 versions of Cortland as separate varieties.

I was not so extravagant as that, but the choices this time of year are great!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Autumn Crisp

In August there are many different apples sold as "Early Mac," none of them McIntosh. In the same spirit Hutchins Farm once called this September apple an "Early Jonagold" after the Jonathan–Golden Delicious cross, though its real name is Autumn Crisp.

So: not a Jonagold that was picked too soon, but a different variety altogether.

Mine is hefty with a streaky, even blotchy, red blush over yellow. This gives an orange tinge though perhaps a shade less so than my photo implies.

Autumn Crisp is decorated with many irregularly placed light lenticels. The surface is also slightly dimpled, like a Honeycrisp.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Elstar vs. Lucky Rose Golden smackdown

Two apples from the vast family tree of Golden Delicious, both ready about the same time in September, both medium-sized yellow with pretty blushes. Here's how they stack up.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Green Crisp *

"Green Crisp" is very apt. But the truth is that not even the grower knows the true name of this apple, or even if it has one.

Green Crisp is a lovely light spring green, conical and ribbed. It is a medium-to-medium-large apple with small dark lenticels that are not obvious, except where russetted. The fruit feels quite firm and smells faintly of moss

Inside is firm white flesh, crisp and pleasantly juicy, that is halfway between fine-grained and coarse.

Its balanced flavors are somewhat attenuated, after the style of a Gingergold or Mutsu, though more assertive. These tastes include a citric zing, with a little lime and a whiff of vanilla and wine in the background. Think Vino Verde, the simple light "green" (white) wine of Portugal.

Some of these flavors might be offensive were they stronger, but light Greencrisp strikes a refreshing balance, with a cool astringent finish. Have another!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

So you like Honeycrisp

Introduced in 1991, this sweet, crisp apple has taken the fruit world by storm.

If you read these words in September, now is your chance to enjoy Honeycrisp at peak.

But, may I interest you in some other crisp, sweet apples? Variety is the spice of life.

Besides, how do you know you like Honeycrisp best if you never try anything else?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Why is an apple like an opera?

Greetings Adam,

I'm wondering if I might be able to use one of your photographs for an image for an opera production I'm doing (very soon) in NYC.

The above in my in-box last month, and of course I had to say yes.

But yes to what, exactly? What could one of my apples possibly have to do with a production of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, to be staged in Bryant Park at 12:30 pm on September 19?

As it turns out, this will be a performance of the first two acts of the opera only.

But the question still remains: Why is half an apple like half an opera?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Summer Pippin (Greening Sour)

Locust Grove Farm in Milton New York grows this apple and calls it Summer Pippin. I have my doubts about the name, but a box of these big green beauties at the Union Square farmers' market (New York) commands attention.

This large apple is a saturated bright spring green, reminiscent of Granny Smith's unglazed hue. It's ribbed and lumpy, with a little russet radiating from the stem well and dotted with white lenticels. The firm fruit has a faint sweet smell.

The flesh is a dense white tinged with light green, a little yielding to the teeth. The taste is predominantly tart with some sweet, not as complex as a Granny Smith but reminiscent. There is some bracing acidity and a hint of unripe grapes.

Finally, there is a faint sweet citrusy aftertaste. Whatever you call it, this apple is both unusual and refreshing.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

McIntosh vs. Novamac Smackdown


McIntosh (left, above) is the New England fall classic, more than a century old, that ripens in September. Novamac (right), half Mac itself, is the upstart from Nova Scotia that shows its face 1 or 2 weeks earlier.

Spoiler: Nobody touches the Mac (except maybe Macoun, and that is debatable). But the point is not to replace McIntosh but to see how well Novamac lives up to the second half of its name.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Novamac vs. Paula Red smackdown


From the start of the apple season in July to the debut of McIntosh in September, many varieties vie for the title of "early Mac." Most of these are unsuccessful, but there are two that I like: Paula Red and Novamac.

This year Paula has had an unusually long season and overlaps with Nova. So, which is most Mac-like? And which is best?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

After the storm

The first sight that greeted my eyes at Hutchins Farm (in Concord, Mass.) two days after Tropical Storm Irene were trees full of apples clustered like grapes.

I'd worried about the trees, and the apples, in the blow that we got.

Mac's Apples, in southern New Hampshire, had reported that "well-pruned trees heavy with fruit were very stable," but it was reassuring to see for myself.

To underscore the good news, a chalkboard at Hutchins made this cheerful report:

Made it through Irene with only minimal damage--hope everyone fared as well!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Novamac *

Two days after Irene, the trees at Hutchins Farm were, thankfully, still full of rippening fruit.

The farm's first apple of the season, Novamac, was ready to eat.

This Nova Scotia–bred variety is medium to small, though I did see one large one in the bin. The squat oblate shape seems characteristic.

Its blush, over a lively spring green, is a cheerful red, streaky at points but well-saturated on the sunward side. Small tan lenticels, widely-spaced, provide a visual accent; some in my photo are russeted.

Inside is crisp creamy-white flesh, more or less fine-grained. The balance is good: noticeable tartness is met by a good bit of sugar, though there is enough acidity to be bracing.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Irene, goodnight

Though it's a big storm coming, and though we live right next to a flood zone, I am not too worried about home and family safety.

Rather, my thought have dwelt on the fate of this year's unharvested apple crop, which lies right in the hurricane's path.

And, I am not alone.