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.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Lodi meets GoldRush


In this photograph, Lodi (left) and GoldRush clasp hands across the seven barren months that divide one harvest from another.

Lodi, the tapered green fruit at left, is the harbinger of the new harvest, the first and only apple at farmers market.

GoldRush was picked last October and has spent its days in my mudroom and refrigerator.

Let's see how they compare.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

No apples yet

The cupboard is bare at Nagog Hill Farm yesterday.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The apple sleuths

There's Lee Calhoun, who chased the old apples and their stories across the south.

He rescued 400 varieties from near extinction though the primal wizardry of jamming a stick from the old tree into the rooted trunk or branch of a younger one and making them live on as one. Magic.

Tom Burford plowed similar turf, while John Bunker did (and does) much the same in Maine. No American state has a finer apple heritage.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The bag with the heavenly aroma


This bag held my stash of Gold Rush apples for two and a half seasons.

It smells wonderful.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Apples to Apples

I've learned a lot by comparing apples, eating and weighing two different breeds together.

Sometimes these head-to-head contests are lighthearted, sometimes for higher stakes, and sometimes to settle specific questions (such as, "is this early Mac very Mac-like?"). I almost always learn something new.

Turns out, I've held more than 30 of these contests. Here are some of the more interesting ones.

Monday, June 12, 2017

June gold

Goldrush apples picked last fall
Photographed June 11
I'm still eating the Gold Rush apples I laid down last Halloween and began eating in April.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Breeze (Gala, Galafresh)

Fooled again.

It's not unusual this time of year to see one or two new kinds of apples in stores, fresh off the boat from New Zealand or other points south. So I pounced on Breeze when I found it last week in a local supermarket.

To cut to the chase: They're Galas.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Rescue from a bleak spring (with music)

Note (or, perhaps, Warning):

The Music Appreciation Department at Adam's Apples has selected a recording to play in the background as you read today's report.

Mid-spring is the nadir of the apple year. The fall harvest is a distant memory and the first apples of summer are 3 months distant.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Gateway apples

To the extent this blog has a message, it is appreciation of the many diverse kinds of apples that are still grown, enjoyed, and loved.


Towards that end from time to time I take my best shot at pitching alternatives to fans of some of the standard popular varieties.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Apple blossoms on parade

Sweetland Orchard (or perhaps I should say, @SweetlandOrchrd) has won me over this week by tweeting apple blossoms straight from the Minnesota farm:



The best thing? Sweetland is going variety-by-variety.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Robots invade the orchard

Robots are battling for dominance of the orchard.

Check out this fruit-picking robot under development by an Israeli company.

Details are sketchy, but a promotional video shows two listless, sweaty apple pickers who are delighted to welcome their robotic overlord, which we are told can pick ten times as fast as humans.



Meanwhile, the sound track and the lighting changes and a robotic arm deftly harvests the apples.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Opal vs. Lady Alice smackdown

These two modern varieties rise to the top in the off season. Their distinctive flavors set them apart from the older Gala-Braeburn generation.

But which is best?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Lady Alice vs. Gold Rush smackdown

April is the cruelest month for apples, so far from the harvest yet too early for fresher reinforcements from the southern hemisphere.

Lady Alice and Gold Rush apples

But in April, two varieties stand out: Remarkable Lady Alice, which improves (to a point) in storage, and the phenomenal Gold Rush, perhaps the greatest keeper ever.

Since I am lucky to have a supply of both this year, this head-to-head taste-off became inevitable.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Are they old or are they fresh?

It'll be many months before I eat anything fresh-picked from an orchard, so the topic of keepers, and of the long-lived varieties that do well in controlled atmosphere storage, has been much on my mind.

I make a distinction between the old-fashioned meaning of "keeper" and the use of chemicals, precision chilling, and controlled atmosphere to arrest the ripening-rotting process.

The latter is a kind of high-tech suspended animation for apples. At least some of these methods are applied to all of the industrial apples you'd find in your supermarket in the off season.


Many of those are not naturally keepers and would not be good to eat if you just stashed them in your fridge for 4 months. They don't last long out of storage.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Red Delicious vs. Sweet Cheeks smackdown


For today's apple comparison, savor the delicious word salad that is "red delicious sweet cheeks." Say it aloud several times. Revel in its absurdity.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sweet Cheeks

I tried today's variety with the knowledge that it is a cross between Honeycrisp and Cripps Pink.


However, Sweet Cheeks (yes that is a name) did not especially reflect eating qualities from either parent.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Waiting for Alice

When she is good, she is very very good. But when she has not been allowed to mature in storage, Lady Alice is starchy and blah.

Alice is fabulous in late March and in April. And yet, the ladies keep showing up in the supermarkets in February. This year, in January.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Eating old apples

It'll be many months before I eat anything fresh-picked from an orchard, so the topic of keepers, and of the long-lived varieties that do well in controlled atmosphere storage, has been much on my mind.

Keepers, sometimes called winter apples, are varieties that will stay good for months in a root cellar or refrigerator.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Celestial surprise

I don't always do the greatest job of keeping track of my apple acquisitions. So it was this morning, when I found my last Celestia apple in a bag in my fruit bin.


It was past its prime but still quite good, with strong rich flavors that had matured in storage.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

So you like Golden Delicious


Do you like steady, mellow, and well flavored Golden Delicious? This honeyed variety has enriched the world of apples as much or more than any. It is reliably consistent and easy to eat. It stores well and is available year round.

However, Golden Delicious is best during or after the October harvest. If you are eating Golden D in late summer or early fall, you really owe it to yourself to try some of the great varieties that are available fresh.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The invention of Red Delicious

From U.S. Plant Patent No. 90, circa 1934:

My invention relates to improvements in apples of the type depending on color and earliness of coloring for a portion of their commercial value. The objects of my improvement are, first, to provide an apple of the well-known Delicious type which will color about two weeks earlier than the Delicious and therefore be ready to reach the earlier and higher priced markets; and second, to secure on each tree a higher percentage of fruits having the desired high coloring.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

PRI comprises sprightly private fingerprint

There's a story, probably apocryphal, that the Purdue, Rutgers & Indiana apple breeding co-op sprinkled a private imprimatur into the names of many of its apples.

The story is that this surprise fingerprint can be found in the names of such varieties as Pristine (1994), Williams Pride (1986), and Enterprise (1993), each in its own way a priceless example of the breeders' art.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Correction

In this space, I recently published some misinformation about some research into the breeding ancestry of the Honeycrisp apple.

I regret the error. Here is the real story.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

McIntosh x Delicious

Breed the noble McIntosh with the ubiquitous Delicious, and you'll get a different variety every time you do.

But when the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station at Cornell University did so in 1945, it created Empire.

This apple is a reliable, crisp variety that boasts generic versions of the berry-and-wine flavors that characterize most of the vast McIntosh family.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Stellar notes

Have you noticed the absence of apples in the night sky? Apples feature prominently in classical mythology. Meanwhile, we have constellations to things like The Fly.

Enlightenment thinkers esteemed the pomacious fruit but neglected to place any in the heavens, meanwhile frescoing the southern sky with The Clock and The Chisel and The Compass Case, for goodness sakes.

Snakes and birds galore.
Well, this post is not about any of that. Rather it is my annual rating of the apples I've tasted for the first time, using a Michelin-esque three-star scale.

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?