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


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 Redflesh, Scarlet Surprise)

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 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.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Welcome to autumn!

It's apple season, welcome to Adam's Apples! If you are curious about this fruit you have come to the right place.

Here you can find more than 260 different varieties described in my opinionated catalog. If that's more than you can chew, you might visit my seasonal guide or my Michelin-style rating system for apples.

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 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.

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.