Archive for August, 2011

Wealthy apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Wealthy apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

WEALTHY IS A MIDWESTERN HEIRLOOM with New England roots. In 1853, Peter Gideon moved to Minnesota and began experimenting with apple growing, planting thousands of trees. Most died within a few years, and none bore much fruit.

In 1861, Gideon sent the family’s last eight dollars to apple grower Albert Emerson in Bangor, Maine, and received a bushel of apple seeds in exchange. One of these seeds, crossed with a Siberian crab apple, produced the apple that Gideon later named after his wife, Wealthy (Hull) Gideon. A century ago, Wealthy was one of the nation’s five most popular apples.

Wealthy has white flesh that is sometimes stained red, and it is crisp, fragrant, and very juicy, with a sprightly tart flavor. It is considered an excellent dessert and multi-purpose apple. Like most heirlooms, Wealthys are not available at all orchards. If you are lucky enough to find them, try them in our favorite recipe for New England Apple Cake.

New England Apple Cake

3 Wealthy or other New England apples, unpeeled, cored, and chopped

3/4 c sugar

3/4 c canola oil

3 eggs

3 c flour, half whole wheat, half white

1 t salt

1 t baking soda

1 t cinnamon

1/2 t nutmeg

2 t vanilla

3/4 c applesauce

1 c pecans or walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350° and grease a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Beat sugar and oil with a whisk or electric mixer. Add eggs and beat well. Combine and mix in dry ingredients. Stir in vanilla, applesauce, apples, and nuts. Pour into baking dish. Bake 60-70 minutes. Cake should be golden brown and firm.

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NEW ENGLAND’S THIRD ANNUAL APPLE DAY to celebrate the kick-off of the 2011 fresh harvest will be held Wednesday, September 7, in all of the New England states except Connecticut, which will hold its Apple Day Friday, September 2. The Commissioners of Agriculture in each of the New England states will be visiting orchards on Apple Day to meet with growers, learn about the new crop, and bite into a fresh apple straight from the tree.

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INITIAL REPORTS suggest that the New England apple crop suffered some damage from Tropical Storm Irene, but it was less severe than predicted. As this is written Monday night, we still have not heard from growers in Vermont, which may have been the hardest hit of the New England states. But central and eastern New England seem to have fared relatively well, with only modest losses.

There was greater damage in southern New England, and both Connecticut and Rhode Island may have lost as much as 10 percent to 15 percent of the crop. But the worst-case scenario was averted, thankfully, and there will still be plenty of apples on the trees for picking this fall. Most of the region’s pick-your-own orchards will be open Labor Day weekend, but call ahead to make sure that your local orchard was not impacted by the storm.

Follow the “Orchards by State” link on the New England apples website to find pick-your-own orchards in your area.

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GET READY for a crisp, juicy crop of New England apples this fall as the region’s orchards move into the 2011 fresh harvest. Harvest officially launches on New England Apple Day September 7 (see below).

New England expects a good apple crop this year, with strong color and flavor, and a wide range of sizes. The 2011 crop is estimated at 3.67 million 42-pound boxes, an increase of nearly 10 percent over the 2010 harvest, but more than 9 percent smaller than the six-state region’s five-year average of 3.89 million boxes. Maine and Massachusetts expect significant increases from a year ago, while Vermont, which experienced heavy hail damage in the northern part of the state, will be down by more than 25 percent.

The timing of the crop is about normal, meaning that McIntosh, the region’s leading variety, should be available for picking in southern and central New England around September 10, a few days later in northern areas. Early varieties like Gingergold and PaulaRed (see below) are already being harvested.

Here is the state-by-state forecast:

CONNECTICUT: The 2011 estimated crop of 550,000 boxes is 13 percent higher than the five-year state average of 488,000 boxes and roughly even with 2010’s harvest of 548,000 boxes.

MAINE: Maine expects a crop of about 880,000 boxes in 2011, 11 percent higher than the state’s five-year average of 810,000 boxes and 19 percent higher than the 738,000 boxes harvested in 2010.

MASSACHUSETTS: The predicted 2011 crop of 1,050,000 boxes is 19 percent higher than the 881,000 boxes harvested in 2010, and 15 percent above the five-year state average of 914,000 boxes.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: The estimated 2011 crop of 524,000 boxes is 5 percent higher than 2010’s 500,000, but 27 percent below New Hampshire’s five-year average of 717,000 boxes.

RHODE ISLAND: Rhode Island expects to harvest 67,000 boxes in 2011, up 8 percent from 2010 (62,000 boxes), and 17 percent above the state’s five-year average of 57,000 boxes.

VERMONT: Vermont’s estimated crop for 2011 is 600,000 boxes, down 28 percent from the 833,000 boxes harvested in 2010 and 35 percent below the state’s five-year average of 919,000 boxes.

The 2011 United States apple crop is expected to be about 3 percent larger than the 2010 harvest, according to USApple’s annual forecast. The 227,519,000 boxes forecast for 2011 is roughly equal to the five-year U. S. average of 226,441,000.

New York predicts a crop of 30,000,000 boxes in 2011, down 1 percent from a year ago and 3 percent below the state’s five-year average. Michigan, at 26,100,000 boxes, will be up 86 percent from 2010’s small crop, and 38 percent above its five-year average. Washington, the nation’s largest apple-growing state, estimates a slightly smaller 2011 crop than a year ago at 129,634,000 boxes, about even with its five-year average.

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NEW ENGLAND’S THIRD ANNUAL APPLE DAY to celebrate the kick-off of the 2011 fresh harvest will be held Wednesday, September 7, in all of the New England states except Connecticut, which will hold its Apple Day Friday, September 2. The Commissioners of Agriculture in each of the New England states will be visiting orchards on Apple Day to meet with growers, learn about the new crop, and bite into a fresh apple straight from the tree.

Look for more details in next week’s post.

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PaulaRed apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

PaulaRed apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

THE BEAUTY OF PAULAREDS, like many apples, is enhanced with distinctive lenticels dotting their skin like freckles. Lenticels assist the apple with respiration, conducting the interchange of gases between the interior tissue and surrounding air.

PaulaReds are an early season apple, known for their firm flesh and sweet-tart flavor, with just a hint of strawberry. PaulaReds are good for both cooking and fresh eating, and should be eaten soon after picking, as they do not keep well.

PaulaReds were introduced in Michigan in 1968, and grower Lewis Arends named the new variety after his wife, Pauline. It came from a chance seedling and may have McIntosh in its parentage.

Here is a nutritious, easy-to-make summer dessert or snack adapted from USApple that features PaulaReds.

Apple Cheddar Pizza with Toasted Pecans

1 pizza dough

3 PaulaReds, cored, thinly sliced, but not peeled

1 c apple cider or juice

1 T cornstarch

1/2 t cinnamon

2 T honey

1/4 c chopped toasted pecans

1 c grated cheddar

Preheat oven to 425º. Lightly grease 14-inch pizza pan. Press dough into pan. In a medium saucepan, cook apples and cider until tender. Drain off juice and reserve. Arrange apple slices on dough. Whisk cornstarch into reserved liquid, and add cinnamon and honey. Cook over medium heat until clear and spread over apples. Sprinkle pecans on top. Top with cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

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NEW ENGLAND APPLE ASSOCIATION has a new phone number: 203-439-7006. For more information about New England apples, visit newenglandapples.org or give us a call!

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Ginger Gold apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ginger Gold apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

IF YOU ARE HANKERING for an early season apple, your ship has come in. Two of the earliest varieties, Ginger Gold and Jersey Mac, can now be found at many orchards and farmstands. They are harbingers of the fall crop to come — and it looks like a good apple year for most of New England’s orchards — best eaten fresh, offering tantalizing flavors of things to come.

Ginger Gold apples are sweet, tangy, and juicy. Their shape ranges from round to conical, and they have a smooth, green-yellow skin, often with a light pink blush. Ginger Golds are a good apple for both cooking and fresh eating, and are especially enjoyed in salads, as their crisp, white flesh browns slowly when sliced.

Ginger Golds are a relatively new apple, discovered in a Virginia orchard in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the late 1960s. Their parentage is not certain, but Ginger Golds likely are a cross between Golden Delicious and Newtown (Albemarle) Pippin.

Jersey Mac apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jersey Mac apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jersey Macs have a tough, dark-red skin with green and red patches, and they are noted for their sweet, strawberry-like flavor and bright white flesh. They don’t store well, but this early season apple can be used for both cooking and fresh eating. As one grower puts it, “Jersey Mac is a good choice for McIntosh lovers who are getting impatient waiting for the Macs to ripen.”

Jersey Macs were developed at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station of Rutgers University in 1956 (hence the name), and were introduced commercially in 1971.

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BAKED APPLES are an easy and flavorful dessert to make, and their flavor can be altered and enhanced by experimenting with a number of optional ingredients. Baked apples can be served alone warm or topped with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream.

Some say baked apples are even better eaten cold at breakfast the next day. Either way, they keep in the refrigerator for several days, and can be reheated if that’s your preference.

Here’s a good recipe for baking apples using either Ginger Gold, Jersey Mac, or the later varieties when they arrive.

Cranberry Baked Apples

6 Ginger Gold or Jersey Mac apples, or a mix

1 c dried cranberries

1/2 c golden raisins

1/2 c sugar

1/2 c apple cider (apple juice or water can be substituted in a pinch)

1 t lemon zest

Preheat oven to 375°. Wash and core apples, and place snugly in a glass baking dish. Toss cranberries, raisins, sugar, and zest together in a bowl and fill apple cores when fully mixed. Pour cider in bottom of baking dish, and cook for 25-30 minutes, until apples are soft. If there is any liquid left, drizzle over apples before serving.

Mo Tougas, Apple Grower of the Year

CONGRATULATIONS to Mo Tougas, named the 2011 Apple Grower of the Year by American/Western Fruit Grower Magazine, one of the nation’s leading agricultural publications. Mo, who operates Tougas Family Farm in Northborough, Massachusetts, with his wife, Phyllis, and son, Andre, has long been admired in the region for his business savvy and entrepreneurial style, but first and foremost, he grows a great apple. He never stops trying to innovate and improve his horticultural skills, and this national recognition is well deserved.

Read Mo’s story and learn about some of his innovations by following this link: Mo Tougas, 2011 Apple Grower of the Year

Mo, who serves as vice chair of the board of directors of the New England Apple Association, will be honored at the USApple Outlook Conference in Chicago this week. To learn more about New England apples (and to see video programs featuring Mo on methods for grafting and pruning apple trees), visit New England Apples.

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