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The trees are brimming with apples across New England at orchards like The Big Apple in Wrentham, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

The trees are brimming with apples across New England at orchards like The Big Apple in Wrentham, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

NEW ENGLAND’S APPLE ORCHARDS expect a good crop this fall with an estimated 3.5 million 42-pound boxes, just under the region’s five-year, 3.6 million-box average. The crop will be significantly larger than in 2012, when the region harvested just 75 percent of a normal crop due to widespread frost and hail damage.

The New England apple harvest is on schedule, with McIntosh, which accounts for about two-thirds of the crop, expected soon after Labor Day in most areas.

Early varieties like PaulaRed and Ginger Gold are already being picked, and the 2013 fresh harvest will be officially launched with New England Apple Day Wednesday, September 4. The commissioners of agriculture of the New England states will be visiting orchards that day to sample the new crop and meet with growers. (In Rhode Island, Apple Harvest Day will be Friday, September 6, at Phantom Farm in Cumberland, launching the Rhode Island Fruit Growers Association’s 100th anniversary celebration.)

Growing conditions in New England have been good throughout the spring and summer, and there should be plenty of apples of all varieties and sizes at most orchards.

Here is the state-by-state forecast for 2013:

(in units of 42-lb boxes)

2013 crop estimate

% change

from 2012

2012 crop

5-year average % change from5-year average

Connecticut

462 K

+18%

393 K

479 K

-3%

Maine

747 K

+5%

714 K

774 K

-3%

Massachusetts

864 K

+30%

667 K

895 K

-3%

New Hampshire

556 K

+51%

369 K

576 K

-4%

Rhode Island

53 K

+31%

40 K

55 K

-4%

Vermont

818 K

+35%

607 K

848 K

-3%

The 2013 United States apple crop is expected to be about 13 percent larger than the 2012 harvest, according to USApple’s annual forecast, in large part due to a return to good-sized crops in New York and Michigan. The second- and third-largest apple growing states suffered extensive losses due to frost damage a year ago. Nationally, the 243,311,000 boxes forecast for 2013 is about 9 percent above the five-year United States average of 224,163,000 boxes.

New York’s predicted crop of 32,000,000 boxes in 2013 is up 87 percent from a year ago and 15 percent above the state’s five-year average. Michigan, at 30,000,000 boxes, will be up a staggering 996 percent from 2012’s record-low crop, and 85 percent above its five-year average. These gains will offset by a slightly smaller crop from Washington, the nation’s largest apple-growing state, which estimates a 2013 crop of 140,000,000 boxes, 10 percent below 2012’s record harvest but 4 percent above its five-year average.

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Akane apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Akane apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Akane (pronounced “ah kah neh”) apples are also known as Tokyo Rose and Prime Red in their native Japan, and Primrouge in France for their striking red color. But they are more than pretty to look at. Akane have good sweet-tart flavor, crisp flesh, and lots of juice. One of the best early season apples, they are good for baking as well as fresh eating, as they hold their shape and their tartness translates well to cooking.

Akane has a cosmopolitan pedigree. Developed in Japan in 1937, its parents are the English apple Worcester Pearmain, an early season heirloom introduced in 1874, known for its strawberry flavor, and Jonathan, an even older American heirloom with a distinctive red color, discovered in New York in the 1820s. Released commercially in 1970, Akane is ready for harvest in late August.

Sansa apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Sansa apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Sansa is a sweet, juicy apple with crisp, light-green flesh. Typically red in color, it can also appear with a deep pink blush on a yellow skin. It is considered best for fresh eating. Sansa begin to ripen in late August.

Sansa was developed in the 1970s, the result of a collaboration between researchers in Japan and New Zealand. Its parents originated in the two countries that developed Sansa: Japan’s early season Akane, and New Zealand’s Gala, which gives Sansa its characteristic sweetness. It was released commercially in 1989.

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2015 New England Apples wall calendar

2015 New England Apples wall calendar

THE 2015 NEW ENGLAND APPLES wall calendar is now available for order. The 12”x12”, four-color calendar features photographs by Russell Steven Powell and Bar Lois Weeks from orchards throughout the six-state region, plus photos and descriptions of a dozen apple varieties.

The calendar price of $12.95 includes shipping. To order, send a check to New England Apples, PO Box 41, Hatfield, MA 01038, or email info@newenglandapples.org.

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PLANNING ON VISITING a pick-your-own orchard? Here are some helpful suggestions on how to get the most out of your visit:

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'Apples of New England' by Russell Steven PowellAPPLES OF NEW ENGLAND (Countryman Press, 2014), a history of apple growing in New England, includes photographs and descriptions of more than 200 apple varieties discovered, grown, or sold in the region. Separate chapters feature the “fathers” of American wild apple, Massachusetts natives John Chapman (“Johnny Appleseed”) and Henry David Thorea; the contemporary orchard of the early 21st century; and rare apples, many of them photographed from the preservation orchard at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts.

Author Russell Steven Powell is senior writer for the nonprofit New England Apple Association after serving as its executive director from 1998 to 2011. Photographer Bar Lois Weeks is the Association’s current executive director.

'America's Apple' coverAMERICA’S APPLE, (Brook Hollow Press, 2012) Powell’s and Weeks’s first book, provides an in-depth look at how apples are grown, eaten, and marketed in America, with chapter on horticulture, John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed), heirloom apples, apples as food, apple drinks, food safety insects and disease, labor, current trends, and apple futures, with nearly 50 photographs from orchards around the country.

The hardcover version lists for $45.95 and includes a photographic index of 120 apple varieties cultivated in the United States. America’s Apple is also available in paperback, minus the photograph index, for $19.95, and as an ebook.

Available at numerous bookstores and orchards, and Silver Street MediaAmazon.comBarnes and Noble, and other online sources. For quantity discounts, email newenglandapples@verizon.net.

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2015 New England Apples wall calendar

2015 New England Apples wall calendar

THE 2015 NEW ENGLAND APPLES WALL CALENDAR has more beautiful images from the region’s orchards by Russell Steven Powell and Bar Lois Weeks.  A different apple variety is pictured and described each month, and the calendar has listings for orchards throughout the six New England states.

$12.95 (price includes shipping)

To purchase a calendar, email quantity and mailing address to brookhollowpress2@verizon.net.

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FRESH APPLES AND APPLE PRODUCTS  from New England’s orchards are a treat to receive at any time of year, and many of the region’s orchards have gift packs that can be shipped anywhere. Visit New England orchards for detailed listings and links to the best New England has to offer!

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Lady apples (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Lady apples (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

LADY APPLE PROVES THE ADAGE that good things come in small packages. Lady is small but intense! Its bright white flesh is crisp and juicy, with hints of citrus. Some liken it to the flavor of dried fruit. Lady’s red and green color varies depending on the amount of sunlight it gets; the green can lighten to yellow.

Lady is a late-season apple, ripening in late October into November. Because of its size, festive coloring, and ability to withstand a freeze, Lady is often featured in Christmas wreaths, and is also known as Christmas Apple. Lady is a brilliant sight in the orchard during late summer and fall, cascading in thick clusters.

Lady apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Lady apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

But Lady first and foremost is a culinary apple, packing a powerful punch of sweet-tart flavor. Its small size make Lady less than ideal for cooking, but they are popular in salads, eaten fresh, and pickled sweet or sour, in the latter case sometimes served with a hot sauce.

Lady is one of the oldest known apple varieties, having been cultivated in France since the 1600s during the reign of Louis XIII. It may be even older, dating back to ancient Rome.

The term “lady” has been a popular one when it comes to naming apples. The classic 1905 volume, Apples of New York, lists Lady Finger and Lady Sweet in addition to Lady, while the more recent Old Southern Apples (2010) lists Lady Skin plus four extinct varieties (Ladies Blush, Ladies Choice, Ladies Favorite, and Lady Lyons).

The Apple Book, also from 2010, describes primarily European varieties, especially apples cultivated in the United Kingdom; it adds Lady Sudeley and Lady Henniker, named for the wives of British lords.

Pink Lady apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pink Lady apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

This tiny heirloom is sometimes confused with Pink Lady, another late-season — but very new — variety. Pink Lady is a firm, crisp, tart and honey-sweet apple with a deep pink flush over a green skin. Pink Lady is an outstanding fresh-eating apple, and it is also good for cooking and in sauce. They keep several months with refrigeration.

Pink Lady, introduced in 1989, is the trademarked name of an Australian cross of Golden Delicious with an Australian apple, Lady Williams. It was originally named Cripps Pink.

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We’ve made a few alterations to this recipe credited to Martha Stewart.

Pickled Lady Apples

2 lbs Lady apples

2 c cider vinegar

1/2 c brown sugar

1/2 c granulated sugar

1-1/4 c cider or water

1-1/2 t salt

2 cinnamon sticks

1-1/2 t allspice berries

3 whole cloves

1 bay leaf

3/4 t black peppercorns

1/2 c raw cranberries

Prick apples in a few places with a fork. Bring vinegar, sugars, water, and spices to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Add apples and return to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until  a fork inserted in the center of an apple meets slight resistance, about 8 minutes. Stir in cranberries, transfer to a bowl, and let cool. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours (or up to 1 month). Serve apples cold or at room temperature.

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2015 New England Apples wall calendar

2015 New England Apples wall calendar

THERE’S STILL TIME to order the 2015 New England Apple wall calendar. Each month features a different New England orchard and apple variety. The 12”x12” full color calendar makes an ideal gift for the apple lovers on your list.

To order your calendar, send $12.95 ($9.95 plus $3.00 shipping) to New England Apples, P. O. Box 41, Hatfield, MA 01038. Make checks out to New England Apple Association. We’ll send your calendar out within 24 hours of receiving your order.

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IF YOU ARE LOOKING Lady apples, follow the “Find An Apple Orchard” link on our New England Apples website, click on “Lady,” and then “Find Orchards” at the bottom of the page.

To view photographs of more than 120 New England apple varieties, go to Apple Varieties. For a description of each one, click on the image, or watch our three-part series on New England apple varieties, featuring Chuck and Diane Souther of Apple Hill Farm in Concord, New Hampshire.

Part two, “New England Varieties—Old and New” includes Lady, and is featured here.

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Don't be deceived by their dull finish — russets are among the most flavorful of apples. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Don’t be deceived by their dull finish — russets are among the most flavorful of apples. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

PERHAPS THE MOST OVERLOOKED apples are the russets, undoubtedly due to their dull, rough-looking skin. It is a shame, as they are some of the most flavorful apples anywhere. Several varieties are especially prized for cider.

Russeting occurs naturally in many varieties, but is seen as a defect in others. It may appear on a portion of each apple, or cover its entire surface. Many of the fully russeted varieties are medium to small in size, limiting their mass appeal in today’s world of super-sized portions.

Most russets are excellent keepers, but therein lies a source of their commercial decline: as storage techniques improved a century ago, the russets fell out of favor, undoubtedly hastened by consumer preference for a shiny red (or gold or green) apple. But if you can set aside the aesthetic demand for a uniformly smooth and shiny skin, your taste buds will be richly rewarded.

In an earlier post, Orange New England Apples, we sang the praises of several russeted varieties, such as Ashmead’s Kernel and Hudson’s Golden Gem, both of which are excellent cider apples. The distinctive variable russeting against a red background on varieties like Orleans Reinette can be striking in appearance.

We admit that most people consider the Knobbed Russet unattractive, if not downright ugly. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and we consider the russets to be stunning in their subtle coloration and compact shape. We feature five here: the aforementioned Knobbed, plus Golden Russet, Pitmaston Pineapple, Pomme Grise, and Roxbury Russet. They are linked not only by their coppery brown exteriors and intense flavors, but also by their rich histories and colorful names.

Golden Russet apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Golden Russet apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Golden Russet is a firm, sweet apple with a fine-grained yellow flesh. It had its beginnings in western New York state in the 1800s, where its exceptional sweetness made it a favorite with cider-makers. Golden Russet is still considered to be one of the very best varieties for cider, but it is good for fresh eating and cooking as well.

Knobbed Russet apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Knobbed Russet apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Knobbed Russet is the strangest looking apple in our experience. It sports a gnarly but edible skin covered with warts and welts. But it is more than a novelty. Like the frog that became a prince when kissed, the Knobbed Russet’s character is magically transformed when bitten into. Its bold flavor is superior, strong and earthy, rich and sugary. It has a firm and dense, crisp golden flesh. Also known as Knobby Russet, it was first grown in Sussex, England, in 1819.

Pitmaston Pineapple apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pitmaston Pineapple apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pitmaston Pineapple is a small, juicy apple good for both fresh-eating and cider. It has a sweet, nutty flavor with a hint of honey, and a pineapple taste that gives the variety its name. Pitmaston Pineapple originated in the town of Pitmaston, near Worcester, England, in the late 1700s, and was presented to the London Horticultural Society in 1845 by Mr. Williams of Pitmaston. Its parentage is unknown.

Pomme Grise apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pomme Grise apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pomme Grise has many similarities with Pitmaston Pineapple: it is a small, round, juicy apple with thick, tough skin lightly covered with brown russeting. Its pale yellow flesh is firm, crisp, and aromatic, with a unique nutty, spicy flavor, making it a popular choice for cider-making. Also known as Gray Apple, Pomme Grise originated in Canada, and was widely grown in New York’s St. Lawrence valley in the 1800s.

Roxbury Russet apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Roxbury Russet apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Roxbury Russet is America’s oldest cultivated apple variety, first grown in Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1635. This exquisitely flavored heirloom has had a host of names over the years, including Belpre Russet, Boston Russet, Hewe’s Russet, Marietta Russet, Putnam Russet, Shippen’s Russet, Sylvan Russet, Warner Russet, and — our favorite — Leather Coat.

Roxbury Russet has a coarse, crispy yellow-green flesh. Its spicy-tart flavor is as good for fresh-eating as it is for making a fine syrupy cider. Its parentage is unknown.

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IF YOU ARE FORTUNATE ENOUGH to find some russets at your local orchard or grocery store, here is a recipe that emphasizes their rich taste. Most russets are slow to brown when sliced compared to many varieties, making them especially good in salads.

French Apple-Pear Salad

2 medium or 3 small New England apples, such as Roxbury Russet, halved and cored

2 pears, halved and cored

2 ribs celery, chopped

2 T lemon juice

1/2 t vanilla

1/4 c walnut or canola oil

salt to taste

2 t tarragon

1/2 c toasted walnuts

Brie or bleu cheese

Slice fruit into long spears and place in a medium bowl with celery. Whisk lemon juice, vanilla, oil, and salt. Pour dressing over fruit. Top with tarragon, walnuts, and cheese.

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2015 New England Apples wall calendar

2015 New England Apples wall calendar

THE 2015 NEW ENGLAND APPLES WALL CALENDAR is a great way to learn about the region’s apples and keep the beauty of the orchard nearby year-round.

Each month features a different New England apple variety and orchard. The 12”x12” full-color calendar makes an ideal gift for the apple lovers on your list.

To order your calendar, send $12.95 ($9.95 plus $3.00 shipping) to New England Apples, P. O. Box 41, Hatfield, MA 01038. Make checks out to New England Apple Association. We’ll send your calendar out within 24 hours of receiving your order.

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