Posts Tagged ‘Ashmead’s Kernel apple’

Fresh apples for sampling at Clarkdale Fruit Farms, Deerfield, Massachusetts, during Franklin County CiderDays. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Fresh apples for sampling at Clarkdale Fruit Farms, Deerfield, Massachusetts, during Franklin County CiderDays  (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

TWICE A DAY at least I reach into a paper bag in my refrigerator and pull out an apple. It could be any color, size, or shape — I like to be surprised. I take an apple on my morning and afternoon walks, where it can be savored in its natural environment, without distraction.

An apple is perfect for walking, clean and compact, fitting neatly in my pocket, giving me a sweet energy boost and fresh juice along the way. Apples work on all the senses, beautiful to behold (especially in contrast with November’s muted landscape) and lightly perfuming the air, their smooth, round or conical shape weighing comfortably in my hand.

While the last New England apples have been picked, the bounty of the harvest will last until late spring, at least. During the fresh harvest I was able to amass a wide variety of my favorite apples from around New England, which will supply my walks at least through Thanksgiving.

From my orchard visits in October I picked up small bags of Baldwin, Northern Spy, Rhode Island Greening, plus Honeycrisp, Jonagold, and McIntosh. I had some Gala, Empire, Macoun, and a few Silken left over from our booth at the Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”) in September.

One bag is filled with heirloom varieties like Esopus Spitzenburg, Ribston Pippin, and Roxbury Russet. There are a few loose stragglers on the refrigerator’s shelves, a Golden Delicious one day, Suncrisp the next. I never know what I will retrieve when I reach in.

Jonagold apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Jonagold apple            (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Monday I ate a Jonagold in the morning, and a Macoun in the afternoon — two of my favorite fresh eating apples. There are mixed reports about the storage qualities of Jonagold, a 1968 cross of Golden Delicious and Jonathan, but this one, purchased a month ago, held up beautifully, crisp and loaded with juice, with its characteristic flavor, sweet with a little tartness.

Macoun apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Macoun apple                  (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

After a similar time in storage, the Macoun, the offspring of McIntosh and Jersey Black parents introduced in 1923, remained crisp, and its flavor was rich and complex, with its spicy, strawberry notes more pronounced than ever.

Tuesday I ate two heirlooms, McIntosh from Canada (1801), and Northern Spy (1840 New York, from seeds from Connecticut).

McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

McIntosh apple             (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

The Mac was outstanding, early in its flavor “arc” that sees the apple gradually sweeten and soften over several months. It had been two months since this McIntosh was harvested, and much of the apple’s tartness remained intact, giving it a rich flavor as beguiling as fresh-picked and spicier, more complex.

Northern Spy apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Northern Spy apple         (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

The pink Northern Spy was huge, firm, and juicy, its initial tartness gradually transforming into something broader and deeper. It is easy to see why this apple was a favorite for nearly a century despite being somewhat unreliable and difficult to grow, as it stores well, and is equally good for fresh eating and baking.

I began Wednesday with a giant Honeycrisp that had been sitting in the crisper drawer for about two months.

Honeycrisp apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Honeycrisp apple             (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

While still juicy, its flavor was unexceptional, certainly nothing like what the apple has become famous for since it hit the marketplace in 1991, from a 1961 cross of Keepsake and an unnamed seedling at the University of Minnesota.

Some Honeycrisp store better than others, depending on where they were grown and when they were picked, but it is an apple that is appreciably better eaten fresh. A good Honeycrisp can also be almost solid pink-red in color, much like Northern Spy.

Baldwin apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Baldwin apple                 (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

I ended the day with a Baldwin, one of New England’s oldest varieties, dating back to 1740 in Wilmington, Massachusetts. Baldwin was the region’s most popular apple for nearly a century before McIntosh’s ascendancy in the early 1900s.

The Baldwin I ate was the crispest and tartest of the six apples I tasted during the three days (it may have been the last of these varieties to be picked). Beneath its round, nearly solid vermillion skin, freckled with cream-colored pores, or lenticels, the Baldwin’s crisp, juicy flesh was pleasingly tart at first but finished sweeter, ending in sublime flavors of pineapple and melon.

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The view from Clarkdale Fruit Farms, Deerfield, Massachusetts, early November. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

The view from Clarkdale Fruit Farms, Deerfield, Massachusetts, early November           (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

HERE ARE A FEW ways to get the most from your fresh apples:

When trying a new variety, always purchase at least four apples. Eat two of the apples a few days apart, within a week of purchase. No two apples are exactly alike. Subtle flavors like vanilla, nuts, or mango can vary in intensity from apple to apple, and sometimes can be hard to detect. By trying two fresh apples, you are more likely to experience the variety’s full range of flavors.

Place the other two apples in your refrigerator, and mark the date they were purchased or picked. Ideally, seal the apples in plastic bags and store them in your crisper drawer. As long as they are kept cold, though, most apples keep pretty well in a paper bag. Either bag helps them retain moisture, and keeps them from absorbing odors from foods around them.

Wait a month before tasting the first of these stored apples. Note if there is an appreciable difference in flavor and texture, good or bad. Some apples peak in flavor around this time.

Many varieties follow a similar ripening arc, albeit it at different rates, gradually losing some of their initial tartness and becoming sweeter, more complex, and juicier over time. The same variety can be appreciated in different seasons for different reasons.

From a crisp, tart green apple in late September, Shamrock gets progressively spicier and juicier for about a month before it begins to break down. The flesh of the Connecticut heirloom Sheep’s Nose is dry at harvest, but becomes mellower and juicier after a month or more in storage.

Idared’s best flavor will not emerge until the new year, when it excels in pies and in cider. The flavor of Suncrisp is said to improve in storage, but I wouldn’t know — I enjoy their sweet-tart, citrusy taste so much eaten fresh that I cannot seem to make one last long enough to find out. I have one left in my refrigerator this year, and I am determined to make it last to December, at least.

If your apple has held up well for 30 days, leave the remaining one in the refrigerator for another month (or more) before tasting it. Fuji is famous for its storage qualities. Russeted-covered apples like Ashmead’s Kernel and Roxbury Russet are well known for developing richer, more complex flavors in storage, sometimes months after they have been harvested.

Obviously, the apples available now in grocery stores, farmers markets, orchards, and farm stands, were picked weeks ago. But they have been maintained in either regular, or controlled atmosphere (CA) storage, retarding their ripening process.

Stored properly — meaning kept cold — the apples may be slightly less crisp than the day they were picked, but not much. You can test an apple’s ripening qualities any time you make your purchase.

Don’t reject perfectly good fruit. You can’t always judge an apple by its skin. Most surface blemishes on an apple are harmless and easily removed, such as a patch of apple scab, a dent from hail, or spot russeting. An otherwise fine apple can be misshapen because it rested on a branch as it grew. The apple’s flavor is in no way impaired.

All apples bruise if treated roughly, and some varieties are more susceptible than others. A thin-skinned apple like Silken or a tender-fleshed one like McIntosh require special care in handling. But a bruise here and there on an apple’s surface can easily be ignored, avoided, or removed.

A perfectly good apple often awaits beneath that less-than-perfect exterior. The Galas from The Big E are looking a little wrinkly on the outside, but their flesh remains firm and their flavor is as good as ever. The color of Galas changes in storage, too. It typically has patches of yellow at harvest, and gradually deepens to a rich red-orange.

Rub the apple, eat the skin. While apples leave the orchard and packinghouse clean, like all produce it is best to wash them off before eating, mostly because of the possibility of contamination by human handlers. You never know who may have previously picked up that apple in the bin.

The natural film or “bloom” on an apple, sometimes mistaken for pesticide residue, helps the apple retain moisture. Some of the bloom gets washed off in the packinghouse, and in some cases a drop of wax is applied to replenish it and give the apples a shine. Both the natural bloom and the cosmetic wax are harmless.

The majority of the chemicals used to treat apple pests and disease are applied in the spring and early summer, some before the fruit is even formed. Most residual traces of chemicals are washed off by rain over the summer, and apples entering the packinghouse are first dunked in a tank of water where they float for ten feet or more before entering the packing line, where they will be further buffed and brushed along the way.

But it’s always a good idea to clean your fruit before you eat it. The beauty of the apple is that you don’t need water to wash it— just rub it on your shirt, especially convenient when outdoors.

The peel and the flesh just beneath it contain much of the apple’s nutrients, so there are compelling reasons to eat it. That’s automatic for most people eating a fresh apple, but requires some rethinking on the part of many bakers and cooks. Prepared properly, though, apple skins can add color as well as nutrients to any dish.

Make sure your apples are ripe. It’s good to know what you are getting. The best way to tell if an apple is ripe is by examining its seeds. The apple should not be picked until the seeds are dark brown, almost black, in color.

If you find that some of your apples were not fully ripe when picked, you can eat them without harm. They are likely to be more tart than usual, though, may not store as well, and may have inferior flavor.

I purchased some Ginger Golds in August, and when I cut several of them open, their seeds were white, not brown. The apples tasted alright, but nowhere near as good as Ginger Golds I have had in the past.

Today, two-and-a-half months later, the apples have slowly ripened in my refrigerator, and the seeds are now medium brown. But the ripening has been uneven; the flavor is not much improved, the flesh is beginning to go soft, and they are not very juicy. Reluctantly, I’ll have to throw them out.

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For more information about New England apples, including where to find them, visit New England Apples.

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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.

Available in bookstores everywhere.

'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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The western view toward Mount Kearsarge from Gould Hill Orchards, Contoocook, New Hampshire (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

The western view toward Mount Kearsarge from Gould Hill Orchards, Contoocook, New Hampshire (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

A bin of Cox's Orange Pippins is a beautiful sight. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

A bin of Cox’s Orange Pippins, from ‘Apples of New England.’ (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

IT HAS NOT PRODUCED a new apple for a century. Its apples are typically small — in one instance, no bigger than a golf ball.

Some are covered with russet, and one is famously misshapen. Several are notoriously difficult to grow. None of its varieties is grown in commercial quantities in New England.

Yet England’s apples have some of the best flavor of any fruit — not to mention some of the most colorful and evocative names. While you may have to hunt for some of them, all of these English apples made their way across the Atlantic long ago, and can still be found growing in New England orchards.

Bramley's Seedling apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Bramley’s Seedling apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Bramley’s Seedling is a late-season apple, round but flat, green with red streaks or patches and prominent lenticels. Its cream-colored flesh is coarse and moderately juicy. It is aromatic, and it has a nicely balanced sweet-tart flavor with hints of citrus. Bramley’s is excellent in cider, and it is England’s most popular cooking apple. Similar to apples such as Cortland, its skin can become naturally greasy in storage, and it keeps well.

Bramley’s Seedling was raised from seed in the cottage garden of Mary Ann Brailsford in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, between 1809 and 1813. Matthew Bramley brought the property in 1848, and the apple bearing his name was introduced commercially in 1876.

Cox's Orange Pippin apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Cox’s Orange Pippin apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Cox’s Orange Pippin is as beautiful to behold as it is to eat. A mid-season apple, it is medium sized, round, and orange-red with red striping over a yellow skin. Its cream-colored flesh is crisp and juicy. Its flavor, more tart than sweet, is spicy, aromatic, and complex. It excels in cider as well as fresh eating.

The website orangepippin.com raves about Orange Cox’s Pippin as “a variety for the connoisseur, who can delight in the appreciation of the remarkable range of subtle flavors — pear, melon, freshly-squeezed Florida orange juice, and mango are all evident in a good example.”

Richard Cox, a retired brewer from London, raised the apple in 1825 in the village of Colnbrook Lawn, Berkshire, from seeds of a Ribston Pippin. Its other parent is unknown. Cox’s Orange Pippin was introduced in America about 1850.

Ribston Pippin apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ribston Pippin apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ribston Pippin, like its offspring Cox’s Orange Pippin, is both beautiful and delicious. Ready in mid-season, it is a small to medium in size, slightly conical in shape, with color that combines brown, gold, orange, and crimson. Its yellow flesh is crisp and juicy.

Highly aromatic, its complex flavor is more tart than sweet at harvest, and it becomes spicy and sweet in storage, with hints of pear. But it does not keep for long. It is outstanding eaten fresh, and also good for cooking.

Ribston Pippin was discovered in Yorkshire in the early 1700s, and became popular in New England, New York, and parts of Canada in the early 1800s.

Ashmead's Kernel apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ashmead’s Kernel apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ashmead’s Kernel may even exceed Cox’s Orange Pippin and Ribston Pippin in richness of flavor. It is a mid-season apple, medium to small, round, with heavy russet and an orange blush covering a copper-colored skin. Its cream-colored flesh is crisp and juicy, and its balanced, sweet-tart flavor has hints of vanilla, orange, pear, nutmeg, lemon, and tea. Its flavor improves in storage, and it stores well. It is especially good eaten fresh and in cider.

Among those lavishing praise on Ashmead Kernel was the late food writer Philip Morton Shand: “Its initial Madeira-like mellowness of flavor overlies a deeper honeyed nuttiness, crisply sweet not sugar sweet. Surely no apple of greater distinction or more perfect balance can ever have been raised anywhere on earth.”

William Ashmead discovered the chance seedling that bears his name in his garden in Goucester in the 1700s. The term “kernel” is synonymous with pippin, or seed.

D'Arcy Spice apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

D’Arcy Spice apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

D’Arcy Spice is a late-season apple, round, medium to small, with russet and red-orange color over a thick, yellow-green skin. Its cream-colored flesh is aromatic, and its texture can range from tender to crisp. Its balanced, sweet-tart flavor, while somewhat mild, has hints of spice and nutmeg, and it becomes sweeter and more complex in storage.

D’Arcy Spice was discovered growing in a garden in the village of Tolleshunt D’Arcy, Essex, in 1785. It was introduced by nurseryman John Harris in 1848, and was originally called Baddow Pippin.

Knobbed Russet apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Knobbed Russet apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Knobbed Russet, or Knobby Russet, may well lay claim to being the world’s ugliest apple. It is a small, misshapen apple, its skin gnarly and russeted. Its cream-colored flesh is dense, and not very juicy. That it has survived for two centuries is testimony to its outstanding flavor, more sweet than tart, complex and nutty. It is best eaten fresh or pressed in cider. It stores well.

Discovered in Sussex in 1819, Knobbed Russet was nearly extinct by the 1940s (in addition to its appearance, it can be difficult to grow), when it was rediscovered during England’s national fruit trials.

Pitmaston Pineapple apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pitmaston Pineapple apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

If Knobbed Russet is the ugliest of apples, Pitmaston Pineapple may be the smallest. It, too, can credit its outstanding flavor for its survival. A small apple not much larger than a grape or golf ball, Pitmaston Pineapple is round or conical in shape with bronze skin covered in light russet. A mid-season apple, its crisp, cream-colored flesh lacks much juice, but it has a balanced sweet-tart, nutty flavor with hints of honey, and a distinctive pineapple taste. Its small size limits its utility for cooking, but it is outstanding for fresh eating and good in cider.

Pitmaston Pineapple was discovered by a Mr. White around 1785, possibly from the seed of a Golden Pippin. It was presented to the London Horticultural Society in 1845 by Mr. Williams, a nurseryman from Pitmaston.

Howgate Wonder apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Howgate Wonder apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

In stark contrast to Pitmaston Pineapple, the mid-season Howgate Wonder alone among English apples is exceptionally large in size. Brownish-red over a yellow-green skin, it has crisp, juicy cream-colored flesh. Its mild flavor is more sweet than tart. It holds its shape when cooked, and its flesh turns yellow. It is good for fresh-eating apple and in cider. It develops a harmless greasy skin in storage.

A Howgate Wonder held the unofficial title of world’s largest apple in 2012, weighing in at three pounds, 11 ounces, and seven inches in diameter, with a 21-inch circumference.

Howgate Wonder is relatively new among English varieties, discovered in 1915 by G. Wratton, a retired policeman of Howgate Lane, Bembridge, in the Isle of Wight. It was introduced in 1932. The original tree lived until the 1960s. Howgate Wonder has English parents; its size can be traced to Newton Wonder (1887), and its greasy skin from Blenheim Orange (1740).

Other English transplants to New England’s orchards include the yellow-green Claygate Pearmain, and Lamb Abbey Pearmain, a red-striped apple on yellow skin, both from the early 1800s.

To find orchards that grow these unusual apples, visit New England Apples and follow the link for “Find an Apple Orchard” to search by state or variety.

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COME VISIT the New England Apples booth in the Massachusetts State Building at the Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”) now through Sunday, September 28, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The booth features fresh apples, fresh cider, cider donuts, apple pies, and other baked goods.

Fresh apples are being supplied by Massachusetts orchards Atkins Farms in Amherst, The Big Apple in Wrentham, Brookfield Orchards in North Brookfield, Carlson Orchards in Harvard, Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield, Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown, Pine Hill Orchards in Colrain, Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, and Tougas Family Farm in Northborough.

The booth features award-winning cider donuts made by Atkins Farms in Amherst, fresh, crisp apple cider from Carlson Orchards in Harvard; and fresh-baked apple pies and apple crisp made with apples supplied by Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown.

Executive Director Bar Weeks and Senior Writer Russell Powell are on hand every day to meet with people and answer questions about apples. Their new book, Apples of New England, is available for sale and signing, along with their first book, America’s Apple.

The 2015 New England Apples full-color wall calendar, the revised New England Apples brochure/poster, and brochures from member Massachusetts orchards will be available to visitors during the fair, the largest in New England. Last year’s fair attracted 1.4 million visitors.

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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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The view from Cold Spring Orchard, Belchertown, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

The view from Cold Spring Orchard, Belchertown, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

MOST PEOPLE THINK RED first when they think of apples. This takes in a multitude of varieties, after all, like the aptly named IdaRed or Eastern Red Delicious, to name two, across a spectrum of colors from pink to burgundy to crimson.

Then come the green apples (such as Rhode Island Greening, Shamrock, Granny Smith), and dozens of varieties that combine the two (famously the McIntosh, Cortland, and Macoun).

There are the yellows (Golden Delicious, Crispin, Silken) and browns (all of the russeted apples). There is even a dark-skinned Blue Pearmain and a Black Oxford.

Various combinations of these many hues create a kaleidoscope of apple colors.

But when it comes to apples, most people don’t think of orange. Yet this shade often characterizes one of the world’s most popular apple varieties, Gala. Then there is Cox’s Orange Pippin, England’s most famous apple. Two heirloom varieties also originating in the United Kingdom, Ashmead’s Kernel and Ribston Pippin, are similarly distinguished by their unusual orange cast.

Ashmead's Kernel apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ashmead’s Kernel apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Some describe Ashmead’s Kernel’s appearance as “dull,” with which we take issue. We consider Ashmead’s Kernel to be a rather stunning apple for the distinctly orange tones that shine through its russeting.

Disagreement over Ashmead’s Kernel appearance is nothing, however, compared to the wildly varying attempts to describe its flavor. Ashmead’s Kernel has been said to taste like pear drops, nutmeg, or lemon, and smelling like tea!

Its initial Madeira-like mellowness of flavor overlies a deeper honeyed nuttiness, crisply sweet not sugar sweet,” wrote the late food writer Philip Morton Shand about Ashmead’s Kernel. “Surely no apple of greater distinction or more perfect balance can ever have been raised anywhere on earth.” (Shand, incidentally, was the grandfather of Camilla Parker Bowles, wife of Prince Charles).

Not surprisingly, an apple this delicious but hard to characterize is also versatile, good for eating fresh, in salads and cooking, and it is also prized for juice and hard cider. It tends to sweeten after it is picked, usually in late September and October. A doctor in Gloucester, England in the 1700s, generally is credited with its discovery, from a chance seedling.

Ribston Pippin apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ribston Pippin apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ribston Pippin is orange-brown in color, ripening to crimson and gold. Like Ashmead’s Kernel, it has a strong flavor that continues to develop after harvest, and has been compared to pears. Ribston Pippin was first grown in 1707 in the United Kingdom and was popular in the 1800s, when it was first shipped to America.

Today, Ribston Pippin is grown in fewer orchards than its more famous offspring, Cox’s Orange Pippin, but it is worth the search for its elegant appearance and flavor. It is a mid-season apple, ripening in September, and does not store particularly well.

Cox’s Orange Pippin, as its name implies, is predominantly orange-red hue in color, with red-striping. It spicy, aromatic flavor make it an excellent choice for cider as well as fresh eating.

Like its orange British counterparts, its flavor is as complex as a fine wine. The Orange Pippin website, for example, describes Orange Cox’s Pippin as “a variety for the connoisseur, who can delight in the appreciation of the remarkable range of subtle flavors — pear, melon, freshly-squeezed Florida orange juice, and mango are all evident in a good example.”

Cox's Orange Pippin apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Cox’s Orange Pippin apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Cox’s Orange Pippin was developed in the United Kingdom as a chance seedling around 1825. It ripens in late September to early October.

These three orange apples from England are dwarfed today by Gala, one of the most widely grown apples in the world. Gala is a red-orange apple with yellow striping, crunchy and juicy, with a sweet, pear-like flavor. Gala apples are outstanding for snacking, salads, and baking, and are ready for picking in September.

While orange is present in nearly all Galas, they tend to have a yellowish cast early in the season and become a darker red-orange as the season progresses.

Developed in New Zealand and introduced in 1934, Gala derives its genetic heritage from Cox’s Orange Pippin, Kidd’s Orange Red, and both Red and Golden Delicious. Among its offspring is Jazz.

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Gala apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Gala apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

THIS HAS BEEN A GOOD YEAR FOR GALAS in New England, and we have been featuring them in our booth in the Massachusetts Building at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts, from Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown, Nestrovich Fruit Farm in Granville, and Tougas Family Farm in Northborough.

While Galas are grown around the globe, nothing compares to their flavor straight from the tree at a New England orchard. This weekend’s forecast — sunny, in the 60s — is ideal for apple-picking, whether for Galas, or heirlooms like Ashmead’s Kernel. Visit our New England Apples website and choose the link Find An Apple to see where unusual varieties can be found, and call ahead to your orchard to see what’s picking.

If you are going to the Big E, which ends Sunday, be sure to visit our booth and sample some cider from Carlson Orchards in Harvard, and Atkins Farm cider donuts, made fresh every morning in Amherst. Or try some apple crisp and apple pies made by Marge Cook at Cook’s Farm in Brimfield, in addition to fresh apples from Red Apple Farm in Phillipston and Brookfield Orchards in North Brookfield.

We’ll also have supplies of our new 2012 New England Apples calendar for sale, recipe cards, and our brochure/poster. We’d love to talk apples!

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CONTINUING THE ORANGE THEME, here is one of the recipes we’re handing out at the Big E, combining apples with another orange star of the season. It came to us from The Big Apple in Wrentham.

Apple-Stuffed Acorn Squash

5 New England apples, cored and diced

3 acorn squash, halved

1 c nuts, chopped

3/4 c maple syrup

1/4 c butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400º. Clean out squash and place in large baking dish filled with 1/2-inch water. Combine apples, nuts, maple syrup, and butter. Fill cavity of squash with this mixture. Cover with foil and bake 45 minutes.

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