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The view from Lyman Orchards, Middlefield, Connecticut (Russell Steven Powell photo)

The view from Lyman Orchards, Middlefield, Connecticut. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

IF McINTOSH were its sole contribution, Canada would occupy a special place among producers of New England apples. McIntosh has thrived in New England’s soil and climate ever since Dr. Thomas H. Hoskins of Newport, Vermont, planted the first McIntosh sapling in the United States, purchased from the John McIntosh family nursery in Dundela, Ontario, in 1868.

McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Macs rapidly gained in popularity due to their unbeatable combination of outstanding flavor and hardiness. McIntosh has been New England’s leading apple variety since the 1940s, and still account for about two-thirds of the region’s crop.

A round, medium-sized apple with splashes of green and red on a thin skin, McIntosh is ready for picking in most locations soon after Labor Day. It has white, juicy flesh, is highly aromatic, and more tart than sweet in flavor. It is outstanding for both fresh eating and cooking. Its flavor is superb in pies and other baked goods, and it is often mixed with varieties with denser flesh for a firmer texture, as its tender flesh breaks down when cooked.

McIntosh needs New England’s cool nights of late summer and early fall to produce apples with the greatest color and flavor, accounting for its success here.

McIntosh’s influence can be tasted throughout the season, as a parent to such popular New England varieties as Cortland, Empire, and Macoun, and redder strains like Marshall McIntosh, Rogers Red McIntosh, and RubyMac.

While no other apple can come close to matching McIntosh’s far-reaching influence, Canada has produced a number of other varieties that have developed a niche in New England. These include the heirloom Melba (1898), and newer varieties like Chinook (2000) and Nova (1986).

Silken apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Silken apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Silken is an early season apple, medium-sized, conical in shape, pale yellow in color with an occasional pink blush or light russeting around the stem. Its tender, cream-colored flesh is aromatic and juicy, and it has mild, sweet flavor. Like many early season apples, it is best eaten fresh, as it has a short storage life.

Silken is a cross between another Canadian apple, Sunrise, and Honeygold, a variety from Minnesota. Both of Silken’s parent apples include Golden Delicious in their lineage, accounting for Silken’s sweetness and color (Sunrise’s other parent, incidentally, is McIntosh).

Silken was developed in 1982 by W.D. Lane and R.A. MacDonald at Canada’s Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland, British Columbia, and released commercially in 1998.

Shamrock apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Shamrock apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Shamrock is another new apple developed at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre. It is a round, green apple, medium to large in size, mostly solid green in color with an occasional pink blush. A mid-season apple, its tender, cream-colored flesh is more tart than sweet when first picked, with a finish hinting of honey or butterscotch.

Like many apples, Shamrock’s flavor improves in storage, becoming progressively sweeter, spicier, and juicier for several weeks, but its storage life is relatively short. It is a 1992 cross of a Spur McIntosh and Spur Golden Delicious (a spur variety results when an apple branch develops outstanding characteristics that differ in some significant way from its parent tree).

Due to its green color and initial tartness, Shamrock has been promoted as an East Coast alternative to Granny Smith, which requires a longer growing season, or the heirloom Rhode Island Greening, which is difficult to grow. But it has yet to develop a strong following in New England.

Creston apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Creston apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Creston is even newer than Shamrock, released in 1998. It is a large, conical apple, yellow with a red blush or stripes. Its yellow flesh is crisp, juicy, and more sweet than tart. It is a late-season apple that has been compared to Jonagold in flavor, texture, and appearance. But while some say it stores better than Jonagold, others contend that it can become greasy or soft in storage.

A cross between Golden Delicious and an unnamed seedling, Creston was developed at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre.

In addition to these recent entries, Canada’s apple-breeding program has been developing varieties that have been grown in New England for nearly a century.

Spartan apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Spartan apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Spartan was discovered in 1926 and released a decade later. It has dark, plum-red color, and tender, aromatic white flesh beneath a somewhat tough skin. Its flavor is more sweet than tart, with hints of strawberry and spice. A late-season apple, it is moderately juicy. It is best as a fresh-eating apple, and it stores well.

Spartan was developed by R. C. Palmer at the Pacific Agri-food Research Centre, then known as the Federal Agriculture Research Station. For years it was described as a cross between McIntosh and the American heirloom Newtown Pippin, but as a result of recent genetic testing, the latter has been ruled out, leaving Spartan’s second parent a mystery.

Spencer apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Spencer apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Ripening in mid- to late September, Spencer is a conical apple, nearly solid red-pink in color, with green highlights. Its flesh is crisp, juicy, and more sweet than tart, though less sweet than its Golden Delicious parent (Spencer’s other parent — surprise! — is McIntosh). Spencer is an all-purpose apple, especially good in pies and sauce. It does not have a lengthy storage life.

Spencer was also discovered by R. C. Palmer in 1926 — the same year as Spartan — but it took considerably longer, until 1959, for it to reach the marketplace.

Before it had an apple-breeding program, Canada produced several heirloom varieties of note besides McIntosh — including one of McIntosh’s parents, Snow apple.

Snow apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Snow apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Snow, also known as Fameuse (French for famous or excellent), is small to medium sized, red with green and pink striping. Its name is derived from its white flesh, which is sometimes stained red just beneath the skin. A late-season apple, Snow is crisp, juicy, and aromatic, more tart than sweet, with a slight strawberry flavor. Snow is best for fresh eating and in cider, and it does not store well.

Snow contributes to McIntosh’s thin skin, white flesh, and sweet-tart flavor, and to the trees’ hardiness. Snow’s origins are unclear, but dates to at least 1730. Some accounts hint that it may be much older, and originated in France rather than Canada. An apple named Snow was reported growing in Vermont’s Champlain Valley as far back as the early 1600s.

Pomme Grise apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pomme Grise apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Pomme Grise, or Gray Apple, is a small, round apple with chewy, yellow-green skin covered with coarse brown russet. Its pale yellow flesh is firm, crisp, and aromatic, more sweet than tart, with a distinctive nutty, spicy flavor. It is good for fresh eating, and especially valued for cider.

Pomme Grise was cited growing near Montreal in the early 1800s, eventually making its way south to New York’s St. Lawrence Valley, and from there to New England. It may be related or identical to a 16th-century French apple called Reinette Grise.

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

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NEW ENGLAND APPLES will have an expanded presence in the Massachusetts State Building during the 17-day Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”), which opens this Friday, September 12, continuing daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Sunday, September 28. The Association is renovating a larger booth this summer to boost sales of fresh apples, fresh cider, cider donuts, apple pies, and other baked goods.

Fresh apples will be 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, Nestrovich Fruit Farm in Granville, Pine Hill Orchards in Colrain, Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, and Tougas Family Farm in Northborough.

The booth will feature 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 will be on hand every day to meet with people and answer questions about apples. Their new book, Apples of New England, will be 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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McIntosh apples waiting to be plucked at Douglas Orchards in West Shoreham, Vermont. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

McIntosh apples waiting to be plucked at Douglas Orchards in West Shoreham, Vermont. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

APPLES COME and apples go, but McIntosh is that rare variety whose popularity never fades. It took nearly 70 years after its discovery on a Canadian farm more than 200 years ago for McIntosh to make its commercial debut. But since 1870 the Mac has enjoyed a sustained run as one of our nation’s favorite apples, firmly entrenched in America’s top ten (the sixth most popular variety grown in the United States), and accounting for about two-thirds of the New England crop, where Macs grow exceptionally well.

A century ago McIntosh was competing with varieties like Baldwin, Northern Spy, and Rhode Island Greening for marketplace supremacy. Yet, while those varieties are still grown in a number of the region’s orchards, their popularity crested long ago, and they are now treasured as heirlooms rather than grown widely on a national scale.

Many varieties that were popular one hundred years ago were not so lucky, and are now rare or extinct. Three Massachusetts apples, for example, were not only regional favorites but cultivated across the country. Benoni (an early season apple from Dedham in the early 1800s, with crisp, juicy yellow flesh and red, or orange-yellow, striped red skin), Danvers Sweet (a variety from the 1700s included in the American Pomological Society’s first list of recommended varieties for its sweet flavor and storage qualities), and Mother (discovered in Worcester in 1848 and prized for its appearance and flavor), are now found in just a few places, or preserved in heritage orchards like the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts.

The reasons an apple variety can fade from view are many. It may be difficult to grow or susceptible to disease. Its fruit may be small or misshapen, or the trees may bear crops only every other year. The apple’s core may be too big, the skin too tough, or the flesh too dry. The apple may bruise easily, fall prematurely off the tree, or store and ship poorly — critical factors for commercial success. A variety may simply become unfashionable, its desirability influenced by such superficial factors as color or name.

In some instances, the qualities that made an apple variety exceptional where it was discovered simply do not translate well to other climates or soils. A great apple in southeastern Vermont may be bland when grown in northern Connecticut. Even the flavor of successful commercial varieties like McIntosh and Honeycrisp can vary slightly according to where it is grown, the time of year, and the particular weather conditions of a season.

McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

McIntosh apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

YET McINTOSH is remarkably consistent in flavor and texture, and its attributes well known. In addition to its distinctive, sweet-tart flavor, McIntosh is one of the most aromatic apples. Its juicy flesh is crisp but not dense. Few apples bring as much pleasure as the distinctive crunch of a fresh McIntosh straight from the tree — and they are now ripe for picking in New England orchards, and available at farm stands and grocery stores.

But McIntosh are also great for cooking, and apple crisp is one of the many desserts in which McIntosh excel. We recently made apple crisp using the last of the early season varieties, plus a couple of Granny Smiths that were given to us at the beginning of the summer and that had languished in the refrigerator.

The crisp had good flavor, but it was dry, as the early season apples and Grannies were past their prime, lacking in juice. When this happens, the crisp can be salvaged by adding half a cup or more of liquid, ideally fresh cider, and cooked for 15 more minutes. Water will work if you do not have any cider, or in our case, an eight-ounce bottle of apple juice we had on hand. The result was very good.

Had we used McIntosh, though, there would have been no such problem. Its natural juiciness ensures that apple crisp made with McIntosh will never be dry or lacking in texture, and its rich flavor and fragrance are simply sublime.

We will feature apple crisp made with Macs (and maybe a few Cortlands) at the New England Apple Association booth in the Massachusetts Building at the Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”) in West Springfield, Massachusetts, for 17 consecutive days beginning this Friday, September 13. Customers will have the option of topping off their warm crisp (or apple pie) with vanilla ice cream.

A brief shower Sunday left traces of rain on McIntosh apples at Pine Hill Orchards in Colrain, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

A brief shower Sunday left traces of rain on McIntosh apples at Pine Hill Orchards in Colrain, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

We will also be selling fresh apples at The Big E from a number of orchards, including Brookfield Orchards, Clarkdale Fruit Farms, Cold Spring Orchard, Nestrovich Fruit Farm, Pine Hill Orchard, Red Apple Farm, and Tougas Family Farm, plus single-serving apple pies, cider donuts from Atkins Farm, and fresh cider from Carlson Orchards, and have informational items like recipe cards and our 2014 New England Apples wall calendar.

The fair is a great place to sample and learn about apples, including many of the varieties that populate New England orchards today. We cannot guarantee that all of them will be flourishing a century from now, but it is a good bet that McIntosh is here to stay.

The apple crisp recipe we use comes from Lois Castell Browns, grandmother of Executive Director Bar Lois Weeks.

Apple Crisp

6 McIntosh or other New England apples

1 T lemon juice

1 t cinnamon

1/4 t nutmeg

1/2 t salt

Topping

3/4 c whole wheat flour

1/4 c old-fashioned oats

1/4 c brown sugar or maple syrup

5 T butter

Preheat oven to 350˚. Core and slice apples into a buttered 8” square pan. Sprinkle lemon juice and spices over the apples. Combine topping ingredients to cover the apples. Bake for 45 minutes or until apples have softened.

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For more information about New England orchards, what they grow, and where to find them, click here.

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Solar panels at Green Mountain Orchards in Putney, Vermont, sit high in a field behind the retail barn. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Solar panels at Green Mountain Orchards in Putney, Vermont, sit high in a field behind the retail barn. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

NEW ENGLAND’S APPLE ORCHARDS are the site of more and more solar and wind installations and other renewable energy systems. It is a huge investment, but seems like a good match, as most orchards have both ample opportunity (due to their wide expanses of open land) and need (energy is one of the farm’s major expenses). Many of the installations were partially funded with state and federal grants.

New Salem Preserves in New Salem, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

New Salem Preserves in New Salem, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Apex Orchards, Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Apex Orchards, Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

While no one is saying that slick banks of black solar panels or sleek, industrial windmills make great art, in most cases they are artfully placed on land unsuitable for cultivation, hidden from view, or both. These photographs are just a sample of some of the installations in the region.

Smolak Farms, North Andover, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Smolak Farms, North Andover, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Red Apple Farm, Phillipston, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Red Apple Farm, Phillipston, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Carlson Orchards, Harvard, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Carlson Orchards, Harvard, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

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McIntosh apples, Red Apple Farm, Phillipston, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

McIntosh apples, Red Apple Farm, Phillipston, Massachusetts (Russell Steven Powell photo)

BEAUTIFUL WEATHER, A HOLIDAY WEEKEND, and an early crop make this a perfect time for apple picking. McIntosh, the region’s most popular apple (accounting for about two-thirds of the New England crop), are ready for picking at many orchards, more than a week ahead of schedule.

Ginger Gold, Honeycrisp, and Wealthy are some of the other varieties now being harvested at orchards along Massachusetts’ Route 2 corridor, among them Sholan Farms in Leominster, Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, and Pine Hill Orchards in Colrain. Visit New England apples to find the orchard nearest you, and call ahead to see what they are picking.

Al Rose of Red Apple Farm (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Al Rose of Red Apple Farm (Russell Steven Powell photo)

RED APPLE FARM celebrated its 100th anniversary yesterday, August 30. A large crowd gathered beneath the orchard’s century-old McIntosh tree to recognize the Rose family, including Commissioner of Agriculture Greg Watson, State Senator Stephen Brewer (D-Barre) and State Representative Ann Gobi (D-Spencer). Al and Nancy Rose, the third-generation owners of Red Apple Farm, served up apple cake, turnovers, cider donuts, and fresh cider to their guests, accompanied by Al’s father Bill and the next generation: children Aaron, John, Madeline, and Thomas.

Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture Greg Watson recognizes Red Apple Farm (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture Greg Watson recognizes Red Apple Farm (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Red Apple Farm has evolved from a strictly wholesale orchard to a thriving retail operation, and like a number of New England orchards (among them Carlson Orchards in Harvard, Massachusetts, and Green Mountain Orchards in Putney, Vermont), Red Apple is going green. A 15-kilowatt windmill towers over the orchard; installed last year, Al Rose expects it to pay for itself within two years. Much of the funding for the wind generator came from the USDA’s Rural Development Program, the Massachusetts Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program, and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

A crowd gathers before Red Apple Farm's century-old McIntosh tree. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

A crowd gathers before Red Apple Farm’s century-old McIntosh tree. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

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America's Apple

America’s Apple

DID YOU KNOW that you can’t grow a McIntosh from a McIntosh seed (or a Honeycrisp from a Honeycrisp seed)? Or that most orchards practice integrated pest management (IPM), a series of low-impact measures to manage pests and disease? Or that John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, never wore the tin-pot hat that appears in many popular depictions of him?

These are just some of the apple facts you can learn in America’s Apple, a new book by Russell Steven Powell. The 250-page book features chapters on food and drink, horticulture, heirlooms, and food safety, including favorite apple recipes and photographs of apples, orchards, and growers from across the country by Bar Lois Weeks. Included is a photographic index of 120 apple varieties grown in the United States. For more information, visit America’s Apple.

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IdaReds at Red Apple Farm, Phillipston, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Idareds at Red Apple Farm, Phillipston, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

AN EASY-TO-MAKE, satisfying-to-eat late-winter dessert is apple pandowdy. It’s really a deep-dish apple pie, with a thick apple filling and no bottom crust, but it is distinguished by its choice of sweetener — molasses, rather than sugar — and subtle blend of spices.

The origin of the word “pandowdy” is unknown, but it dates back to the early 1800s, according to Merriam-Webster. Some speculate that the name refers to the dish’s humble, plain origins (“pan” plus “dowdy”). It’s true that it doesn’t take long to make, especially if you keep the nutritious apple peels on, as we do. But that’s good, since apple pandowdy doesn’t last long, either. You can easily double this recipe and use a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.

Idared apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Idared apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

A good apple for this time of year is Idared, because its flavor develops greater sweetness and complexity after a few months in cold storage. Idareds are featured in many cider blends at this time of year and are outstanding in pies and in cooking.

A late-season apple, Idared was developed by Leif Verner at the Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station in Moscow, Idaho, in 1942. It is a cross between Jonathan and Wagener apples.

We paired two Idareds with two Mutsus from Rogers Orchards in Southington, Connecticut, for this recipe adapted from Joy of Cooking. It was delicious!

Apple Pandowdy

Crust

1 c  flour

1/4 c whole wheat flour

1/2 t salt

1-1/2 T butter

3 T water

Filling

4 large Idared, Mutsu or other New England apples

1/2 c molasses (or substitute boiled cider or maple syrup)

2 T cornstarch

1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 t nutmeg

1/4 t salt

dash allspice

1 T butter

Preheat oven to 400°. Make crust by mixing flours and salt, and then cutting in butter with a fork or pastry blender. Gradually add water and mix until dough forms. Roll out to about the thickness of pie dough, in the shape of an 8” baking dish. Refrigerate until ready to use.

In large bowl, mix together molasses, cornstarch, and spices. Core and cut apples into 1/4” slices. Add to bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until apples are coated.

Place apples in 8” baking dish. Dot with butter. Place dough over top, folding in edges. Bake for 30 minutes.

Reduce heat to 350°. Remove pandowdy and cut crust into squares. Allow any juice to coat the crust by tipping the baking dish or pushing down on the crust with a spoon. (Depending on the type of apple you use, there may not be much juice at this point.)

Return baking dish to oven and bake for another 30 minutes, or until apples are soft. Press top with spoon to allow juices to cover crust. Let cool slightly before serving.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

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The lone Red Spy apple tree at Hackett's Orchard in South Hero, Vermont, is ripe for picking. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

The lone Red Spy apple tree at Hackett’s Orchard in South Hero, Vermont, is ripe for picking. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

PEARS PLAY a supporting role to apples in New England. You never hear of a pear orchard with a few apple trees; it’s always the other way around. Several apple varieties are described as having a pear-like flavor, notably Gala and Hudson’s Golden Gem. The mellow taste of pears works well with apples in many desserts as well.

It’s one of the many virtues of apples that they combine so well with other foods. When you consider the wide range of apple flavors from sweet to tart, it means that an imaginative cook can achieve a wide range of tastes.

We recently added an Asian pear and a handful of cranberries to Grandmother’s Apple Crisp, after starting with six different varieties of apples. The result was colorful and delicious, with plenty of sweet and tart highlights.

The apples span a century of horticultural development and, while none of them are native to our region, today they are widely cultivated in New England’s orchards: Macoun (New York, 1909), Hudson’s Golden Gem (Oregon, 1931), Gala (New Zealand, 1934), Empire (New York, 1945), Honeycrisp (Minnesota, 1961), and Shamrock (Canada, 1992).

Gala and Hudson’s Golden Gem gave the apple crisp its sweetness, and they augmented the pear flavor; Shamrock added tartness. Hudson’s Golden Gem and Honeycrisp supplied ample juice, and Empire and Macoun imparted spice and aroma to the crisp.

We have written elsewhere about Empire, Gala, and Macoun, so the emphasis here will be on the three remaining apples:

Honeycrisp apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Honeycrisp apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

For good reason, Honeycrisp has become a prized apple in New England in just 20 years since it was first released commercially. It is an exceptionally juicy and crunchy apple, with just enough tartness to give it a distinctive bite. It has become as sought-after for fresh eating as Macoun, is excellent in salads, and is a good addition to many baked desserts.

It was originally believed that Honeycrisp was a cross of Macoun and Honeygold. But DNA testing has since shown that the records of the University of Minnesota’s Horticultural Research Center, where the original seedling was planted in 1962, were inaccurate. Honeycrisp’s parentage turns out to be Keepsake crossed with an unnamed seedling. Confusion about its origins has not stopped Honeycrisp’s meteoric rise since it was introduced commercially in 1991.

Hudson's Golden Gem apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Hudson’s Golden Gem apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Hudson’s Golden Gem was introduced by the Hudson Wholesale Nurseries of Tangent, Oregon, in 1931. It is a very juicy apple, and some consider its sweet, nutty, pear-like flavor superior to Gala. Despite these desirable traits, Hudson’s Golden Gem popularity has languished, perhaps as a result of the heavy russeting on its greenish skin. You may prefer a smooth, shiny skin on your apple, but if you enjoy a sweet apple with lots of juice, Hudson’s will not disappoint.

Shamrock apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Shamrock apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Shamrock is a new apple, originating in British Columbia in 1992. To date, it has not been as well-received as Honeycrisp. But we predict a bright future for this green apple with a pink blush, as an East Coast alternative to Granny Smith, which requires too long a growing season to be widely cultivated in New England.

The main reason for our optimism is Shamrock’s highly unusual flavor: tart and crisp, with strong hints of butterscotch. Its flesh is a creamy light green. Good for both fresh eating and cooking, Shamrock is an outstanding choice to include with other varieties in pies, crisp, and sauce.

Shamrock is the result of a Spur McIntosh crossed with a Spur Golden Delicious. (Spurs are slow-growing leafy shoots. On spur-type apples, the fruit spurs and leaf buds are more closely spaced than on non-spur strains. The tree grows about 25 percent smaller than the standard variety.)

Bartletts, Boscs, and Asian pears are the varieties most commonly grown in New England. Any of them will work well in this recipe.

Clockwise, from front left: Asian pear, Empire, Hudson's Golden Gem, Macoun, Honeycrisp, and Shamrock, with Gala in the middle. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Clockwise, from front left: Asian pear, Empire, Hudson’s Golden Gem, Macoun, Honeycrisp, and Shamrock, with Gala in the middle. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Apple Pear Cranberry Crisp

Use a mix of 6 New England apples, like Hudson’s Golden Gem, Honeycrisp, and Shamrock

1 pear, like Asian, Bosc, or Bartlett

1/4 c whole cranberries

1 T lemon juice

1 t cinnamon

1/4 t nutmeg

1/2 t salt

Topping:


3/4 c whole wheat flour

1/4 c old-fashioned oats

1/4 c brown sugar or 1/3 c maple syrup

5 T butter

Preheat oven to 350˚. Core and slice apples and pear into a buttered 8” square pan. Sprinkle cranberries, lemon juice, and spices over the apples.
Combine topping ingredients to cover the apples.
Bake for 45 minutes or until apples have softened.

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THIS WEEKEND presents several opportunities to sample New England apples around the region, old and new. Here are three; check your local orchards for other tastings.

October 22-23: Mount Wachusett in Princeton, Massachusetts, hosts its 28th annual AppleFest, where a number of varieties provided by Red Apple Farm in Phillipston will be available for sampling.

October 22-23: An heirloom apple tasting event will be held at Alyson’s Orchard in Walpole, New Hampshire, from noon to 3 p.m. They have a good supply of Hudson’s Golden Gem, among many others.

October 22: Russell Steven Powell and Bar Lois Weeks of the New England Apple Association will make a presentation about the region’s apples at the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield, Connecticut, at 2 p.m. Refreshments will include apple pie and cider.

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ANOTHER WAY to learn about apple varieties grown in New England is to view our three-part series describing them, featuring Chuck and Diane Souther of Apple Hill Farm in Concord, New Hampshire.

One of the videos is below; the others can be accessed at New England apple varieties. In addition to the videos, you will find photographs and descriptions of more than 100 varieties grown in the region.

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ALTHOUGH APPLES HAVE BEEN PICKED for the past few weeks, the official kickoff of the 2010 New England Fresh Apple Harvest will be celebrated this Friday, September 10, at several orchards and the region’s largest packing house.

Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture Scott Soares and members of his senior staff, together with Russell Powell, executive director of the New England Apple Association, will be among the people visiting these apple orchards and apple processing facilities:

  • 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., J. P. Sullivan and Company, packing house, 50 Barnum Road, Ayer
  • 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Carlson Orchards, with cider-making, 115 Oak Hill Road, Harvard
  • 1:15 p.m. to 1:45 p.m., Red Apple Farm, 455 Highland Avenue, Phillipston

Friday is expected to be a beautiful day in New England’s orchards, with an early taste of fall: sunny, with temperatures in the 60s.

Saturday also should be ideal for picking apples, with sun and temperatures in the 70s, and while there may be some unsettled weather in parts of the region Sunday, either weekend day should be fine for getting out to visit your favorite orchard or farmstand.

Beginning 5 p.m. Friday and through the weekend, the New England Apple Association and Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) will sample apples and hand out its 2010 brochure/poster, New England Apples, at a booth at the Sterling Fair.

The fair will be open Friday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Bring a sweater, learn about New England’s apple varieties and take home a brochure. It has photographs and descriptions of 15 favorite varieties on one side, and storage tips, health information, a usage chart and recipes on the other side.

If you are back from the orchard, Saturday’s fair hours are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.sterlingfair.org.

Powell and Mary Jordan, the DAR’s director of agricultural development, will give a presentation about several New England apple varieties Sunday morning at 11, including McIntosh, Royal Cortland, Gala, Honeycrisp, Rambo and Snow.

Gala apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Gala apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Gala is a sweet, crunchy and juicy apple, with red-orange skin and yellow stripes. Slightly conical in shape, it is well suited for snacking, salads and baking.

Galas were developed in New Zealand and introduced in the United States in 1934. Its genetic heritage comprises Cox’s Orange Pippin and both Red and Golden Delicious.

Honeycrisp is a relatively new star on the New England scene, esteemed for its exceptional juiciness and crunch. It has a bright red skin, often with patches of pale green. The inner flesh is cream-colored. The Honeycrisp is a sweet apple but retains a slightly tart flavor. It is excellent for salads or for eating as a snack.

Honeycrisp apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Honeycrisp apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Honeycrisp was produced from a cross of Keepsake and an unnamed seedling. The original seedling was planted in 1961 at the University of Minnesota Horticultural Research Center. They were introduced commercially in 1991.

Snow (also known as Fameuse) is red with pink highlights. It gets its name from its snow-white flesh, which has occasional crimson stains. A crisp, juicy apple with a slight strawberry flavor, the Snow hails from Canada around 1730.

Snow apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Snow apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Snows are one of the oldest and most desirable dessert apples, a parent of the aromatic McIntosh. They are delicious fresh or in cooking, and are a good cider apple.

To learn more about New England’s apple varieties, visit www.newenglandapples.org and click on “Apple varieties.”

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