It’s a decent year for apples. Certainly much better than last year, when a bizarre 80-degree St. Patrick’s Day, followed by a frost, was detrimental for a number of farmsteads. The apples that survived weren’t bad, said Rick Hardy of Brookdale Fruit Farms in Hollis; there just weren’t as many of them.
“But this year’s crop is actually excellent. There are tons of apples,” Hardy said.
Diane Souther, co-owner of Apple Hill Farm in Concord, said that her orchard did quite well, too.
“Things are coming in really good,” she said. “The big thing is to make sure that the weather is good during pollination. … It was a short crop last year, and so trees were very prolific with blossoms.”
This great crop also includes a great deal of variety. That’s one of the big pros to purchasing juicy fruits through your local orchard instead of your local supermarket. They’ll carry the hybrid and heirloom varieties that your supermarket won’t, because they’re either less popular or less prolific. Trees that produce Baldwin apples, for instance, cost the same to take care of, but they’re also biannual. “You might have a heavy crop one year, a light crop the next,” Hardy said.
A quick tip for apple pickers: you might find your sweeter apple varieties later in the season.
“They’re mostly tart right now, but in late October, the starches change to sugars and sweeten it up,” Souther said.
Tim Bassett, who co-owns Gould Hill Farm in Contoocook, says that this is typical with any sort of fruit or vegetable.
“If the fruit grows quickly, matures quickly, not as many sugars develop,” Bassett said. He and his wife encourage customers to try new flavors through weekend samplings and the farm’s new CSA initiative. Redder, shinier, he says, doesn’t always mean better.
“We’ve been encouraging our customers to try Russet apple varieties, like the Roxbury Russet and the Golden Russet. They’re green, with bumpy skin, and they’re from Roxbury, Mass. Some think they’re the oldest apple in America. They’re very flavorful,” he said. “We’re trying to overcome that stereotype that all apples have to be shiny and red.”
The best way to find out about what new varieties to buy is to ask the farmer. Here’s a small preview of what you’re missing.
Try something new
Ambrosia: This apple is new to Apple Hill Farm’s crop. “These are really good. They don’t come out until October, but they have beautiful coloring, and their flavor is delicious,” Souther said. These apples originated in British Columbia in the 1990s. They’re believed to be a cross of the Jonagold and Golden Delicious.
Baldwin: Tim Bassett at Gould Hill Farm says that this apple was first known as the “Woodpecker” because the tree was frequented by that bird. It’s hard, crisp, juicy, rich in sugars and tart in flavor.
Braeburn: These have a sweet and tart flavor combination. They were first introduced in New Zealand in the 1950s and have red and yellow tones.
Calville Blanc: “This is a French cooking apple,” Souther said. It’s not uniform in size, and it kind of looks like a gourd, she said, with ridges like a pumpkin has. “You can eat them whole, but they’re more of a cooking apple. Chefs love them,” she said. It has a sharp, spicy flavor, and keeps its shape when cooked.
Esopus Spitzenburg: An antique apple was found in Esopus, N.Y., in the 1700s and was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson. It’s pale yellow, crisp, tender and just a bit spicy.
Ginger Gold: Apple View Orchard says that this is a mild apple with a tart finish, a sweet-spicy apple with “succulent texture and rich taste,” as described on the website, a cross between The Golden Delicious and Albermarle Pippin.
Gravenstein: This apple was originally found in the Duke of Austinburg’s garden in Gravenstein, Denmark, according to Gould Hill farmers. It’s green, firm, crisp, juicy and high in flavor.
Empire: This apple is a cross between a Red Delicious and a McIntosh. “It’s crunchy like a Mac and has sweeter flavor, like a Red Delicious,” Hardy said.
Fuji: These apples, which originated in Japan, are crisp, sweet and juicy, and they store well.
Hampshire: You’ll find this apple in a few different New Hampshire orchards, but it originated at Gould Hill Farm in Contoocook. Farm owner Tim Bassett describes it as “hard, crisp, juicy with an explosive bite.”
Honeycrisp: This apple is a cross between a Macoun and a Honey Gold (which, in turn, is a cross between a Golden Delicious and a Haralson). Hardy says that it’s very sweet, an “excellent eating apple,” if not quite as sweet as a Gala apple.
Jonagold: A cross between a Golden Delicious and a Jonathan. They’re a large, sweet fruit with red and yellow skin.
Liberty: These late-season fruits are the children of the Macoun apple, with white flesh and sweet flavors. It is similar to a McIntosh and was developed by the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station.
Mutsu: Also called “Crispin.” This is a large, green apple that has very good juice content, Hardy said. It’s a cousin of the Golden Delicious. It was first grown in Japan.
Northern Spy: You can purchase this heirloom apple at a number of New Hampshire orchards. Hardy says that it’s a fairly large apple, juicy, but very firm.
Pink Lady: This apple has hard white flesh and is ready for picking later in the season. It was developed on the West Coast, Hardy said. This apple is a cross between the Australian apple, Lady Williams, and a Golden Delicious.
Roxbury Russet: This apple originated in Roxbury, Mass., and it’s green, bumpy and full of flavor.
Snow Sweet: These apples have a sweet, tart, almost buttery taste with firm, white flesh and were developed by the University of Minnesota.
Spencer: It’s very sweet with crisp, juicy flesh and a core that’s a bit smaller than a Mac. It’s nearly solid red, or it’s red striped over green.
Zestar: Also developed by the University of Minnesota, it’s an apple with a crisp, juicy texture with a hint of brown sugar, bred to survive in cold climates (like Minnesota).