Friday, September 13, 2013
I admit it—I'm an apple snob. I'm not snobby in the sense that I need expensive apples; I'm snobby in the sense that I need good apples. A lousy apple can turn me off this fruit for weeks, so I'm careful where I buy them. Since I live within minutes of several orchards, buying the fruit at the source is my favorite way to purchase. Next favorite is buying at a trusted local farmstand.
Massachusetts is not one of the great world producers of apples, but it sure enjoys its orchards and autumn apple festivals. New England grows a wide variety of apples, each with its special attributes. Some, like honeycrisp, are great for eating out of hand; others, like the many green varieties, are great for cooking; and still others, including the oddly named Tremlett's Bitter, are useful for cider. Some apples store well, while others lose flavor or texture once the season is past.
Most commercial apples are not grown from seed, because most apple trees cross-pollinate with other apple trees, so their seeds may not be true to type. Instead, branches from a desirable tree are grafted onto some hardy root stock, which is a time consuming process. Also, the trees usually don't produce fruit for several years, and they require careful pruning and pest control. Remember all this the next time you are surprised at the cost of some apples.
Yesterday I learned that an apple tree planted outside of Town Hall is a fameuse apple tree, which is one of the older types. It was a gift to the town from our Bicentennial Committee the year the town held its bicentennial. Our town was once home to several commercial orchards, so it was an appropriate gift. This variety was chosen because it a type of apple grown when our town was first founded. The Town Hall tree is bursting with ripe fruit, so today I'm going down to try one; the taste is said to be memorable. Should be fun.
I had never heard of the fameuse before, so I looked it up. In doing so, I came across some apples that wowed me because of their names. New apples seem to have simple names, like Fuji or Jazz, but older types had some wonderfully fanciful names: Ashmead's Kernel; Peasegood's Nonesuch; Esopus Spitzenburg; Maiden's Blush; Allen's Everlasting; Westfield Seek-no-Further.