Spring is such an amazing time of year. We have had months of a dry, brown landscape, and then, within a matter of weeks, the landscape transforms. After two days of rain, there was a break in the weather this evening. I went out to see our sweet crab apple tree. Not only do we enjoy its magnificent spring display, in the late summer, we can also harvest its fruit. Click on the image for a larger view.
Our apple trees are in bloom. We have several varieties, but the blossoms are surprisingly similar—the foliage has greater variety. These particular blossoms are on a tree we call Midori-chan. Click on the image for a larger view.
We wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving.
Today is Thanksgiving in the US. Like many people, we are celebrating the holiday with a meal. We have been using foods we have harvested from our garden. Two dishes I am really looking forward to are an apple pie with cranberries and a blackberry pie. The apples are from our tree of an unknown variety. The blackberries are from our field. Click on the image for a larger view.
Throughout Maine are lost varieties of apples growing in old fields. While our supermarkets limit our choice, usually red, yellow, and green, thousands of apple varieties have been cultivated. Some have been saved in seed banks and specialty orchards, but many have been lost to time and memory—it can be hard to identify an apple by appearance.
We have one lost variety on our land. It fruits biennially and produces large, round apples. The flesh is white and very light; despite the size, they do not weight that much. It is not a sweet apple, but neither does it have a sharpness of a Granny Smith. Lemony would be a good description. If you cook it, it takes on a pleasant sweetness, but it does not retain its shape. We eat this raw or make apple sauce for itself or as pie filler. Click on the image for a larger view.
It is turning out to be a great year for apples. And not just for us—apple trees, abandoned and cultivated, are full of fruit around Maine. We use no pesticides on our trees and so our apples are not as pretty as the fruit you find in the supermarket. The only thing we do to protect the crop is to spray it with a fine clay called Surround.
The green apples seem to be a Granny Smith variety, although it does not have the tartness of a Granny Smith. We usually only get a couple of fruit from this tree, but this year we may have harvested a half a bushel. The red apple is an unknown variety that is biennial. It is a little early to eat; most of the fruit is still on the tree ripening. Click on the image for a larger view.
We had a great harvest of our Sweet Crab Apples this year. We have found this to be a great apple to have. While they are tart eaten fresh, once cooked, they have a wonderful sweetness to them. We dry some and turn some into sauce. Click on the image for a larger view.
This apple was left on the tree we call Midori. While the current philosophy in gardening seems to be centered around getting everything for the human residents, taking a rather dim view of the others sharing the space, Naomi and I believe our garden has a communal function. Click on the image for a larger view,
Growing apples organically do not result in the prettiest fruit. Certainly you can lose apples to pests and disease. But it is possible. This apple is from a tree we named Midori, the Japanese word for green. We are uncertain of the variety as we did not plant it. The flesh is soft, a pale green, and slightly sweet. There are many unidentified apple trees throughout Maine. Some bear some fine apples, other do not. But these lost varieties can be more resistant to pests and disease. Click on the image for a larger view.
Next to the McIntosh, this might one of the most common apples in America. Not surprisingly, the Cortland is a McIntosh cultivar. It was crossed with a Ben Davis at the New York State Agricultural Experimental Station in Geneva, New York in 1898. The name was taken from the nearby county of Cortland. The flesh is very white with a firm, crisp texture. The flavor is pleasantly tart, which makes it excellent for eating or cooking. Click on the image for a larger view.
Duchess of Oldenburg is an old variety originating in 18th-century Russia. It is one of the earliest apples of the season, bearing in mid-August. Most people prefer this as a cooking apple for pies or sauces as it is quite tart—it reminds me of a sour grape. Duchess does not store well. Click on the image for a larger view.
Ginger Gold is a modern variety grown commercially from the 1980s. Clyde Harvey discovered this apple in 1969 when his Virginian orchard was washed out by Hurricane Camille. It is believed to be a mix of Golden Delicious, Newtown Pipin, and an unknown variety. The apple is named after his wife.
Ginger Gold is an early apple that begins to bear in August. The pale green skin is smooth and waxy, and develops a slight red blush when it ripens. The flesh is sweet and rich with a slight hint of lemon. Click on the image for a larger view.
The St. Lawrence is an old summer variety thought to have originated in northern New England or Canada. Its appearance is quite striking with dark-red stripes over light green. The white flesh is crisp and light. Very much like a Granny Smith, it is tart with a lemon undertone. The St. Lawrence is a great desert apple, but not a great cooking apple. Like many early apples, this fruit does not store well. Click on the image for a larger view.
We should be clear, crab apples are not sweet, at least not in terms of regular apples. We planted this tree a couple of years ago and this is the first year for it to fruit. Crab apple trees are vigorous and grow rapidly compared with regular apple tree stocks.
The fruit are about the size of a golf ball, maybe a little smaller. The apple itself has firm, crunchy flesh and is tart—a granny smith is a sweet apple in comparison. But there is a secret to the sweet crab apple. If you wait for them to ripen to when the sugar concentrates at the center of the fruit, taking on a darker, slightly transparent texture, that is the time eat these. Yes, they are still tart, but they also possess a sweetness. Naturally, these apple are good for hard ciders and cooking. Click on the image for a larger view.