Despite the warm summer-like days and the intermittent rains that may leave you wondering what month we’re in, it is now the heart of apple season. Our barn is more full of apples than it has been since last year, and we’re excited about the flavorful varieties we’ll be sharing with you for the last two deliveries. Soon, we’ll be sending out an email about special-ordering storage apples for the final CSA pickup, so please check your inboxes regularly.
Also, keep in mind that The Great Maine Apple Day is just around the corner–Saturday, October 25th, 12-4:00PM at MOFGA’s fairgrounds in Unity. There will be tours of the MOFGA heritage orchards, apple ID sessions with John Bunker, orcharding & permaculture design classes, and hands-on apple cooking classes with professional chefs. The food is delicious, and there will be vendors selling apples, cider, honey, beeswax candles, fruit-related books, and much more. Don’t miss it!
This week’s picks:
It has been a long wait, but the real apple season is finally here. Trees are now ready to give up their bounty, and we are happy we can share it with you. This week we are again offering a mix of dessert and cooking apples, including one apple that is new to the CSA. The cooking apples are all oldies but goodies – Rome, Bethel and Wolf River. All used to be commercial favorites but now are limited to a few trees in orchards here and there. No one can mistake the giant Wolf River – one of the apples that claims a host of passionate fans who have been loyal to it since they stole the big apples off a neighbor’s tree when they were ten years old. We like this apple best when it is mixed with others in a pie or crisp so try it with the sweet-flavored Bethel and the zesty Rome. SunCrisp is a new apple to us, and you can tell it was developed by an experiment station by its ridiculous name. We think you will like Spencer and SunCrisp best for fresh eating. They both have Golden Delicious in their heritage which makes them juicy and gives them that certain snap. See if you can taste its other parent, Cox’s Orange Pippin, in the SunCrisp. Rome, Bethel and Spencer will all keep well. The texture of Rome improves and softens a bit with age.
Our apples come to you straight from the tree, so, as with all fresh produce, please be sure to wash them thoroughly before eating. Unless otherwise specified, the apples are grown using Integrated Pest Management by the orchards we collaborate with throughout Maine.Apprentice Laura and part-time OOAL helper Justin pose with 99 year old orchardist Francis Fenton.
And Crown Thy Good With Applehood, From Sea to Shining Sea: America’s Crabby Landscape
by John Paul Rietz
Every year at Super Chilly Farm, we spend countless hours fussing over apples: driving around Maine (and sometimes other states) to collect specimens of every apple variety we can, identifying them, organizing them, creating posters that explain them, and exhibiting them at events such as Common Ground Fair and Great Maine Apple Day. Mind you, over 99% of the fruit we deal with comes from grafted trees that have been propagated for their gastronomical value. Amid all this intensive work with cultivated apple varieties, we can forget about the native crabapples that inhabited this continent well before Europeans arrived with their domesticated varieties. We were thrilled, therefore, about a presentation at 2011’s Great Maine Apple Day that highlighted these oft-neglected natives. That October, guest speaker Miles Sax discussed his work with crabapples as a horticultural apprentice at The Arnold Arboretum in Boston. Miles is now a Ph.D student at the Urban Horticulture Institute at Cornell University, and on very short notice, he has generously shared his native apple knowledge with us for this week’s article, even as he is currently studying abroad in South Africa—thanks, Miles!
There are four apple species that are native to this continent:
Malus fusca (a.k.a. Oregon crabapple or Pacific crabapple) is native to the west coast and can be found ranging from California to Alaska. Mature trees range in size from 10 to 40 feet tall. It is small fruited, crimson red, and has little value as an edible. It is more closely related to apple species found in Eastern Asia (China & Japan) than it is to the other three species that grow in North America. It is speculated that seeds from this species traveled via the Bering Land Bridge roughly 12,000 years ago. Malus fusca has some possibility as development as an ornamental plant; the other three species typically suffer from common apple diseases such as scab and cedar apple rust, which have prevented them from being heavily used in plant breeding for agricultural or ornamental purposes.
Malus angustifolia (a.k.a. Southern crabapple) is found in the Southeastern quarter of the U.S.—New Jersey to Florida and west to Illinois and Texas. Trees can grow to be 20-30 feet tall. The small, somewhat pear-shaped fruits are known for their aroma, but they are very sour and useful mostly for cider or jelly-making. It is of some interest to plant breeders because it is uniquely adapted to the Southern climate. While most of modern apple breeding work is focused on working out issues relating to cold hardiness, interest is developing in apples that can tolerate warmer temperatures as well. Most apple species require a minimum period of cold in order for buds to break dormancy after the winter. Since Malus angustafolia grows in warmer regions, it may hold the key to unlocking our understanding of this mechanism. This could allow breeders to begin selecting for plants that can endure warmer conditions, which is of particular interest in light of climate change. A physiological balance must be struck between having plants adapted to both heat and cold, and they also must not break dormancy too early in the season (otherwise late-season frosts can kill the swelling buds).
Malus ioensis (a.k.a. Prairie crabapple or Iowa crabapple) is found in the central United States, from Ohio to Nebraska and from Minnesota to Louisiana. Trees grow 10-25ft tall. The yellow-green fruits can be as large as 4cm in diameter, but usually they are the size of berries. The astringent fruit is best baked or made into preserves, jelly, cider, etc. Interestingly, there is a disjunct population that grows in central Texas—a subspecies known as Malus ioensis var. texana (a.k.a. Texas crabapple).
Malus coronaria (a.k.a. Sweet crabapple) is found in the central to eastern United States from Missouri to New York and from Georgia to Ontario. Mature trees range in height from 15 to 25 feet. It produces green apples that are small/medium-sized (up to 5cm diameter). The acidic, harsh, fruit can be used for jelly-making, but depending on your taste buds, it can be enjoyed raw when completely ripe. The “Sweet” in this crabapple’s name refers to the smell of its flowers and fruit, not the taste—in Miles’ opinion, the sweet scent of its bloom is unsurpassed by any other apple species in the world.
Out on a Limb Crew Member Spotlight
(As told by her co-intern, Laura Sieger)
Natalie is a third-year student at College of the Atlantic. Super Chilly Farm is a perfect place for her to do an internship, as she is very passionate about all things homestead. She makes a killer apple pie, will whip up a hand-carved spoon or a new shelving unit or door in an evening, and has a great voice that accompanies her lovely guitar playing. Natalie brings lots of farm knowledge and herbal remedies to the table, having spent lots of time working on a farm in Vermont the last few years. It has been my pleasure to share a cabin with her this fall and to intern here together. Some of her current and upcoming projects include a batch of hard cider, a wooden toolbox, more tinctures, an angora sweater and lots of canning! Keep an eye out for more of her recipes in coming newsletters!
Fresh From the Palermo Test Kitchen
We’ve received many tantalizing recipe submissions from CSA members this year, so we decided to spread the wealth and begin to feature our favorite recommendations. This recipe comes from shareholder Barbara Kile, who proclaims it a favorite that she makes several times a year. As it is a somewhat small dish, she recommends doubling the ingredients. No doubt that this toasty treat will warm you right up now that it’s actually beginning to get cold outside.
NH Apple Nut Pudding
3 apples, unpeeled and chopped
1/2 c walnuts, chopped
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 c sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1 well beaten egg.
Mix dry ingredients together. Add apples and nuts, then egg. Put in a smallish baking dish and bake at 350 for 50 min. or until it is brown on top. Serves 4 or 5.
Roasted Apples, via Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmons
contributed by Emily Skrobis
Place two small Granny Smith or Cortland apples in a small baking dish. Mix 2 tablespoons honey with a teaspoon of dijon mustard and 3 tablespoons water, and pour this over the apples. Roast the apples at 400° for 30 minutes, basting once or twice with the juices. These apples are delicious alongside a dish of grains and seared leafy greens.
Of course I had to try this with Wolf River, the ideal baking apple. Unfortunately, and perhaps due to their size or longer cooking time, they partially imploded. However, they still came out delicious. The somewhat dry texture of Wolf River was tempered by the sauce, and the perhaps unlikely flavor combination won many fans at dinner last night.
A Cure for What Ails You
S.W. Cole of Cornish, Maine published the American Fruit Book in 1849. In it he recommended eating sweet apples (such as Bethel, Sweet Red, Pound Sweet, Pumpkin Sweet, Tolman Sweet) baked in milk as a surefire cure for consumption, all manner of inflammatory diseases and dyspepsia. John tried it last week after a bad reaction to antibiotics and actually felt better. He said its mild flavor didn’t assault his taste buds and felt very comforting. We think a bit of cinnamon or vanilla might make it more interesting, if you have the stomach for it.
That’s it for this week! Any questions, comments, suggestions? firstname.lastname@example.org