2015 Newsletter No. 5

The whole crew! l-r is Laura, Cammy, John, Nick, Kelsey, Emily, and John Paul.

Happy November!

This week, we were finally able to free up some of our apple boxes. For two solid weeks–even after CSA pickup #4–every single wooden bushel box we owned was in use. If we pressed cider, we quickly re-filled those boxes with fruit that we had been waiting to pick because there were no spare boxes anywhere on our farm. We had to borrow a dozen from friends, and we even bought 40 boxes that were barely intact, because it’s all we could find (every other orchardist was at full capacity, too), and we promptly filled those 40 boxes the very next day.

Our cider pressing party was a major success, in part because of how many boxes we freed up, space we cleared, and culled fruit we used. More importantly, so many folks came out to enjoy the bright, sunny day with us, chatting, and taking turns at the cider press. We reckon we pressed at least 30 bushels of fruit. Many thanks to those who participated!

This last CSA pickup may seem like it marks the end of the apple season, yet in reality, the only thing that’s ending now is the apple harvest season. Only 3 out of the 10 months have passed of the apple eating and cooking season. Given the ideal storage conditions, some of the varieties we’re sharing this week will keep through May and into June! If you want to eat and cook with apples through the winter like we do, plan to store about (at least?) 200 lbs. (or 5 bushels) of fruit for two adults.

People often ask us how to properly store apples for the winter. Though formerly indispensable for rural folks, root cellars aren’t exactly common these days, having been replaced by refrigerators which aren’t nearly as roomy. We’d like to refer everyone back to our post from last season regarding storage, so you can ensure your apples will stick around for as long as you want them.


This week’s picks:

Black Oxford*

Grimes Golden

Northern Spy*

Rhode Island Greening


Winter Banana

Yellow Bellflower (unsprayed)


Finally, we have arrived at the “keepers”.  These apples are good now, and they will get better.  To begin your culinary adventure, start with the Grimes Golden as it is the softest of the group.  This apple of Virginia heritage is great for fresh eating, sauce, chutneys and salads.  Lay of slice of it on a burger or sandwich.  If you are going to use it in a pie, try pairing it with the firmer and tarter RI Greening.

Next up?  Well, our suggestion would be the Northern Spy.  This all-purpose apple is pretty much excellent for everything.  We saw stores selling them green in September, but we held off picking ours until as late as possible.  Slice one up and eat it with a piece of cheese.  If you don’t get hints of sweetness and maybe even a little pear when you bite in, wait another few weeks and try again. Same goes for the Yellow Bellflower – good for baking now.  As a dessert apple, you will notice its tartness mellow and it’s flavors develop with time.

Kelsey has been munching on the Winter Bananas since we picked them before the big chill on October 18th, but the real tropical flavors don’t express themselves till there is at least of foot of snow on the ground.  Be patient when you cook this apple; the slices can remain firmer than you think they should – more like a green banana than a brown one.

Stark, RI Greening and Black Oxfords will be the apples to bring a smile to your face when you come in from shoveling in February.  By that time their tartness will have mellowed and the full complement of flavors will shine through.  Amaze your friends with a Black Oxford pie when all the McIntosh in their refrigerators have turned soft and brown.  And if by some chance a few of these apples roll behind the ketchup or a sack of potatoes and you don’t find them till spring, you may be in for a late season treat.  Emily found a couple of Black Oxfords in our root cellar in mid-July, and they were as flavorful and almost as firm as they had been in March.

There may be a few of you who are ready to yell, “Uncle”, because you just can’t stand to eat another apple after this epic season of apple bounty.  If this sounds like you, don’t despair: you can press up these apples for cider – sweet or hard.  All of the varieties are known for their excellent cider making qualities.  Bottom’s up.

* Just a word about some of our apples this week.  The Black Oxfords which are striking in their beauty may appear a bit subdued when you remove them from the bag.  Just take a cloth and wipe them off to see them shine.  Similar to the Frostbites, the bloom on the Black Oxfords and some residue of the Surround clay we spray on them, just seem to cling on making them look as if they were permanently frosted.  And a word of caution for the Northern Spies– they bruise easily.  The bruises should not affect the storage quality of the apple.

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.

Name this apple!

New Use for Exceptionally Large Apples


If you’ve still got any Twenty Ounce apples kicking around, Kelsey has discovered that they are the perfect size for modeling knitted baby hats! It would make a cute display for a yarn store or craft fair. Try using them for blocking, too, which is the term for wetting, then stretching a finished knitted garment to dry in the desired size and shape. These gigantic fruits are truly multi-purpose. Spread the word to all the knitters in your life!


by Cammy

When we started this CSA seven years ago, the attitude among our shareholders and, we suppose, the population of apple lovers in general was that apples were for eating, either out of hand, added to a salad, baked into a pastry or thickened into a chutney or preserve. These days, however, it seems as if we meet more and more apple lovers who are turning back the hands of time and embracing the ways of our fore mothers and fathers by enthusiastically drinking their apples. The government has done everything it can to make it difficult for orchardists to sell fresh, sweet cider right off the farm without either pasteurizing or irradiating it. So apple growers and consumers alike are responding by turning their attention to hard cider that requires no processes other than natural fermentation to make it “safe”.

At our cider pressing party this past weekend there were some who took a turn on the press and left with a gallon or two of sweet cider. More than a few of the guests to the farm arrived with their own bushels of bitter sweet and bitter sharp apples to press and left with their carboys filled and ready to ferment.

How better to preserve the explosion of apples this year than as hard cider? It is shelf stable, requires no freezing or refrigeration, no baking, in fact it requires no energy inputs at all beyond muscle power to grind and press the apples. Although a few of our Black Oxfords may last till June, our bottles of hard cider will keep for as long as we can wait to drink them.

Perhaps some of the attention on hard cider has been generated by former beer drinkers who are now going “gluten-free”. Others may be attracted by its purported health benefits. As one who drank a few too many cups of cider straight from the press on Saturday, I can assure you that it is far easier on your stomach to drink a few glasses of cider that has been fermented. But the real benefits to health from hard cider are not the ones the experts measure. If you are making the cider yourself, you are going to have to spend a fair amount of time outside gathering apples and pressing them into juice. Sure you could purchase the apples or even the sweet cider, but why not collect the apples dropping in your neighbors’ yard? You will be helping them clean up the mess and maybe you will get to hear a story or two about the old apple tree along the way. That’s how John got started on his apple journey. And don’t forget to add in some wild apples that you find along the hedgerows and roadsides. We have one friend who has gotten so excited about these undiscovered treasures that he finds himself stopping to taste the apples on every wild tree he sees.  It doesn’t make for quick trips, but wandering the back roads of Maine on a fall day is deep nourishment for the soul. And a final health benefit of hard cider comes when the bottles are uncorked and friends gather to celebrate. While apple cider vinegar and apple molasses both have their place, we have trouble imagining the scene where community gathers to raise a glass of vinegar together. Hard cider is the perfect drink for a rural state – we can make it for free and it gives us an excuse to come together.

Last spring we got an excited call from one of our daughters who lives in NY.  The NY Times had run an article about a new cider bar, Wassail, that had just opened in the lower east side (on Orchard St., of course). The article provided the recipe for one of their signature cocktails that was named “Bunker’s Love Affair”. Never having heard of Wassail or its head bartender, Jade Brown-Godfrey, we were a bit surprised (and flattered if the truth be known) that someone would name a drink after John. One thing led to another, and before we knew it we were headed to NY to try one of those Love Affairs. John gave a talk on cider while we were there, and we filled the room with everyone we loved in NY as well as a few real cider enthusiasts. You can say it was the cider that brought us together.

This weekend we will again be gathering around a glass of cider at the annual Franklin County Cider Days in Greenfield, MA. It has become the capstone of our fall – a place to learn, visit old friends and make new ones, and swap stories and bottles. If you are interested in learning about how to make cider or how to cook with apples, there are beginning classes for amateurs and panel discussions with professionals – something for everyone including your kids. If you can’t join us there, you can try a Bunker’s Love Affair at home. Here is the recipe. Wassail.

Recipes of the Week

Bunker’s Love Affair


  • 1 ounce Suze liqueur (a French liqueur made from gentian)
  • 1 ounce Calvados  (apple brandy)
  • 1 ounce Pommeau ( a drink made from fresh apple juice and apple brandy)
  • 2 ounces hard cider
  • Grapefruit twist


In a mixing glass filled ¾ with ice, stir the Suze, Calvados, and Pommeau till chilled, about 30 seconds.  Strain into a chilled coupe glass.  Top with hard cider.  Twist a grapefruit peel over the drink and garnish with the peel.


German Apple Cake

from Emily

This comes from Martha Stewart, who originally got the recipe from Lucinda Scala Quinn’s book, “Mad Hungry.” It makes a delightfully moist cake. For half I used Stark, the other half, Grimes Golden. I found the Grimes to be more soft and tart and melt-in-your-mouth good. The Stark slices held their shape well, and made a slightly sweeter treat.



  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 to 4 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, Cortland, or Winesap


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8-inch square pan or equivalent-size baking dish.

  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and 1 cup of the sugar. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and beat until combined. Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan.

  3. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/3-cup sugar with the cinnamon. Squeeze lemon juice into a medium bowl. Peel, core, and slice the apples into the bowl. Add the cinnamon-sugar mixture and toss to thoroughly coat each apple slice. Arrange the apple slices on top of the batter in overlapping rows, pressing lightly into the batter. Bake for 45 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.



This marks the end of our 2015 season! Thanks for joining us and, as always, be in touch with any questions, comments, tasting notes, or recipe suggestions: csa.outonalimb@gmail.com

2015 Newsletter No. 4

Westfield Seek-No-Further

Hello again from Super Ch-ch-ch-chilly Farm!

Saturday night’s ominous forecast sent us into a two-day scurry to harvest the last of our storage crops. There we were in the gardens, in the trees, headlamps on and still picking after darkness fell right on top of us. Our long months of work hinge on the night of a hard freeze, and if we aren’t well-prepared, much will be lost.

To be sure, it is a rewarding, yet stressful time of the year. October can be a downright difficult balancing act. There comes a time when we must set aside certain responsibilities (apple events, apple identification, chores, jobs), to make time to reap what we sow. Peppers and tomatillos were hurriedly stripped of all edible fruit. The curved spines of Brussels sprout stalks were carried, almost cradled, to the root cellar where they are now safely tucked with all our roots and cabbages and gigantic kohlrabi. We were able to pick all we needed, but some remaining apples we skipped over won’t keep after freezing and thawing on the trees, though they will gladly meet the cider press soon. However, the last of our tomatoes are toast. It is good practice in letting go.

The end of a season can feel like a very real loss. All the annual plants you have nurtured thus far are dead overnight. And there are always some things you just can’t get to. But if a grower is versed in anything, it is resilience. It is putting your heart and soul into your work to begin bare and anew each season, year after year.

A quote that comes to mind as we begin to put the gardens to bed, with the cold, lonely winter on the horizon:

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”

– Louise Erdrich


This week’s picks:

Blue Pearmain

Golden Russet (Bullock)


Northwestern Greening

Sweet Sixteen

Tolman Sweet (unsprayed)

Westfield Seek-No-Further


Every year there is one week that we encourage shareholders to open all of the bags, remove one apple from each, polish them up, and set them out on the counter in a line.  This is the week.  Perhaps the magnificence of fall in Maine is not attributable solely to the foliage.  The array of hues in the apples in your share is richer and more varied than that of even the brightest sugar maple, and this kaleidoscope of colors will still be vibrant when the last of the leaves has turned brown and become litter on the side of the road.

This is why we love apples.

And if a feast for your eyes is not enough, then let your taste buds marvel at the diversity of flavors and textures that our ancestors enjoyed.  Someone once told us that his grandmother planted twelve apple trees in her back yard, and the fruit from each had one, and only one, specific purpose – pie, sauce, cider, dumplings, fresh eating – she never mixed them.  We like to think that the apples in your share were some of those that graced that grandmother’s kitchen long ago.

This is why we love apples.

While we could go on and on about the heirloom apples, we have to admit that there is a newcomer in the mix – Sweet 16.  We debated whether or not to include it and decided that we should since you had an opportunity to try one of its parents, Frostbite, last week and will likely find its other parent, Northern Spy, in your last CSA share.  We heard from one shareholder that Frostbite was not a favorite, but even if you didn’t like it, give Sweet 16 a try.  We get hints of cherry lifesaver, vanilla and bourbon – way more complexity of flavor than your run-of-the-mill supermarket apple.  The taste seems to change with the season and the terroir.

This is why we love apples.

Finally we have to say a little something about names. Perhaps you are a bit skeptical about an apple called “Hurlbut”. John always says you can tell it is an old variety by its name.  Nowadays we call apples Cosmic Crisp, SweeTango, SnapDragon and Jazz. But what do Jazz and Tango have to do with apples?  Apples used to be named after the person who discovered them (General Hurlbut), their color (Blue Pearmain), their flavor (Tolman Sweet) or the conviction that you had discovered perfection (Westfield-Seek-No-Further).  How can you top that?

And this is why we love apples.

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.



Super Chilly Farm Featured in New Cookbook

Two years ago we had a visit from Ben Coniff, who with his business partner Luke Holden owns and operates 14 Luke’s Lobster restaurants in NY, D.C. and MD. He had been asked to write a cookbook and quickly realized that few people could probably afford a cookbook just about lobster. Instead he wanted to highlight the bounty of food produced and prepared from Maine’s fields, orchards, and waters. His tour through Maine led him to Super Chilly Farm to learn about the apples and discuss our favorite ways to use them. He also visited state fairs, fishermen, bakeries, grist mills and restaurants. The result is REAL MAINE FOOD: 100 Plates from Fisherman, Foragers, Pie Champs and Clam Shacks. The press release says it “taps into the magic that draws visitors to the state year after year offering simple, authentic recipes from the best restaurants, food artisans, bakeries and farmers across Maine.”  Those of us who actually live here will enjoy the recipes too.  And there is a useful reference for Luke and Ben’s favorite spots to eat, drink and stock up.  Look for it at your favorite independent bookstore, or if you must, you can order it online.


Take a Walk on the Wild Side

by Cammy

It would be difficult to travel around Maine this fall and not notice the golden, red, and green apples bending down the limbs of trees and spilling out across the roads and walkways nearly everywhere you look. Theses apple trees that are suddenly so obvious have been silently lining the stone walls and tucked into the dense woodland edges around every pasture for many years.  They were there last winter when the mice buried under the snow to nibble on their sweet-tasting bark and the deer came to browse on their new growth from the summer before.  They were there in the spring when they raised their white and pink blossoms toward the sun so the mason bees and bumblebees could bring them pollen.  They were there all summer as their tiny green fruits swelled and became blushed with color.  But it is only now, when the vibrant colors of their apples fairly shout at us, that we see them for the first time.

These are wild apples.  They were not planted by humans, or at least not intentionally.  Although a passing motorist or a child walking by may have unthinkingly tossed an apple core into the bushes, more likely that not, the seeds of these trees were dropped by a squirrel or bird.  Or they may have been planted by a tree up the hill when an apple from that tree fell, rolled and deposited it seeds in the ditch.

These apples have no names.  Like every apple planted from a seed, each is a new variety, unknown before and never to be repeated, unless by grafting.  Wild apples come in all shapes, colors, sizes and flavors.  Some are tasty; others are “spitters”.

All of the apples that New Englanders claim as their own started as chance seedlings such as these.  When our ancestors came to North America, they planted seedling orchards; when they considered a tree to be a “good one”, they named it, nurtured it and shared it with their neighbors through the miracle of grafting.  Although we lost much of that genetic diversity when the seedling orchards were cut down and replanted with McIntosh and Red Delicious, there is still plenty of genetic diversity lying hidden for much of the year in the forests and edges of the pastures in Maine.

Henry David Thoreau, who was fortunate enough to spend six hours a day wandering through the woods and fields of Concord, MA wrote a wonderful essay entitled, Wild Apples, in 1855.  In it he shares his disdain for cultivated fruits which he finds “tame and forgettable” because they have “comparatively little zest, and no real tang or smack to them”.  He much prefers the “spirited and racy” taste of the wild apple but only when eaten in the woods where the November air is the “sauce it is to be eaten with”.  When eaten inside the house the wild apples taste “sour enough to set a squirrels’ teeth on edge and make a jay scream”.  “These apples have hung in the wind and frost and rain till they have absorbed the qualities of the weather or season, and thus are highly seasoned, and they pierce and sting and permeate us with their spirit.  They must be eaten in season, accordingly, – that is, out-of-doors.”

In the spirit of Thoreau we spent a sunny Monday a week ago collecting wild apples along a nearby ridge with a friend who was taking them back to his home in Colorado to put in his cider.  The breeze was warm, the views to the west appeared endless, and the fall colors took our breath away.  We used an ancient tool called a planking pole to shake the apples lose from the branches onto a tarp.  As the apples rained down around us and bounced off our heads, we grabbed handfuls to taste, savor and spit out.  Each apple was full of the wind and the sun and the rain that had seasoned it for the past four months.  There were sweet apples that had been gnawed on by porcupines, one that tasted like bananas, another recalled a tropical breeze, two with hints of rose, and several that made us pucker.  Collecting those wild apples off the tarps felt like sifting through a pirate’s chest and letting the gold and jewels spill through our hands.

So as you travel around Maine this fall, stop and taste the treasures that the wild apple trees are offering you.  As Thoreau suggests, make sure you sample the apples outdoors in the brisk fall air.  It is sure to make the apple taste better, and it certainly makes it a lot easier if you have to spit it out in a hurry.  But for every spitter, there are others with just the perfect tang or smack for your tastes.  Who knows – maybe you will even discover the next Seek-No-Further.


Recipe of the Week

from Emily

If you haven’t before thumbed through Apples of Uncommon Character by Rowan Jacobsen, you’re missing out. We may be biased, since John is featured in it, but the book is chock full of fascinating apple lore that our CSA members would be sure to love. What excites us most are the recipes that include tips on which varieties to use. For this recipe, Rowan suggests Grimes Golden for a “distinctly southern spin,” and Jonathan or Tolman Sweet for an “old-timey pie.” I ended up using Bullock, whose sprightliness mellowed out a bit, yet still complemented the other flavors in the dish quite well.

(And for many dishes I cook, I end up making two; my partner is lactose-intolerant but I still want to get my dairy fix. For his, I replaced the butter with coconut oil and the milk with coconut milk with much success. I also added some nutritional yeast to give it more of a nutty, cheesy flavor. As usual, I add 1-2 more apples than called for!)


Sausage-Apple-Cheddar Potpie

“A rustic pie with a cheese biscuit crust — serious comfort food, made even more comforting by the apples.”

Makes 8 servings.

Crust Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp butter, cut into pieces.
  • 1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup milk

Filling ingredients:

  • 1 pound pork sausage, bulk, or casings removed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced, or 1/2 cup diced celery root
  • 2 large apples, cored and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup chicken or beef stock, or sweet cider
  • 1 tsp dried, crumbled sage
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. To make the crust dough, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a food processor and pulse. Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the cheese and milk and pulse just until the dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the food processor. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. In a 9- or 10- inch cast-iron skillet, cook the sausage over medium-low heat until browned, breaking it up as it cooks. Remove the sausage and set aside.
  4. Add the onion, carrots, and celery to the pork fat and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 4 minutes.
  5. Add the apples and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 4 minutes.
  6. Add the flour and stir until incorporated, about 1 minute.
  7. Add the stock and sage and stir until a hot, bubbling gravy has formed, about 2 minutes. Return the sausage to the pan and stir. Turn off the heat. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  8. Drop the biscuit dough over the top in spoon-size balls. It’s okay if it is uneven or if there are small gaps; it will spread out as it cooks.
  9. Bake until the top is puffed and golden, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool 10-15 minutes before serving.


That ought to be enough to tide you over until week 5! Any questions, comments, tasting notes, or recipe suggestions? Get in touch: csa.outonalimb@gmail.com

2015 Newsletter No. 3

Meet our noble Gravenstein tree!

Fall greetings!

Now that the Common Ground Fair is behind us, we can shift our focus away from displaying apples to supplying apples! With Great Maine Apple Day two weeks away, we have at least a few days to enjoy all the apples we can. In addition to picking all the varieties that are ripening at this point in the season, we’ve been busy harvesting all of our frost-sensitive fruit & vegetable crops and curing/preserving/storing them for future consumption. It’s that time of year when being in the gardens is bittersweet: the shorter and colder days are often dispiriting, while the brilliant fall colors and all the ripening fruits are uplifting. As the saying goes, the sweet is never as sweet without the sour.

We’re delighted this week to be sharing with you some of our favorite culinary and fresh-eating varieties. We hope you like them as much as we do, and that you embrace the season for its beautiful bounty!


This week’s picks:

Fameuse (aka Snow)

Frostbite (aka MN 447)



Twenty Ounce



Your share this week is a mixture of five very old varieties and one relative newcomer.  Fameuse, Gravenstein, Jonathan, Wagener, and Twenty Ounce were all popular apples in New England orchards by the early part of the 1800’s.  Mainers loved them then for pies and sauce, and we think you will enjoy them 200 years later.  They are also good for fresh eating, especially Jonathan and Fameuse; although you’d have to be mighty hungry to tackle a Twenty Ounce by yourself.

The new kid on the block is Frostbite.  John rescued this tree from experimental station obscurity after we tasted it and were knocked out by its unusual flavor.  You may like it or hate it, but once you try it, you won’t forget it.  Besides its distinctive flavor, Frostbite is an excellent breeding apple.  It is the parent of two apples that we hope to offer later this fall, Sweet 16 and Keepsake, as well as two offspring that were bred here at Super Chilly Farm – the diminutive Pipsqueak and the much larger 447-3 (name pending).  We are very enthusiastic about these new, home-grown varieties that are just starting to produce in our orchard.  Who knows, maybe they will be the next Honeycrisp?

And we just want to say a word about some of the apples we are sending you this week.  You may notice that the Fameuse is not as blemish-free as most of the apples that you have been receiving.  Fameuse is a variety that, like McIntosh, is very susceptible to a fungal disease called scab.  It is difficult to prevent scab with organic orcharding methods so we don’t even try.  Our solution is to avoid growing varieties that get scab.  However, our Fameuse tree was a resident of our farm long before we were, and we love its size, shape and apples.  We tolerate the scab because it is only cosmetic and doesn’t affect the taste of the fruit.  In fact scabby apples are said to be higher in antioxidants.  If you don’t like the looks of the Fameuse in your bag, get out your peeler and discover the pure, white flesh underneath.  You’ll see why we kept the tree.

You may also be wondering about the gray, powdery coating on some of the Frostbites.  Although it has finally gotten colder the past week, that is not frost.  That is Surround, a Kaolin clay spray that we use to repel insects that attack the apples in the spring.  Kaolin clay is a naturally occurring mineral that is approved for organic orchards.  We apply it 3-4 times right after the petals fall from the blossoms, so we are surprised that it still shows up on some of the darker apples several months later.  It is not harmful to humans (or insects – it just gets in their eyes and ears); it is even used as a food additive.  However, we recommend washing all your apples before eating them.  Polish up those Frostbites, and they will be hard to resist.

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.



For those who could not make it to the fair, we share with you a short poem written by John:


2015 Apple Tasting at the Common Ground Fair

Saturday afternoon at the fair

3 PM

everyone’s there

standing room only

the team cuts up the apples into little pieces

hands moving quickly with sharp knives

paper plates pass through the crowd

take a piece pass it on

many good apples to sample

Chestnut, Cox, Ribston, Whitney

lots of laughter lots of joy

everyone gets to vote

and the 2015 winner is


Canadian Strawberry


Thanks to everyone who stopped by the Fedco Trees booth to say hello, submit an apple for identification, marvel at the stunning-as-usual displays, or clamor for their favorites during the apple tastings. John still has many speaking engagements scheduled for this fall. Visit our calendar to see if he’s giving a talk near you.

A picker’s-eye view.

Mark Your Calendars for Great Maine Apple Day

If you missed out on the fair, be sure not to miss this year’s Great Maine Apple Day! The event is scheduled for Sunday, October 18th from 12 to 4 (rain or shine) at the Common Ground Education Center in Unity. Admission is $4, $2 for MOFGA members, and kids are free. Tour the MOFGA orchards, learn about making cyser (apple mead), and sample dozens of apple varieties, many of which aren’t featured in our CSA. The Out on a Limb crew will be there with apples and t-shirts for sale. Come say hello!


A Tribute to Francis Fenton

Francis Fenton

written by John Bunker

On May 11, 2015, Francis Wendell Fenton passed away in the same room in which he was born on the Sandy River Road in Mercer, Maine. He was two months shy of a hundred. He was more than likely America’s oldest orchardist. He was out spraying his trees just a couple of days before he died.

Not only was he Maine’s senior orchardist, he also had one of Maine’s largest apple collections, many of them found and grafted by Francis himself over the years. He was a man with a great deal of knowledge, an infectious love of life, a wonderful sense of humor, tremendous generosity and a passion for apples and people. He attributed his longevity to his daily lunch of hot applesauce and ice cream.

My first memory of Francis was from one of the early Common Ground Fairs in Windsor. He was standing beside an apple display he had created by stabbing twenty heirloom apples onto nails protruding from a large upright sheet of plywood. He stood and talked to fairgoers all day. Francis loved to talk. He loved to teach. He reminded me one of those old time hawkers at a sideshow.

When he stopped coming to the fair, I decided it was time to take up the torch and create a Fedco apple display. That was when I tracked him down in Mercer and our friendship began. For the next 20 years I visited his Sandy River Orchard many times. I collected apples to display and scionwood to graft. He and I  walked the orchard together over and over and over again. When he was no longer confident of his own grafting ability, I grafted for him.

Francis’ father planted the orchard in 1906. Of the original trees, about 40 remain. These include a Mac, a Pewaukee, a Ben Davis, and about thirty Wealthys. Francis left for San Diego and the Pacific Ocean when he was twenty two. After the war he stayed in California but regularly returned to Mercer and in 1972 he moved back home for good. The orchard had grown up to white pine and the old farm house had all but collapsed. He renovated the house and the barns and rescued as many of the old trees as he could. He then filled in the gaps with young whips, many of which he grafted using scionwood from the ancient trees on surrounding farms.

For a number of years he would appear at the Fedco spring Tree Sale. We would give him a name tag and make him a honorary employee for the day. He would stand and hold court and sell trees. Customers loved him. He never stopped planting trees himself either. One year, when he was about 95, he was standing in line holding a tree he intended to purchase. As I walked by, I heard him say to the stranger next to him, “I always wanted a Red Astrichan.” By the time he was 99 he had 400 apple trees of over forty varieties along with an assortment of pears, plums and other fruits. Francis’ favorite apple was Wealthy. He always said it was the best there was.

A long term plan for Sandy River Orchard is being developed by his close relatives. It will remain in the family and continue to operate. It is currently being managed by two young orchardists, Abbey Verrier and Angus Deighan. Abbey was an apprentice on Super Chilly Farm for several years and Angus has become a fixture here as well. Besides transitioning Sandy River Orchard to organic and picking gazillions of apples, they have started their own cider business called Rocky Ground. We are pleased to be offering a number of their varieties this year in our CSA. We’re also looking forward to sampling many of their ciders soon!

Abbey picking Rome apples.
Abbey picking Rome apples.
Angus pointing out a still-visible graft union on an old tree.
Angus pointing out a still-visible graft union.


Recipes of the Week

from Cammy

One of the downsides of deciding to eliminate meat from my diet when I was 15, long before I learned to like caramelized onions, is that I have never experienced the steamy, savory pleasure of a bowl of French onion soup. I can readily conjure up the image of a crockery bowl encrusted with dripping cheese and slopped soup, served in a pine-paneled barroom on a rainy fall Saturday lunch to diners dressed in thick wool sweaters.  But alas, my spoon has never broken through that cheesy crust because I have never met a bowl of onion soup that wasn’t made with beef broth.  That is until I read this recipe in the NY times. Although Florence Fabricant didn’t dare include the word “French” in the name of her soup, this onion soup, which is made with vegetable stock and hard cider, makes us say “ooolala”.  Even better – it has apples in it.   The original recipe is reprinted below, but I prefer it with slightly fewer onions and 1-2 more apples.  If you are wondering what to do with the remaining ½ bottle of hard cider, it makes a nice accompaniment to the soup.  Bon appetit.

Onion Soup Gratinée with Onions

By Florence Fabricant

Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes. Serves 6-8.


  • 2 TBS unsalted butter
  • 6 large red onions, about 3 pounds, peeled, quartered and sliced thin
  • 3 large cloves garlic, sliced
  • Salt
  • 2 tart apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 TBS dark brown sugar
  • 1 TBS cider vinegar
  • 2 cups dry hard cider
  • 6 TBS soy sauce
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • Ground black pepper
  • 4 1/2 ounces Cheddar, slivered
  • 6 or 8 thick slices country bread about 4 inches in diameter, toasted


  1. Melt butter in a 5- to 6-quart saucepan on very low heat. Add onions and garlic, dust with salt, stir in apples, cover and cook until onions are very soft, about 30 minutes. Stir in sugar, increase heat to high and cook, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes, until onions start to brown. Stir in cider vinegar, scraping bottom of pan.
  2.  Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in cider, soy sauce and stock, bring to a simmer, cover and cook gently about 20 minutes. Season with pepper and, if needed, more salt.
  3.  Heat broiler. Pile the cheese on the toast slices, covering the bread completely.
  4. Divide soup among 6 to 8 ovenproof ramekins, deep bowls or big mugs with about 12-ounce capacity. Place a slice of toast and cheese on each, place ramekins on a baking sheet and broil just until cheese melts and starts to bubble. Serve at once.


Bloomin’ Baked Apples

from Emily

Pre-baked Bloomin' Apples.
Pre-baked Bloomin’ Apples.

Every year at the Common Ground Fair, I am tempted by booth after booth of amazing (and ridiculously indulgent) food options. This year two friends and I decided to split a huge Bloomin’ Onion and basked in its deliciously greasy glow as we slowly wandered the fairgrounds and took in all of the sights. Not long after, I was chatting with another friend when she described a Bloomin’ Apple recipe she had recently tried. My ears immediately perked up. It sounded like a perfect use for this week’s massive Twenty Ounce apples, and having just tried it out, I can tell you they rose to the occasion quite nicely. (Thanks, Marfie!) Read the original post at ‘The Gunny Sack’ for helpful step-by-step photographs.

  • 2 Twenty Ounce apples (or other crisp apples)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 caramels (which I omitted)
  • Optional toppings: vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce and cinnamon


Freshly baked and ready for eating!
Freshly baked and ready for eating!
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. To get the blooming apple look, you need to cut the apples. Slice off the top ¼ to ⅓ of the apples. Scoop out the core. I don’t have an apple corer so I used my metal ½ teaspoon measuring spoon. Then, use a thin knife to make two, deep circular cuts around the center of the apple. Next, turn the apple over and make narrow cuts all the way around the apple. Flip it back over and you can see all of the cuts.
  3. Place the apples in an oven safe dish and put two caramels into the center of each apple.
  4. Heat butter and brown sugar in the microwave for 30 second, stir and continue heating for an additional 30 seconds. Remove from the microwave and stir in flour and cinnamon. Divide the mixture over the top of the two sliced apples.
  5. Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes. (Check apples after 25 minutes and continue cooking until tender. Some apples can take 45 min to 1 hour to soften.)
  6. Remove from the oven and use a large spoon to move the apples into bowls.
  7. Top with a scoop of ice cream, drizzle with caramel and sprinkle with cinnamon. The ice cream will cause the caramel in the center to harden so eat quickly or put the ice cream scoop on the side.

We hope you enjoy our week three offerings! Any questions, comments, tasting notes, or recipe suggestions? Get in touch: csa.outonalimb@gmail.com

2015 Newsletter No. 2

Autumn has announced its return in usual fashion: its chilly grip now extends beyond the night and morning and lingers throughout the bright sunny days, summer vegetables are pumping out their last offerings before giving up for the season, and apples are dropping from the trees, just begging to be picked and eaten. It’s fitting that this year the time of the equinox does mark a clear shift away from the hot and humid summer weather. Though we’ll be sad to see our seemingly endless summer wrap up, we are glad to focus our attentions on our pomological passions.

For us and many growers in our area,  the weather has been largely on our side this year (though we would have gladly welcomed more rain). And though we were lucky on our farm, a freak storm in late July pummeled crops at Lakeside Orchards in Manchester. Misty Brook Farm in Albion reported “plum-sized hail and 70-plus mile an hour winds” that tore apart buildings and wiped out their vegetable fields, causing $60,000 in damage. For hardworking, small-scale farmers, a blow like that can be utterly devastating. The Maine Farmland Trust has recently set up a disaster relief fund, initiated partly in response to the needs of Misty Brook Farm. Click here to read more about their efforts to create a more supportive and resilient local food system in Maine.

It is a reminder just how precarious the occupation of farming can be, even in Maine, where we are safe from the drought and wildfires that are hitting hard on the west coast. We are humbled by those tragedies, and it makes us consider how fortunate we have been at Super Chilly Farm this year. Despite the challenges, we hope that you are all able to give thanks for this season.


This week’s picks:


Canadian Strawberry

Cox’s Orange Pippin


Maiden Blush


St. Edmund’s Russet

Whitney Crab


We hope you are excited when you open your share this week – the record number of eight varieties that we’ve included reflects the amazing diversity of fruit on the trees this year. Even more exciting, three are varieties we have never been able to offer before. So there should be something in your share to satisfy every palate and every use from fresh eating, to cooking, to drying, to cider.

Six of these apples rank among the most highly flavored dessert apples we know. Canadian Strawberry, Cox’s Orange Pippin, St. Edmunds Russet, and the diminutive Whitney Crab have all won the accolades of the crowd at the apple tasting at the Common Ground Fair.  These rare heirlooms confirm the old adage that the best gifts come in small packages.  Add Legace, John’s vote for the best tasting apple from Aroostoock County, and Burgundy, a modern gem with a unique flavor and zingy aftertaste, to the list, and you may want to swear off Honey Crisps forever.

If you’re looking for pie apples among the bunch, look no further than Maiden Blush.  We used them for pies, croustades and tarts in the past week, and they have held up well to the baking and our scrutiny – think Granny Smith with more taste than pucker.  Burgundy, Legace and Sharon cook up nicely too.  There is plenty to experiment with in your share this week.  We hope you have fun with it.


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.

We were amazed by these obscenely huge Maiden Blush apples.

Meet Us at the Fair

(The Common Ground Fair, that is)

Laura collecting apples for the Fair.

This week is a busy one for us.  As soon as we finish packing apples for you, we turn our attentions to gathering apples for the Fedco Trees apple display at the Common Ground Fair.  Every year John puts together a display of over 100 apples collected from trees in Maine to illustrate the rich diversity of Maine’s apple heritage.  It is always eye-opening, and with the abundance of apples on old trees this year, it is sure to be even more spectacular than usual.  John will be on hand all weekend long to talk about the Maine Heritage Orchard, identify apples from old trees, and generally wax poetic about his favorite fruit.  Most of the rest of the OOAL crew and many other apple addicts will be hanging around the display as well, trading apple stories and catching as many of the interesting orcharding talks as we can in the Hayloft Tent.  John Paul will be leading a workshop on organic sprays for the home orchard and John will be channeling Thoreau in a talk about wild apples.  And of course there will an opportunity to vote for your favorite apple at the apple tastings Friday and Saturday at 2:00.  We hope to see you there.

Look what we found. No wonder those Maidens are blushing!


To Peel or Not To Peel

Most recipes that call for apples recommend peeling the apples before using them. Here at Super Chilly Farm we rarely follow that direction, and instead we just wash and core the apples and use them with the peel on. We do this partly because it is quicker, partly because the colorful peels add some pizzazz to the dishes, especially the raw ones, but mostly because we had the impression that a lot of the flavor in apples is contained in the peel.

Last weekend we got to meet Maggie Campbell who joined an apple walk John was leading in Forest City, Maine. Maggie is the head distiller at Privateer Rum in Ipswich, MA and is working on her Masters of Wine. She writes a lot of tasting notes for wine so we asked her about the location of the flavor punch in apples. She said that the maximum flavor is located in a single cell layer right beneath the skin.

Maggie is also a fan of leaving the peels on, but when she does remove them, (and truth be told, we do peel some of the russet apples with tougher skins), she boils them in a pan of water till they are soft and the color has leached into the water. Then she strains the peels from the liquid, and adds sugar to the water in a 1:1 ratio. She uses this apple-flavored simple syrup to flavor pies and crisps, as a basting sauce for roasted meats or as the base in a seasonal cocktail. It can also be mixed with brandy or vodka to make a home-made apple liquor.

So if you must peel your apples, don’t throw them in the compost; use them to add flavor back into your dish!

Cox’s Orange Pippin

New to the Out On a Limb crew this year:

Kelsey McGrath

This will be Kelsey’s first year as an apprentice and as a farmer.  She has an ambitious goal of healing the earth one garden at a time, but with this goal comes patience. And she has a lot of it. She is willing to wait and spend more time in the garden to make sure that all the plants are taken care of. Kelsey has a strong maternal instinct and her soul resonates strongly within the earth, which is helpful to have in the garden!  She is also very organized and likes to do the little tedious things that we all might not like doing.  Put a label maker in her hand and a stack of unorganized bags of soil amendments and she’ll have fun all day!


Recipes of the Week

from Cammy

We do a lot of fermenting here at Super Chilly Farm.  All summer long we are brining cucumbers and cabbages to make pickles and sauerkraut.  We throw in carrots and broccoli and fennel as the season progresses.  When the peppers are ready, we ferment chile salsa and tomatillo sauce.  Toward the end of October we press bushels of apples into cider and turn it into vinegar and hard cider.  In the spring when the parsnips are ready to dig, we mix them with rutabagas to make sauerruben.  And most of the year we have a pot of sourdough bubbling on the kitchen counter.  Despite all our experimenting with ways to preserve the produce of the farm, we have never found a satisfactory recipe for a fermented kraut or pickles that includes raw, unpressed apple.  That is until last weekend when we were visiting orchardist and food preserver extraordinaire Liz Lauer and her husband Chris Blanchard in Prentiss Township.  Liz is my go-to guru whenever I have a canning, drying or freezing question, but until I visited I had no idea of the extent of the fermented products she puts up as well.  And of course she immediately pulled out four combinations that included shredded apple.  I came home and tried these two.

Beet and Apple Relishferments

  • 4 large apples
  • 2 large beets peeled
  • ½ c chopped red onion
  • ½ tsp grated ginger
  • 1 TBS sea salt
  • ¼ cup whey
  • 3-4 cloves

Directions: Process in food processor until finely minced.  Transfer to jar.  Add cloves.  Press down until covered with brine.  Ferment 5-7 days.  Remove cloves.

Emily thought this was light and crunchy and something that could stand on its own as a side dish.  John Paul, who is not a big fan of beets, enjoyed it as a condiment with vegetables and grain.


Russian Half-Soured Cabbage

  • 5 lb. cabbage – shredded
  • 2 medium carrots – shredded
  • 3 apples – shredded
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 2 TBS sea salt

Directions: Mix all the ingredients together, and press into a jar.  Pound down.  Press all the ingredients under the brine.  Ferment 3-5 days.

We liked this kraut that was sweeter and not as strong as regular sauerkraut.  The original recipe called for 2 TBS of caraway, but the Super Chilly Farm consensus was that it overpowered the rest of the ingredients so we recommend scaling it back to 2 tsp.  See what you think.


Apple Mosaic Tart with Salted Caramel  

Mosaic Apple TartLast year for John’s birthday, I made a tart that combined two of my favorite things – apples and salted caramel – cooked on top of a puff pastry. At the time I happened to have some very tart, red-fleshed apples in the kitchen so I alternated them with sweeter white-fleshed apples.  The resulting tart was spectacular-looking and delicious.  Mmmmm.  Our daughter and son-in-law had sent me the recipe that they found on the Smitten Kitchen website so when I was visiting them recently, we made the tart again – this time without the red-fleshed apples.  Although not as flamboyant, I think I liked the flavor even more.

Don’t be daunted by this recipe – it is very easy.

Mosaic Apple TartIngredients:

Tart base

  • 14-oz package puff pastry, preferably a brand made with all butter – defrosted
  • 3 large or 4 medium apples (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small bits


Salted caramel glaze

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (or half as much table salt)
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream


  • Heat your oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed, 10×15-inch jellyroll pan or baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Lightly flour your counter and lay out the pastry. Flour the top, and gently roll it until it fits inside the baking sheet, and transfer it there. I like to roll over the edge of the puff pastry a bit to make a small border.
  • Cut the apples into quarters from stem to blossom end, and core. Slice the apples quarters as thinly as you can with a knife or mandoline. Fan the apples around the tart in a slightly overlapping spiral — each apple should overlap the one before it so that only about 3/4-inch of the previous apple is visible — until you reach the middle. Sprinkle the apples evenly with two tablespoons of the sugar, and dot with two tablespoons of butter.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, or until the edges of the tart are brown and the edges of the apples begin to take on some color. If you sliced your apples by hand, and they are on the thicker side, you might need a little more baking time to cook them through. The apples should feel soft and dry to the touch. If your puffed pastry bubbles dramatically in any place during the baking time, simply poke it with a knife so that it deflates.
  • About 20 minutes into the baking time, make your glaze. (Resist the urge to prepare this sooner or it will harden in the pan and make a mess.) In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt your remaining 1/4 cup sugar; this will take about 3 minutes. Cook the liquefied sugar to a nice copper color, another minute or two. Remove from the heat, add the sea salt and butter, and stir until the butter melts and is incorporated. Add the heavy cream, and return to the stove over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for another minute or two until you have a lovely, bronzed caramel syrup.
  • After the tart has baked, remove it from the oven, but leave the oven on. Using very short, gentle strokes/pats, brush the entire tart, including the pastry border, with the salted caramel glaze. Return the apple tart to the oven for 5 to 10 more minutes, until the caramel glaze bubbles.
  • Let tart cool complete before cutting into 12 squares. Serve plain or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

That’s it for our jam-packed week two! Any questions, comments, suggestions, or feedback from a formal tasting: csa.outonalimb@gmail.com

2015 Newsletter No. 1

trailmanbloom2Welcome CSA members–new and old–to the seventh year of Out On A Limb. Seven must be our lucky number because we have more fruit on our farm this year than ever before. That’s partly because we plant more apple trees every year, but beyond that, there was an incredible bloom this spring, followed by a very productive team of native pollinators that sealed the deal.

That, however, was only the beginning. A bountiful fruit set means that a grueling schedule of maintenance lies ahead for organic orchardists. For us here at Super Chilly Farm, first comes the immune-boosting spray regime, then the setting of traps for insect pests, then the hand-thinning of fruitlets (removing some to let the rest get bigger), then lots more pest/disease management, then collecting premature “drops,” then monitoring the ripening of each variety, then the harvest, then the tasting/recipe-testing, then the packing/distributing, and then this is where you come in! Of course, the whole process is a labor of love for us, and we’re thrilled to share the harvest of this outstanding season with you.

We’ll go out on a limb and say that you’re going to love the fruits of our labor!


This week’s picks:

Duchess of Oldenburg



Red Wealthy

State Fair



Why is it that the hottest part of the season always comes in late August and early September just as the first apples are ripening?  These early season apples have a short shelf life no matter what the weather, but cool days, such as those we had in July this year, would be just what they need to keep them around a few days longer.  In an ideal world we would all be sitting under the trees, waiting to eat these apples as soon as they fell.  But since we’re not, run, don’t walk to your nearest refrigerator and tuck these apples in as soon as you get them home.  Then make a vow to eat them and cook with them as soon as you can.  They will whet your appetite for the apple season to come.

Four of the six varieties this week were introduced by agricultural experiment stations in Minnesota, New York and Canada. You are unlikely to find any of them at your local supermarket, and even at local farm stands they are a rare sight.  State Fair (which is the parent of Zestar) and Goodland are new picks this year so let us know how you like them.  We think all three are good for fresh eating.  Laura baked State Fair into a pie, and we gave it rave reviews for both flavor and texture – slices held their shape and did not turn to sauce.  Does it rival our old favorites Duchess or [Red] Wealthy for the title of best early season pie apple?  John wouldn’t even discuss the possibility, but you can decide for yourself.


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.


The Orchards of Super Chilly Farm

As an introduction for our new members and a refresher for our returnees, the Out on a Limb CSA is run by John Bunker, Cammy Watts, John Paul Rietz, and Emily Skrobis. The four of us all live and homestead at Super Chilly Farm in Palermo, ME, where we grow most of our own vegetables and loads of fruit (at least in a good year, like this one!). We all have other off-farm work and commitments but converge to work on the CSA come September.

Many of you may know of John Bunker from apple-related talks given all around the state each fall, or from the Common Ground Fair in Unity every September, where fairgoers can’t help but flock to his eye-catching displays of historic fruit. Or perhaps you’ve heard of him as the founder of Maine cooperative Fedco Trees, which sells and ships cold-hardy trees, shrubs, and other perennials, specializing in, of course, apples. John’s education and outreach through MOFGA events and Fedco Trees help create a demand for lesser-known apple varieties, and our CSA began as a way to serve the growing public interest in heirloom apples.

Why don’t we grow all the apples ourselves? Since our orchards are not anything like a commercial orchard in scale or design, we most often piece together our pick-up offerings from our network of commercial Maine orchards that continue to grow some uncommon apple varieties (providing an incentive for orchardists NOT to cut down those weird, funky, previously unprofitable trees). This helps us collect the quantity needed to distribute to our maximum 150 members.

Davis Purple in the foreground. Notice the other colors of apples, all growing on the same tree.

Our farm, on the other hand, is way less about production, more about diversity. It is essentially a germplasm respository – a living collection of apple genetics, not necessarily intended to stuff our cellars in the fall (though it’s nice when it does happen). John’s passion in fruit exploring was borne of his interest in apples, history, and free food. Once he realized that Maine’s rich pomological history was fast disappearing with aging farmers and land development, he set out to collect historic varieties before they were lost forever. In more recent years, his collection has expanded to include wild seedlings from farms and roadsides and unnoticed modern breeding projects, and really, anything he deems to be of value, which could mean consistent yields, disease resistance, unusual flavor, or that it is simply excellent in hard cider. When he finds something of interest, he grafts them here on the farm to study them, carefully observing their bloom times, ripening dates, and general growth habits, and in some cases confirm their identities. “Part of preserving varieties is learning about them and you can’t learn about them in a year or two,” John says. “If you’re going to learn about them you have to be in it for the long haul.”

Somewhat recent acquisitions include Early Strawberry and Hurlbut (both located at the same farm in Searsmont), Maiden Blush (a really old cooking apple, found south of Portland in a subdivision, where by some miracle the old trees were still standing), Davis Purple (a stunning, deep purple fruit so named by the folks who own the property the tree sits on, and which now might be positively identified as a previously known variety, “Harmon”), and the modern Frostbite. We like Frostbite so much that it has its own mature tree, an honor shared only with beloved Black Oxford and Trailman (save for one branch of Redfield).

Our MN 447 (aka Frostbite) tree is laden with fruit this year. If we feel like sharing one of our favorite apples, we’ll be including it in the CSA this year.

Such a collection complements John’s Fedco work well, as during winter we cut scion wood (sticks of the previous year’s supple growth, which is used to propagate each singular variety) from the trees to sell, some directly to Fedco consumers and some to supply Fedco’s local growers who then graft young fruit trees to be sold after two seasons. Also, John’s orchard observations become valuable, variety-specific growing information in the Fedco catalogs each year.

The farm is home to several hundred apple varieties spread out among over 200 trees, many of which were planted in the last five years in our experimental polyculture orchard and a newer cider orchard. Since grafting onto a mature tree yields fruit much more quickly than simply planting a new one, most of our bearing trees are crowded with diversity. Look closely and you’ll likely find five varieties on one tree, a vinyl label dangling from each different branch. But amassing this grand collection takes up precious space on a homestead carved out of a woodlot, so though we squeeze in multiple varieties on single trees wherever we can, space is limited. Thankfully, MOFGA’s exciting new Maine Heritage Orchard, which John spearheaded along with late MOFGA director Russell Libby, is dedicating a single tree to each variety in its growing collection. The orchard, sited in a reclaimed gravel pit on MOFGA-owned land in Unity, ME, will be an ongoing experiment in permaculture and a sustainable, centralized way to preserve fruit specimens and to ensure that these living genetic resources will be maintained for generations to come.

Our Trailman tree in bloom. You can make out the one branch of red-fleshed RedFree, which has pink blossoms. This tree sits right outside our main garden.
Our Trailman tree in bloom. You can make out the one branch of red-fleshed Redfield, which has pink blossoms. This tree sits right outside our main garden.

So, besides lacking mainstream cultivars (Macs, Cortlands, and the dreaded Deliciouses), our farm stands out because it is not a standard orchard with tidy rows of evenly-spaced trees, easily accessed by truck or tractor. Instead, it is a seeming hodge-podge of vegetable gardens, perennial flowers and herbs, with fruit trees scattered just about everywhere in between. We value a creative, organic approach to cultivating our land, instead of uniformity and production, and we tend to let a tree grow where it looks like there ought to be one.

John often encourages us to stop and consider how fortunate we are to be in such a unique situation – how miraculous it is to walk around the farm where so many different varieties are growing in one place! And it’s true; everywhere we look here, tree limbs bend with the weight of such beautiful, prolific yields of once-common American heirlooms, traditional French cider types, and far-flung Estonian varieties, some of which we will be trying for the first time this year. So many colors, tastes, and textures to be found in these apples – often, the best uses for them yet to be discovered!

And the other night, as we partook in a seasonal pastime – how amazing it is that we get to sample and compare five single-varietal applesauces made from apples that few people have ever even heard of! We hope you feel that magic too, as you participate in our CSA during this remarkably bountiful fall. We thank you for giving these rare apples a place at your table.


New to the Out On a Limb crew this year:

Nick Libbynick

Nick Libby is a first year MOFGA apprentice from Portland living and working here at Super Chilly Farm. Truly an adventurer, his first solo trip into the woods ended with him 70 feet up in a tree trying to find his way back. Fortunately for all of us, he returned safely, now he has to settle for climbing the many apple trees around the farm. He enjoys the treetops where he can survey the land around him and cast out positive energy as far as his eyes can see. Nick practices Reiki and has been experimenting with energy work and the use of crystals in the gardens. And finally being free from distractions has helped him to learn more about himself than he ever expected.



Recipe of the Week

It seems too hot to do too much cooking this week, so we have been eating a lot of apples fresh and experimenting with making them into sauce.  But I did find a recipe to try that did not require much slaving over a hot stove.  Browned Butter Apple Loaf was easy to mix up, and once I put it in the oven, I could forget about it until the timer went off an hour later.  It calls for a mixture of sweet and tart apples.  I used State Fair and Garden Royal, but you could mix in Duchess, Red Wealthy or Milton with the State Fair.  I used four apples instead of three since they were small, and the loaf was loaded with bits of apple.  The inside stayed moist while the top was a bit crispy.  It paired well with all the applesauces that we made.

Brown Butter Apple Loaf
Makes 1 loaf


1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

2 large eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp fine sea salt

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup crème fraîche or plain yogurt

3 TBS apple brandy, such as Apple Jack or Calvados

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

3 apples, cored and diced

1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a loaf pan with butter or cooking spray.

Place the butter in a medium skillet and melt over medium heat. Continue cooking, swirling occasionally to prevent burning, until the butter is bubbling and golden brown with a nutty aroma. Combine the butter in a large mixing bowl with the sugar, brown sugar, and eggs. Whisk to combine.

Add the flours, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Follow with the crème fraîche, apple brandy, vanilla, apples, and pecans; the batter will be very thick.

Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake loaf for 1 hour. Allow to cool for 20 to 30 minutes before removing from loaf pan.

That wraps up week one! Any questions, comments, suggestions, or feedback from a formal tasting: csa.outonalimb@gmail.com