Crisp autumnal air. The sweet smell of leaves. Dashes of yellows and oranges and reds and browns. A quintessential New England fall. And nothing says fall to me like apples and apple picking.
As a child, roaming the orchards, climbing up the ladder to pick the fruit, and biting into a juicy red McIntosh was what thrilled me. Now that I’m a bit older, I still love to pick apples but, as a produce buyer here at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge, what really gets my motor going is the sheer variety of apples available today.
There are, of course, the old standbys like Granny Smith and Galas. The New England staples like Cortlands and Macouns. And, with the help of seed savers and the grace of a handful of dedicated growers, like Zeke Goodband of Scott Farm in Dummerston, Vermont, there are heirloom apples. The names themselves are reason to cheer: Ananas Reinette, Hudson’s Golden Gem, Duchess of Oldenburg.
Heirloom apples are simply apple varieties that were grown decades or even centuries ago. They come in all different shapes, sizes and flavors and each has its own peculiar story. Black Gilliflower or Sheep’s Nose is a deep dark purple that is shaped like its name, a sheep’s nose. Roxbury Russet, the oldest American eating apple variety (most apples were originally used for cider), has a beautiful golden skin that, in taste, some liken to a guava. The Lady Apple, small in stature was nonetheless an important companion to ladies during the Renaissance who would keep an apple tucked in their bosom to freshen their breath when needed. And, my personal favorite, Esopus Spitzenburg, grown in Thomas Jefferson’s orchards in Monticello and said to have been one of his favorite apples.
Here at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge, we’ll be getting roughly 40 different varieties over the course of the next few months from Scott Farm*. Stop in and try some. A fresh new taste coupled with memories of childhood – what apples tasted like when you, your grandparents, and your grandparent’s grandparents were kids.
*We will be tweeting on our Twitter feed when new varieties come in! To follow us on Twitter, click here.
Mitch Klasky is a produce buyer and sometime bagel maker at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.