The summer apples are now ripening. We’ll do several pickings over the next few weeks as these apples ripen in waves on the trees. These early apples used to be very popular, almost every farm had a Yellow Transparent, Red Astrakan or Lowland Raspberry tree. These apples were like daffodils, fiddleheads or rhubarb, the first new apples of the season, a harbinger of the cascade of fruit to come as summer waned and autumn arrived. People of my grandparents’ and great grandparents’ generations did not have the luxury of fresh fruit year round; the only apples available at that time of year would be dried or the last apples in the bottom of a barrel in the root cellar.
These apples were originally from Russia or Central Asia, they are on the tart side, good for sauce and some people swear an Astrakan pie is the best to be had. We warn people that these are soft apples but still, we’ve had disappointed customers, expecting the breaking flesh of a Granny Smith or Honey Crisp.
We grow these apples not for widespread sale or great quantity or to compete with the flood of peaches, plums and melons ready at this time. We are growing them for the few people each year that drive for hours to get here and when they arrive tell us that they’ve looked all over for these apples; their grandparents had an old tree and they remember gathering windfalls as a child or the sauce their grandmother made.
Aside from these people, the most enthusiastic fans of these apples are my pigs. I bring a bucket of windfalls home every other day and feed them out; they love them. The juice runs down their chins, they dance and spin around in tight little circles, they almost giggle with delight. These are young pigs, they don’t know what flavors will be coming to their trough in the coming months of the harvest; the crisp Gravensteins, the pineapple flavor of the Lamb Abbey Pearmains, the pear flavored Cox’s Orange Pippins and Hudson’s Golden Gems, the sprightly flavored Reinettes and Spitzenburgs. They become connoisseurs of fine heirloom apples, they become pomological snobs as they turn up their snouts and tip over the trough when offered Honey Crisp or Mc Intosh.
Little do the produce buyers know that, when I tell them the Ananas Reinettes are especially flavorful this year, I’m basing my recommendation not only on my own pallet and experience but also on the windmill twirling of curly tails, the look of rapture in porcine eyes and the satisfied grunts of my discerning consultants.
July 30, 2013