Autumn has arrived in Carmel Valley! We are preparing for one of our favorite seasons, where the leaves fall from the trees and the last fruits ripen. One of those soon stepping into the spotlight is heirloom apples. There have been passionate fans and growers of apples for generations. For example, The Apples of New York, published in 1905, lists hundreds of varieties, with full descriptions and illustrations of the fruit documented. One looks at all these age-old heirloom varieties with their wildly differing shapes and colors, stripes and spots and unfamiliar names, and wonders, where did they go? Mostly, they died out, the victims of changes of taste and mass marketing. But some fine apples remain, which is why we must support antique-apple orchardists, who continue to grow and propagate the heirloom apples varieties, and who might even ship them to us to taste or to grow in our own gardens. We are fortunate to work with one such enthusiast, Freddy Menge, who dedicates his time and energy into these old fashioned flavors. His parade of apples is just beginning and will continue over the coming months. The list below is the short list of apples we are looking to.
This is the gourmet culinary apple of France, excellent for tarts. Distinctive in appearance: a large size fruit, yellow skin with light red flush. Flesh is tender, sweet, spicy, and flavorful, with a banana like aroma. This apple has more vitamin C than an orange. Mentioned by Le Lectier, procurer for Louis XIII in 1627 and continues to be served in fine Parisian restaurants.
Said to be Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple. High in flavor and quality, the fruit is great off the tree but flavor radically improves with storage. Large apple with crisp, yellow skin covered with inconspicuous red striped and russet freckles. The yellow flesh is rich, firm, aromatic, and complex in flavor; a perfect balance between sharp and sweet.
Albert Etter bred this red-fleshed apple in Northern California in the 1920’s. The apple is yellow-clear with hint of pink appearing through the skin. This is the brightest of the red fleshed varieties, with the color being “neon.” The thick skin hides a flesh that is tart and flavorful, with some astringency.
Suntan is a handsome late dessert apple, rich, sweet, with plenty of pineapple-like acidity and very aromatic. Suntan apple was raised in 1956 at East Malling Research Station, Kent, UK. It is medium/large sized apple with a regular flat-round shape. It has an attractive autumnal color: Flushed bright orange red on golden yellow with short, broken dark red stripes and russet patches. Deep cream flesh, rich and sweet, very aromatic and with lots of pineapple-like acidity. May be rather sharp when first picked and is best stored and eaten in December or later.
Golden Russet is an attractive golden yellow russet apple. Also known as the Golden Russet of Western New York, this is an old American variety. Medium sized, round-conical fruit. Bright golden yellow background skin color partially covered with a light brown russet. Cream colored, firm textured flesh. Sweet with a honeyed taste.