It is officially autumn and in New England that means apple picking. While most orchards may have a dozen or so well-known varieties, antique varieties are rarely found except at specialty orchards. Our orchard is one of the exceptions as it is planted with almost a hundred different varieties of heritage apples, sometimes called antique or heirloom, they are Autumn’s Antique Delights.
Our orchard was originally planted as a cider orchard. I think this is most fitting since our home was originally built during the 1730’s. At that time, cider was what most people, including children, drank as much of the water was considered unsafe.
There is nothing nicer than wandering through the orchard, smelling the sweet aroma of apples. If you were walking with me, you would be surprised at how different many of apples look and taste compared to what can be found in your local market or farm stand.
Our apples have names that start with every letter of the alphabet except Z but you have probably not heard of many of them. See how many of these apples you recognize.
Ashmed’s Kernel, which is originally from Gloucester, England, came to our country in the early 1700’s. It is a russeted, cooper colored, medium-sized apple. It is crisp with a spicy, sweet-tart flavor and a grainy interior.
Baldwin, a very popular old American apple that was discovered in Massachusetts in the 1700’s. It is a medium to large orange and red striped apple. It is a juicy, sweet apple that is great for pies.
Cox’s Orange Pippin, is a very popular English dessert apple. It is yellow with red stripes that gives it an orange color. It has a very aromatic yellow flesh that is spicy and juicy. It gets more flavorful as it ripens.
Esopus Spitzenberg was planted at Monticello and was one of Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apples. It is red orange with a white interior that is very crisp and has a sweet, tart and spicy flavor.
King Of Tompkins County, originally from New Jersey, then planted in New York in the 1800’s is a large, crimson-striped, sweet apple with a greasy feeling skin that makes great cider, pies and sauce.
Newtown Pippin, originated in Queens County on Long Island, New York in the early 18th century and was grown through out New England. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew this apple on their estates.
Roxbury Russet, is probably the oldest named variety of apples in America, originating in Roxbury, Massachusetts in the early 17th century. It is a medium, russeted, brownish green apple.
We don’t spray our apples with any chemicals whatsoever and because of that, they are not pretty apples. They sometimes have blotches and bumps; none of which affects the interior flesh or flavor. Unfortunately, most people want pretty apples.
You might remember a few lines from Joni Mitchell’s song…
Hey farmer farmer
Put away the DDT
I don’t care about spots on my apples
Leave me the birds and the bees
Even though DDT is not used anymore, we made the decision to go chemical free, not even using chemicals that are classified as organic.
We have more apples than we can ever use and gladly share them with friends. Weekends during apple season, when the sun is out and the air is crisp, our friends and their families enjoy picking apples in our orchard. Every once in a while, we have out of town friends spend the weekend with us and plan a “harvest weekend”. We pick apples, press cider, and make apple pies. We laugh a lot, eat well and make a lot of memories.
If you get a chance this fall, head out to an orchard for a day of old-fashioned fun picking apples. Some of the orchards will probably have beautiful views of the lovely countryside to make the experience more pleasurable. At many orchards, there will be hayrides out to the trees to “pick your own” apples. Ask what apples are available to pick and see if they have any heritage apples. Remember, they are one of autumn’s antique delights.