2009 CSA Newsletter #4

Out on a Limb Apple CSA Newsletter Wednesday, October 14th

Tidbits we forgot to put in the newsletter:

-All of the apples this week were Certified Organic.

-Hang on those Keepsakes as long as you can--in the root celler if you've got one, but you could also keep them in the fridge.  As the name implies, they will get better the longer you hold on to 'em, up until about January!

Connell Red

Uncertain origin, W.F. Connell introduction, Menomonie, WI, 1957. All-purpose apple.  Large very, solid bright red oblate-conic fruit sprinkled with pinpoint white dots. Juicy, distinctively flavored flesh. Keeps in well in the Fridge (or the root cellar until April or even May.) The accepted story has always been that Connell Red resulted from a bud sport (mutation) of the excellent Minnesota winter apple Fireside. Recent evidence seems to disprove that allegation. It now appears that the variety originated as a seedling rather than a bud sport in an orchard not very far away, but across the border in Wisconsin. Another mystery solved? Maybe…maybe not. Blooms mid-season. Best grown in zones 3-5.


Winter. MN 1593 (MN 447 x Northern Spy). U Minn, 1979. All purpose variety.  Aptly named fruit keeps until late spring in the root cellar. Light yellow very fine-textured flesh is hard, crisp, juicy and sweet. Excellent aromatic flavor, but you may need to wait at least a month after picking. David Bedford of the Minnesota Horticultural Research Center said, “The completely unique flavor percolates up your nose.… If you can’t stand the looks, just close your eyes when you eat it!” The irregular conic medium-sized fruit is almost entirely overlaid with stripes and a wash of very deep red. Moderately vigorous medium-sized tree usually bears annual crops. A northern grower on the North American Fruit Explorers (NAFEX) email discussion group called it, “My most agreeable, reliable, grower overwhelmingly friendly apple. I have to thin the whoopee out of it every year. Big fruit. Big taste. Keepsake! Keepsake! Keepsake!” A "child" of Frostbite (MN 447) and recently discovered to be one of the parents of the sensational Honeycrisp. Blooms late. Best grown in zones 3-5.


Late Summer-Fall. NY 55140-19 [Macoun x PRI 54-12 (PRI Coop complex cross includes Rome Beauty, Jersey Black, McIntosh, Wealthy and M. floribunda)]. NY Stn, 1978. Ripe right now and very good for fresh eating.  This is a dessert fruit! Good for sauce and cider as well. Often cited as the best of the recently developed "disease-resistant" varieties, particularly in the Northeast. Somewhat similar to Macoun. (What do you think?) Handsome medium-sized round-conic bluish-pinkish-red apple with crisp white flesh when dead ripe. Keeps for only a week or two, so eat them up fairly soon. Begins fruit production at an early age, bearing consistent heavy annual crops. Naturally well-structured sturdy tree is easy to care for. Considered to be 100% scab-immune, though not resistant to insects or other lesser apple diseases. Best grown in zones 4-6.

Pomme Grise

Early Fall. Unknown origin. Dessert fruit.  Probably brought to the St. Lawrence Valley in Canada by French immigrants and may have originated in Europe as early as the 17th c. Found its way into Maine about 150 years ago. Medium-small oblate "russet " with a well-deserved longtime reputation as one of the very best dessert apples. Firm, crisp, juicy, rich, sub-acid and aromatic.  The greenish skin is completely covered with a chalky russet, sometimes with a red blush. The combination of the chalky russet and the green ground color give it its grey (“grise” in french) appearance. Vigorous dense round spreading annual-bearing, productive tree prefers northern locations. Keeps fairly well some years. Best grown in zones 3 and 4

Wolf River

Fall. Alexander seedling. Near Wolf River, WI, 1875. Most suited for "baked apples" and for drying, though some like it in a pie.  Perhaps the most famous old-time apple in Maine, likely due to its catchy name and its extremely large—even huge—round-oblate fruit. Pale yellow-green skin mostly covered with pink, deep red and bright crimson. Almost always has a vivid yellowish-greenish russety splash around the stem. Creamy-white coarse firm-but-tender flesh. Aromatic subacid flavor is very good for cooking.  Not much good for fresh eating (though some people love it), but particularly tasty when dried. I cut full slices right across the core and place them on a screen above the wood stove. They dry in a couple of days. Keeps until late fall. Large moderately vigorous productive spreading tree. Excellent scab resistance. Blooms midseason.   Best grown in zones 3-5.

Featured Variety Profile: Frostbite(Minnasota-447)

Fall-Winter. Malinda open pollinated. U Minn, 2007. Two apples that I've enjoyed a great deal over the years have been Sweet 16 and Keepsake.  Being the inquisitive sort, I wanted to know the parentage of both.  As relatively recent introductions, that information was available.  The parents for both are identical, the famous Northern Spy (to be in the CSA soon) and something with the unimaginative name of "Minnesota 447".  After a bit of research, I learned that "MN 447" was a "chance seedling" (ie random seedling) discovered in the University of Minnesota breeding farm with the reputation of being one of the weirdest apples of all times.  I had to have it!  I wrote to David Bedford at UMN, requesting "scionwood" to graft a tree of my own.  He discouraged me saying that it didn't even taste like an apple. He also said that they had no intention of ever "releasing it," so it would be left in obscurity forever.  I now wanted it all the more!  After signing a "non-propagation agreement" (promising never to make additional trees) the University sent me cuttings, and about ten years ago, I grafted a tree in our orchard.  It grew quickly and fruited in about 2002 or 3.  I loved it.

I consider Minnesota 447 to be one of the most distinctive and unusual apples I’ve ever tried. Astonished friends have described its flavor as strange, molasses, olives, fabulous, sweet, complex and “like sugar cane.”  The aromatic crisp crystalline flesh is an apricot-orange color with occasional red staining, so juicy it’ll run down your hand. While some people do really like the odd flavor, others do not.  It has elicited some strong opinions -both positive and negative- over the past few years.  We hope that you will tell us yours.  I began a mission to convince David Bedford and the university to name it and release it.  They finally agreed to do so about two years ago.  They had a contest to name it and came up with Frostbite.  Not my favorite name, but now it is out in the trade.  We sell the trees through Fedco and I'm glad that it's finally available.

We are beefing up production in our orchard, but unfortunately, supply is still pretty limited.  That's why you only get a taste at Rabelais when you pick up your order.  We plan to have lots of them to offer in the future.  Not recommended for warmer districts. Blooms midseason. Best grown in zones 4-6.


Recipe: Fried Apples ‘n’ Onions

He knelt on the ice, pushing sawdust into the cracks with his mittened hands, and pounding it down with a stick as fast as he could, and he asked Royal:

“What would you like best to eat?”

They talked about spareribs, and turkey with dressing, and baked beans, and crackling cornbread, and other good things. But Almanzo said that what he liked most in the world was fried apples’n’onions.

When, at last, they went in to dinner, there on the table was a big dish of them! Mother knew what he liked best, and she had cooked it for him.  Almanzo ate four large helpings of apples’n’onions fried together.

-From Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

When I was about six, and in the deepest thicket of my obsession with “The Little House Books,” I begged my mom to make “Fried Apples ‘n’ Onions, just like in Farmer Boy!” Being an unabashed Little House fan herself, she was happy to humor me.  Turns out, it was a tasty enough dish to make repeat appearances at the supper (or even breakfast) table.  She went on to buy me The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories (Harper Collins, 1989) from which I faithfully transcribe below the recipe for Fried Apples ‘n’ Onions, just like Almanzo ate.  The only note I will add is that if, unlike Almanzo, you are a vegetarian, use butter for the fat and throw in a bit of salt.

This is a “country” dish, seldom mentioned in cookbooks but recalled by many oldtimers. Some feel the sugar essential,         others call it “a sin.”

For six servings you will need:

Bacon or Salt Pork, 1/2 pound, sliced

Yellow Onions, 6, 2 pounds

Tart Apples, 6, 2 pounds

Brown Sugar, 2 Tablespoons

Skillet, 12 inch, with cover; apple slicer

Fry bacon or salt pork slices in the skillet until brown and crisp.  Set them aside on a warm serving platter.  While the meat is frying, peel the onions, leaving the stems to use for slicing.  To prevent eyes from watering, hold a slice of bread in your teeth while you slice onions as thin as possible.  Discard stems.

Core the apples and cut them crosswise in slices about 1/4 inch thick.  Apple skins help the slices keep their shape and add color to the dish, so don’t peel unless the skins are tough or scarred.  Drain all but one tablespoon of fat from the skillet, then add the onion slices. Cook them over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes.  Cover with apple slices in an even layer.  Sprinkle brown sugar over all, cover the skillet, and cook until tender, a few minutes more.  Stir only to prevent scorching.  Remove to the warm plate with the bacon or salt pork slices.


Grower Profile:

Wulf's Orchard, Ward Road, Unity Maine.

Howard Wulf has been growing apples and pears in Unity for the last two decades.  His orchard features an assortment of newly bred varieties and heirlooms.  He has probably the most extensive pear collection in Maine.  Although small compared to the other orchards we have featured in the CSA, Howard grows some of my most favorite varieties.  In particular, he was the one who introduced me to the best of the new Minnesota varieties.  Central Maine owes it to Howard for bringing Sweet 16, Chestnut and Keepsake to the area.  He has been incredibly generous to me with his time, fruit and scionwood over the years.  Located just about two miles from MOFGA's Common Ground Fair Grounds, the certified organic orchard is open most days in the fall.  However, Howard is only there "hit or miss," and there is no phone at the orchard.  If you want to visit, try early in the morning on a sunny day.  Your best bet for purchasing his apples would be to attend the Great Maine Apple Day at MOFGA on Saturday October 24th.  (See details)


Upcoming event: Great Maine Apple Day

Please come to the Great Maine Apple Day at MOFGA on Saturday October 24th.  The annual event features multiple educational displays, workshops, cider pressing, informational tables, Maine apple-related products and Maine apples for sale.  Check out mofga.org for more details.  We hope to see you there!                                                                                                      

“Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.”

-mark twain