2009 CSA Newsletter #5

Out on a Limb Apple CSA Newsletter

Wednesday,October 28th


Fall/Winter. Seedling of Vandevere. Lampeter Township, PA, about 1800. All-purpose apple still quite popular in Pennsylvania and occasionally grown in central Maine.  Most admired as a culinary variety, particularly for pies.  Medium-large roundish-oblate mildly flavored delicately aromatic tart fruit. Andrew Jackson Downing, in his 1845 Fruits and Fruit Trees of America calls it a “rather rich subacid.”  I like its subtle flavor right off the tree. Although its name comes from having originated adjacent to William Gibbons’ smokehouse, the fruit looks smoky, colored with a muted blend of yellows, greens and a reddish-brown blush. The long willowy branched tree bears large crops annually and is easily recognized in the orchard. Keeps well into late winter. Best grown in zones 4-6.


Late Fall/winter.  Summerland S-5-4 (McIntosh x Golden Delicious) Canada Dept. Agr. Res. Sta., British Columbia, 1959.  This relatively unknown dessert apple has an avid following of commercial and home orchardists here in Maine and throughout the Northeast. The large, oblong conic yellow fruit  blushed with light scarlet red is crisp, firm, juicy and very sweet.  According to grower Phil Norris, it has “all the spriteliness of Golden Delicious combined with the incomparable sweet-tart ambrosia of a perfectly ripe Mac.” It ripens after McIntosh and keeps relatively well.  The tree is vigorous, upright-spreading, and annually bearing, although it has a reputation of being somewhat slow to fruit. Best grown in zones 4-6.

Tolman Sweet

Fall-Early Winter. Unknown parentage. Sometimes called Talman Sweet and numerous variations thereof. Possibly from Dorchester, MA, it is an extremely old variety. One of the first American apples, and one of the few to remain popular for centuries, it is one of the true classic American varieties. 200 years ago it was often used as rootstock for other old varieties.  Truly an all-purpose fruit, used for cooking, dessert and even animal fodder. Once popular for “pickling, boiling and baking.” Its rich creamy sauce cooks slowly with skin that mostly breaks up and disappears.  The sauce is said to be medicinal when cooked with milk! Recently I've been told that, despite its relatively small size, it makes a superior baked apple when cored and stuffed with spices.  Eaten fresh, it may have the most recognizable flavor of any apple; an interesting and peculiar strange sweet taste that once tried is not forgotten—though some like it and some don’t!  The moderately juicy, medium-sized, greenish-yellow fruit is often marked by a "suture" line running from top to bottom and sometimes has a bit of a brownish blush. Long-lived heavy-bearing medium-sized vigorous tree, it is still quite common in small old central Maine farm orchards.   Best grown in zones 4-6.

Twenty Ounce

Fall-early winter. Uncertain origin. About1844. All-purpose variety, recommended for pies and sauce, though not generally a dessert fruit. It is a very large attractive red fruit, with an interesting mildly tart taste and firm white flesh. Known to produce apples as big as a baby's head—sometimes the eponymous twenty ounces! Hardy, long-lived, healthy, moderately vigorous tree with rather stocky growth and upcurving branches. Best grown in zones 3-5.

Featured Variety Profile: Gray Pearmain:

Late Fall. Unknown origin. Dessert (fresh eating) apple.  Pear-like, juicy and mildly tart.  Reminds me of Bosc pear. Also produces good juice.  The Oxford English dictionary defines "Pearmain" as "An old variety of baking pear" or "Any of several varieties of apple with firm white flesh."  The most famous Pearmain is "Blue Pearmain" which we plan to offer in our final week.  The are many others, including American Summer Pearmain, Autumn Pearmain, Clark Pearmain, Davenport Pearmain, English Summer Pearmain, French Pearmain, Long Island Pearmain, Long Red Pearmain, New York Pearmain, Orange Pearmain, Orne Royal Pearmain, Oxford Pearmain, Red Pearmain,  Russet Pearmain,  Sebasticook Pearmain, Striped Pearmain, Summer Pearmain, Sweet Pearmain, Winter Pearmian,  and Winthrop Pearmain.

Although "Gray Pearmain" is one of the most popular of the many unusual varieties Steve and Marilyn Meyerhans grow at the Apple Farm in Fairfield, we can find no reference to it in any old books or other pomological literature.  It might be a local synonym for another variety, as many apples had different names in different locations.  Some are variations on a theme while others could be quite radically different. The famous New York apple, Newtown Pippin, for example, is equally famous in Virginia where it is known as Albemarle Pippin.  Maybe "Gray Pearmain" is a synonym for one of the other Pearmains listed above? We may never know.  The apple might also be something of Royal Wentworth’s (the previous owner of the Meyerhans’ orchard) own creation, a seedling perhaps that he discovered and named himself. There were five or six Gray Pearmain trees in Wentworth's orchard when the Meyerhans purchased it over thirty years ago. Those trees were already 40 or 50 years old at that time.  Unfortunately they never thought to ask the soft-spoken Wentworth about the apple.  I’ve been

trying to determine its true identity for years, with no luck yet.  Now that Wentworth has passed away, the apple may forever remain a mystery!

Gray Pearmain is medium-sized, oblate, obscurely ribbed, and muffin-shaped, with firm white flesh. The skin is a soft opaque greenish-yellow with a rosy pink blush, a bit of a russet veil, and a grayish bloom.  The fruit is very good for fall and winter use, as it will store reasonably well (although it may shrivel a bit, like a Golden Russet.) The tree itself is annually bearing, very manageable, medium sized and spreading. Not hard to grow.  Best grown in zones 4-6.


Cammy’s Favorite Baked Apples:


* /4 cup (1/2 stick) plus 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

* 1/4 cup dark rum

* 1/4 cup apple juice or cider

* 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

* 2 large egg yolks

* 1 tablespoon whipping cream

* 2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger

* 2 teaspoons all purpose flour

* 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

* 1/2 cup almonds, toasted, finely chopped

* 6 pitted dates, chopped

* 4 apples (about 2 pounds)

* Additional melted butter


Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix 1/4 cup butter, rum and juice in 8 x 8 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Mix sugar, egg yolks, 1 tablespoon cream, ginger, flour, lemon peel and 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in small bowl until smooth. Mix in almonds and dates.

Using melon baller, scoop out stem end and entire core of apples, being careful to leave bottom intact. Using vegetable peeler, remove 1-inch-wide strip of peel from around top of cavity. Pack cavities to top with almond mixture. Arrange apples in prepared dish. Brush exposed apple surfaces with additional melted butter.

Bake until tester inserted into apple meets little resistance, basting occasionally with juices and covering loosely with foil if filling is browning too quickly, about 45 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream.        

Grower Profile:

Superchilly Farm, Palermo, Maine

John Bunker and Cammy Watts grow apples, pears, plums and cherries on Super Chilly Farm in Palermo.  Founded in 1972, the farm's specialty is a collection of rare and historic apple varieties, at last count well over 200.  Many of the varieties originated in Maine, from York County to The County.  John and Cammy think of the farm less as a commercial orchard and more as a repository for rare and endangered varieties.  Two of their favorites are Winekist and Frostbite (MN 447).  The Super Chilly specimens are the primary source material (scionwood) for the stock planted at MOFGA and as well as that sold through the Fedco catalog. The farm also features small fruits, vegetables and ornamentals, many of which also appear in the Fedco Trees catalog.   The farm does not have regular business hours but is always open by appointment.  The best time to visit is in the summer when everything looks good!


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

-mark twain