2009 CSA Newsletter #6

Blue Pearmain

Fall-Winter. Unknown parentage. New England origin, 1700’s. All purpose variety, it is at its prime in early November.  It is sweet with a bit of a tart back ground flavor.  The flesh is fairly dry, firm, dense and slightly crisp.  It is a good dessert apple with cheese, and very good as a baked apple.  (See recipe in the last newsletter.)  It also makes an excellent, somewhat coarse, tart, yellow applesauce, which cooks up in a couple of minutes.  The skins do not dissolve but can be left in the sauce.   Highly recommended for quick morning sauce. The skins would probably need to be removed (or blended) if the sauce is to be canned or frozen.  Blue Pearmain has been grown throughout much of Maine for well over 200 years, and is still relatively common in old orchards around the state. Medium to very large fruit.  Pale green skin overlaid with streaks and splashes of russet and purplish-red and a distinct blue bloom (dusty finish).  Henry David Thoreau spoke enthusiastically about Blue Pearmain, even though he regularly scorned the “modern” grafted varieties. The fruit keeps until mid-winter. Said to be the parent of the Maine variety Rolfe. Best grown in zones 4-7.


Golden Russet 

Winter. Uncertain origin. A dessert and cider apple thought to be from England, New York or New England.  Golden Russet ripens late in fall, when the root cellar has finally cooled off and the best cider is ready to be made. It makes what has been called the Champagne of sweet cider: balanced, thick and smooth, and also makes a delicious hard cider.  Golden Russet also makes excellent eating, and keeps all winter and well into spring. Round medium-sized hard fruit; uniform in size and shape, softens as winter progresses but maintains its superior tart-sweet flavor. Beautiful solid, deep yellow, golden-russeted skin! There are at least several strains of Golden Russet that have been grown in New England for centuries.  One of our on-going projects is sorting them all out and locating the best strain to grow in central Maine.  This one comes from the Apple Farm in Fairfield.   Best grown in zones 4-7.



Winter. Jonathan x Wagener. Idaho Exp. Sta., 1942. A popular all purpose commercial apple.  It’s delicious fresh eating, cooks well in pies and sauce and keeps until late spring.  I finally took interest in it a few years ago after hearing about it practically everywhere I went.  On the 20th of May I pulled one out of the root cellar, and it was still firm, tasty and spritely.  I was very impressed.  Medium-large roundish slightly-ribbed fruit, almost entirely blushed with a solid bright cheerful ‘1940's red.’ The ground color is reminescent of Jonathan and Prima. Sometimes there’s a russet patch around the stem. Firm, smooth fine-grained, juicy, pure white flesh is mildly yet decidedly tart, with enough flavor to distinguish itself from the more tasteless sweet inventions of recent times. Best grown in zones 4-6.


Fall-Winter. Unknown parentage. Hollis, NH, early 1800s. Also known as Jewett’s Red or Jewett’s Fine Red. Dessert variety.  Excellent tart eating right off the tree after a few frosty nights in October and remaining excellent well into winter. Tender and juicy. The first variety I learned of 37 years ago when I moved to Palermo where there are Nodhead trees scattered all over town. I’ve never heard a satisfactory explanation for the name. Flat truncate odd-shaped medium-sized deep crimson fruit, resembling Winesap. Similar to Blue Pearmain, its possible parent, it has a heavy blue bloom. Some years ago I received a wonderful note from Ruth King, “When I was a little girl (I’m 89 now) a Nodhead tree grew just outside our dining room. I expect it was quite frail as there were so few apples that the five of us kids squabbled as to who got the most!” Bears a crop every year, and keeps until midwinter. Long-lived, and a neat, easily-managed, rounded tree which is naturally semi-dwarfed. Best grown in zones 4-6.


Late Fall. Red Spy x Golden Delicious.  NY Station, 1962. All purpose variety. Excellent eating and cooking.  Not very well known, but quite popular whenever people try it.  Particularly good as a dessert fruit.  Much of recent apple breeding has used Golden Delicious in the cross.  This may be because "Goldens" commonly produce very decent seedlings.  Occasionally they produce truly excellent seedlings such as this one.  Other popular Golden crosses include Brock, Honeygold, Pristine, Red Baron and Spencer. There are many more. Spigold fruit is generally very large, roundish, and ribbed. The flesh is pure white, crisp, fine-textured juicy, sweet, and richly flavored. The tree is a strong upright grower that needs training. The pollen is sterile so it shouldn't be relied upon to pollinate other varieties.  Best grown in zones 4-6.

Featured Variety Profile: Northern Spy:

Winter. Chance seedling. East Bloomfield, NY, about 1800. All purpose variety.  One of the best and most famous of all American apples, it is excellent fresh, in sauce, and in pies. A bronze plaque marks the site of the original tree of this former commercial giant, still a renowned Maine favorite. Very large delectable fruit has yellow background covered all over with pink and light red stripes and wash. Very juicy and tender; it keeps extremely well even when the tender skin bruises. It is a medium-to-large, moderately vigorous, slightly up curving, late-blooming, long-lived tree. Its one drawback is that it is slow to come into bearing, although for us it has been worth the wait. Prefers fertile well-drained soil. 

There has been much speculation as to the origin of the odd name.  In addition to Northern Spy there are now several apples with "spy" as part of the name, though the use of the word "spy" should not be confused with the use of other words that regularly show up in apple names such as "pearmain" or "pippin" or "russet".  The use of the word spy in Red Spy, Spigold and Novaspy refer to Northern Spy parentage.  In the apple Prairie Spy, the use of "spy" refers to 

its resemblance to Northern Spy.  So where did the Northern Spy name originate?  Some years ago an article in the North American Fruit Explorers magazine, Pomona, attempted to sort out the name's origin.  I print it here in part:



By Conrad D. Gemmer

       More than fifty years ago I found a short one-paragraph letter to the editor in an obscure gardening magazine dated about 1853, and paraphrased as follows:

                                                                                               Rochester, N.Y.

       To the Editor,

       In reply to Mrs. B who inquired about the naming of the Northern Spy apple, everybody around here knows that the Northern Spy apple was named for the "hero" of that notorious dime store novel The Northern Spy, but nobody will come out and admit it.

       Yours truly,


       The book The Northern Spy was written anonymously, published sub-rosa, and circulated among radical hard-core abolitionists circa 1830.  The “Northern Spy” set up a series of safe houses from Virginia through Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York State for runaway slaves to escape to Canada.  He went south, presented himself as a slave catcher, and asked the plantation owners to permit him to talk with the slaves in order to find out how they escaped.  Instead, he told the slaves about his own escape route.  He advocated killing any Federal marshal who caught a runaway slave. He and his abolitionist friends lured slave catchers into an ambush, robbed and killed them. He, in turn, was killed in the first battle of the "War to Free the Slaves," in Manassas, Virginia, of all places, but thirty years before the fact. I have never seen a copy of The Northern Spy.  All this information I have compiled over fifty years.  My grandmother, age twelve when Lincoln was shot, had an old paperback book, Civil War Anecdotes that we kids thumbed to death.  A southern contributor complained that The Northern Spy was a cause of the Civil War, as well as was Uncle Tom’s Cabin! It was a blueprint for the underground railroad, had a chilling effect on law enforcement and slave catchers, and encouraged the abolitionists, she said.

       The Northern Spy apple originated on the farm of Herman Chapin, East Bloomfield, NY, near Rochester, from a seed planted about 1800.  The original Northern Spy was killed by mice or rabbits before it bloomed.  A brother-in-law, Roswell Humphrey, on an adjoining farm, took up root sprouts and fruited it.  A seedling apple tree takes about 7 to 10 years to bloom.  With the setback and the slow-bearing habit of the Northern Spy apple, it probably did not bloom until about 1825.  By 1830 it was in production and named.  The Northern Spy apple was a local variety for 10 to 12 years so the name did not matter.  It got out about 1840 and first appeared in print in 1844 in the Magazine of Horticulture.  Thus they were stuck with the name.

Apple Celeriac Slaw – Adapted from Vegetarian Planet, by Didi Emmons

Cammy and I have both been making this slaw, with various additions and modifications.  Try tossing in thin slices of cabbage, slivered spicy or bitter greens (arugula, mustard greens, anything from the chicory family,) or finely chopped fresh marjoram, parsley, or whatever other herbs you have on hand.

1 celeriac root (about 1 1/2 lbs) thinly sliced, grated, 

or cut on a mandoline 1 garlic clove—minced

2 apples thin 1-2 inch slices 1 teaspoon salt

1 small red onion thinly sliced 4 tablespoons olive oil

1.5 tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard Fresh-ground pepper to taste

1 teaspoon mustard seeds 

1/4 cup lemon juice

Combine celeriac and red onion in a large bowl.  Combine mustard, mustard seeds, lemon juice, sugar, salt & pepper in a small bowl.  Slowly whisk in olive oil. Toss the vinaigrette w/ the celeriac and the red onion and let marinate at least an hour.  (Stick in the fridge if letting sit longer.) Add the apple slices just before serving.  

As we pack up the last of the CSA shares, and as apple season draws to a close, we want to thank you all so much for taking part in this new apple endeavor with us. We hope that you enjoyed the fruit, gained some apple knowledge, and are even more enthusiastic apple fans than you were at the start of the season.  We hope you will join us again next year!


Cheers & happy eating,

The Out on a Limb Crew: John, Cassie & Cammy


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

-mark twain