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Variety is the Spice of Life

The McIntosh

If your taste buds are fixed and your mind closed, you won't go wrong by taking a good supply of our beloved Macs for dessert eating “out of hand.” Take home a good supply of windfalls (“drops”) for the best and most colorful sauce (don't add sugar) and then come back for a good supply to refrigerate or store in another cool place, kept above freezing. They will retain their McIntosh characteristics through Thanksgiving and toward Christmas.

The Cortland

If your taste buds are maturing, like Arthur’s and mine, you may wish to load up with the somewhat less tart and gentler Cortland. Because it is slower to brown when sliced, the Cortland is the best for Waldorf salads. It’s storage characteristics are similar to the Mac because its a cross between our Mac and an old variety still grown some in the south — the Ben Davis.

The Empire

The Empire, a cross of the Mac and Red Delicious, has in it more of the Mac, fortunately, than the Red Delicious. It keeps better in refrigeration than the Mac — we've enjoyed them as late as March. It is probably the one exception, we think, to the book-cover maxim. It is a really good fruit in a gorgeous cover.

The Macoun

The Macoun, a cross of Mac and Jersey Black — and perhaps, Arthur and I agree, the ugly duckling of the clan — is among our top ten for taste. It manages to retain the crisp juicy characteristics of its parentage but has, most have agreed, an entirely unique taste. We have not had enough of this variety to test its storage capacities but it does bruise easily, so handle it carefully until that wonderful moment of truth. Like its brothers, this McIntosh offspring was conceived at the Geneva Station in the New York Lake Region.

The Spartan

The Spartan, a McIntosh/Newtown Pippin cross and another beautiful member of the family, adds a unique aroma to the family characteristics and is said to keep better that its parent Mac. It is also said to be particularly successful in the Midwest. Arthur and I consider it an “also ran.” But remember what we said about “different strokes for different folks."

The Fameuse, or Snow

We really shouldn't leave this truly wonderful clan without mentioning the probable grandfather (or grandmother as the case may be) of the family — the Fameuse.

About 1730, French settlers from Quebec brought either seeds or young trees of this variety with them for their Homesteads strung out along the Lake north of our neighboring Chimney Point. It was likely the first identifiable variety grown in the state. Returning to the area at the end of the French-Indian War, English settlers found only chimneys left of the French settlement (thus the name “Chimney Point"), but some of the orchards had escaped destruction. Scions, or cuttings, from these remaining trees were apparently grafted fairly extensively onto the settlers trees in our area of Vermont; the variety became known locally as the Chimney apple. A small red apple particularly good for eating, the intensity of its color contrasts dramatically with its snow white flesh which is tender, spicy, and aromatic with a distinct flavor.

The Fameuse, carried west by the French, became known by the English settlers there as the Snow, probably because of its striking white flesh but possibly because they stumbled over the pronunciation of the French name. Many people, including George Aiken, believe the Snow/Fameuse/Chimney apple to be the first named apple variety grown in the State. It is still grown locally.

The Red Delicious

An even stronger demonstration of the book cover maxim is the Red Delicious . A chance seedling of the Yellow Bellflower, a large nursery in the middle west has promoted this beautiful apple until It’s become the most widely-grown apple in the country and Madison Avenue's ideal of what an apple should look like. Originally a yellow apple with red stripes and a mild but agreeable flavor, it possessed excellent storage characteristics, a key factor for commercial growers and shippers.

Extensive efforts were made to alter its appearance to the deep red, elongated and tapered model available today. It is said that its flavor, never exceptional, further deteriorated in evolution. Arthur and I call it an “also ran,” but we're happy enough to rustle up a bag of those gorgeous creatures for those who like them.

The Criterion

The Criterion is a yellow apple with an attractive pink blush, introduced within the last ten years by Miller's Nursery in upstate New York. It is a mongrel, counting Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious, and an old variety, Winter Banana, in its parentage. It is mild and sweet tasting. It is said to be good for all purposes — eating, cooking, freezing, drying, or canning — and is said to be an excellent keeper. We have only had enough fruit in previous years to eat out of hand. For this purpose, we have put it in out “top ten.” Friends have told us they have stored theirs into April and May.

The Ida Red

The Ida Red, a Wagener Jonathan cross, was introduced in Idaho in 1942. A large, brilliant red fruit, it is crisp and juicy with an aromatic, mildly acid flavor. A bit tart at harvest, its maximum quality develops in storage.

The Crispin

Called the Mutsi in Japan, where it was developed from a Golden Delicious - Endo cross and introduced in 1948, it is grown extensively in England where it is called the Crispin. A very large, yellowish-green apple, with a crunchy, juicy flesh, it is somewhat tart with a delicate, spicy flavor. These characteristics haven't significantly change in our cold storage through January. Arthur and I rate it in our top ten.

The Rhode Island Greening

At the turn of this century, the yellowish-green Rhode Island Greening was one of the three most popular varieties in New England — with the Northern Spy and the Baldwin — though it was not up to standard for eating out of hand as a dessert fruit that its companions the Spy and Baldwin were. Any true apple pie connoisseur, however, will insist the tart, crisp characteristics of the Greening have never been matched for pies

The Northern Spy

Among the top three turn-of-the-century New England varieties, the Northern Spy was the best all-around apple. A chance seedling found on the farm of Herman Chapin in East Bloomsfield, New York, about 1800, it is still a very good apple for eating, excellent for pies and good for sauce. It is a good keeper but it bruises very easily. Its tendency to bear every other year cost it its commercial value in competition with newer varieties. It is among Arthur's and my top ten choices.

The Baldwin

The Baldwin, or Woodpecker, originated from a seedling in Lowell, Massachusetts, about 1740 and was the most widely planted variety in New England by 1850. It is a large apple with tough, smooth bright red skin with white stars.

Other varieties

Red Astrachan is a hardy, heavy bearing, tart apple brought from Russia via Sweden and England and introduced into this country by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in 1835. The Yellow Transparent, also Russian in origin, was introduced here in 1870. The Paula Red and Tydeman's Early Redare varieties developed over the last half century in this country and in England. We have many other varieties in our orchard, including the Lodi, the Tolman Sweet, the Spitzenburg, and the Cox Orange Pippin.