Sunday, October 29, 2006

An Heirloom a Day

Newtown Pippins
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
B has been looking forward for months to the Heirloom Apple Festival that was held this weekend in the Hood River Valley. Me? Not so much. I’m not a huge fan of apples for some reason. This can probably be traced back to my childhood. I’d tell my mom I was hungry and she’d say, “Have an apple,” and haul out one of those economy-size bags of grocery-store apples that were picked months (if not years) earlier. There were usually a minimum of three sizeable bruises per apple and the flesh was mealy and the color of aged newsprint.

Of course, I have long since realized that there are infinitely better apples to be had, especially since we live so close to some of the finest apple orchards in the country. So today I went out to the apple festival with the goal of talking myself into liking apples at least a little bit.

Driving through the Columbia River Gorge to the Hood River Valley put me in a cheerful mood. The Gorge is absolutely incandescent with golden bigleaf maples right now and with today's low, roiling clouds and unsettled weather adding drama it made it, I’ve decided, even more beautiful than the Colorado Rockies with their vaunted aspens. Surely, something this breathtaking can only be the gateway to wonderful apples! Well, maybe not, but that's the kind of frame of mind the Gorge put me in. I know for a fact it made me more susceptible to what was on this table.

Heirloom Apple Samples

There were at least three dozen varieties of apple and some Asian pears to boot! And you know what? Many of them were pretty good, although a few were mealily reminiscent of my childhood.

Possibly I got a little carried away with the tasting, but it is nice to know what you’re letting yourself in for, and I now know what it is I require of an apple: It must be firm, crisp, and juicy; sweet but with a broad hint of tartness.

I probably also got a little carried away when it came to buying apples, but the prices were unbelievably good (39 cents/pound! Cheep!!! as Mad magazine would say), the apples had been grown within (easy) walking distance of where I was standing, and there were many varieties I never see in the grocery store. I bought the following:
  • Newtown Pippin: A variety that dates back to the 1700s and was a favorite of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (not sure how they know this).
  • Valstar: A newer strain that comes from stock originally from France.
  • Arkansas Black: A variety Jamie mentioned in one of her posts. I was thrilled to see them available here in Oregon. Very tasty.
  • Rubinette: A modern apple from Switzerland, according to this Web site. Actually, I bought these by mistake, and I am quite underwhelmed. Now that I’ve read up on them, I know why. Rubinettes count among their parentage the golden delicious, the most detestable and insipid of all apples.
It’s rather fascinating, though, to find out that A) there is such an incredible variety of varieties and B) apples have a sort of pedigree—just like dogs and racehorses.


Post a Comment

<< Home