Linda: As American as apple pie….you are the apple of my eye….Eve unleashed all our problems by (allegedly) making Adam eat an apple…. Apples are an important fruit in America. But before this tasting, I had no idea there were so many apple varieties. You're lucky if you see a dozen in a grocery store.
The apple farm we visited, Tree-Mendus (www.treemendus-fruit.com), in Eau Claire, Michigan, has hundreds of varieties. We bought 9 to taste. We also visited a farmers market in Chicago and bought 3 varieties from Nichols Farm (www.nicholsfarm.com). So we had 12 apples in total to compare. These apples aren't as pretty as grocery store apples nor as uniform in size and shape. But almost all of them were tasty, with unique characteristics. They ranged from very tart to very sweet, from mushy to meaty to super-crunchy. Interestingly, Sharon and I both rated the Suncrisp from Tree-Mendus as our favorite apple.
Tree-Mendus heritage apples : Belle de Boskoop, Newtown Pippin, Clovis Spice, Swazy, Baldwin
All of these apples are deemed to be heritage apples, with trees that can be traced back hundreds of years. The Pilgrims first introduced apples to this country and apple growers have been developing new varieties ever since.
Belle de Boskoop. Originated in Boskoop, Holland, and came to America in the 1870s.
Linda: A bit too tart for my taste, and a bit mushy. Sharon: The apple did save itself with a nice caramel inspired finish.
Newton Pippin. Brought to Newtown Village from England in 1666, said to be Ben Franklin's favorite apple.
Linda: Crunchy, very tasty, tart but well balanced. MY #2 FAVORITE! Sharon: This is a great apple that works well independently, but loses some of it panache when paired with food.
Clovis Spice. Related to the Golden Delicious.
Linda: Spicy after-taste! Tastes like a pear.
Sharon: Tastes like a pear for sure. I enjoyed this apple more than most, due in large part to its rather distinct flavor.
Swazy. Dates back to at least 1872, in the vicinity of Niagara, New York.
Linda: Meaty and mild. Tasty.
Sharon: The Swazy also has great lemon notes while remaining sweet overall.
Baldwin. Dates back to 1750, originated near Boston.
Linda: A fresh, apple-y taste. A bit mushy.
Sharon: I agree. The mushiness distracted from what was otherwise a complex and tasty apple.
Nichols Farm apples: Thorned red empire, Honeygold, Red Courtland
Thorned red empire. The Empire is a relatively recent apple. It was developed in 1966 and is a cross between a McIntosh and Red Delicious.
Linda: Nice crunch. Juicy. Mild.
Sharon: Yes, the crunch is exceptional. The flavor, however, is somewhat absent.
Honeygold: It is one of the two apple varieties that were crossed to make Honeycrisp. (The other being a Macoun, which we also sampled.)
Linda: Sweet. Apple-y taste.
Red Courtland. Originated by the New York State Experimental Station in 1898, a cross between Ben Davis and McIntosh.
Linda: Well balanced flavor, not too sweet, not too tart.
Tree-Mendus regular apples: Gold Rush, Cortland, Suncrisp, Macoun
Gold Rush. A newcomer, developed in the 1990s. Based off of a Golden Delicious.
Linda: Tart, crunchy, very nice texture.
Sharon: But not sour. This is certainly one of the densest apples.
Cortland. A cross between Ben Davis and McIntosh.
Linda: Sweet. Not crunchy.
Suncrisp. A cross between Golden Delicious and Cox Orange Pippin, developed by Rutgers University.
Linda: MY FAVORITE! It has both crunch and a balanced tartness with no bitter after-taste.
Sharon: This is also my favorite. There are wonderful hints of brown sugar. In my mind, it tastes most like what I think of when I think 'apple.'
Macoun. Developed in 1909 as a cross between McIntosh and Jersey Black. It is important because it was used to cross breed the Honeycrisp apple.
Linda: It was mushy and too sweet, for my tastes.
Sharon: But it did have an interesting hint of vanilla.