As Eve so famously discovered, apples are alluring. These brightly colored orbs tempt us with crisp flesh and juicy sweetness. It’s no wonder that apples have spread throughout the temperate regions of the world.
The mother of all apples, malus sieversii, which originated in the rugged mountains of Central Asia, has given rise to thousands of varieties over time, bearing names ranging from regal to whimsical, including Maiden’s Blush, Blue Pearmain, Bellefleur, Duchess of Oldenburg, and Seek No Further. Apples first arrived in the Americas in the 1600s, and by the early nineteenth century were being grown to make everything from cider, sauce and pies to apple butter. » Continue Reading.
Last week, a black bear in a blaze orange collar showed up in our yard. Two cubs followed close behind. The sow paused to observe the house, then led her cubs up across our field and down into a small stand of apple trees beside the road. There the family feasted on piles of old apples lying in the grass. They appeared to take a methodical approach, working their way from one tree to the next.
Inside our house, the scene was not nearly as calm. There were rushed attempts at photography, foiled by warped window glass. There was my two-year-old son, precariously balanced on the back of a chair by the window, shrieking “BEAR” and occasionally, “SHOES” – his way of demanding to go outside. » Continue Reading.
My husband and I planted two apple trees the year we moved into our farmhouse. That was the first and only year that we’ve gotten any apples. We haven’t even seen a blossom since. We drive past our neighbor’s trees loaded with fruit and wonder what we can do.
Our first step has been to install fences. We’ve worked hard to keep the grazing deer from completely obliterating the small trees. The next step was to attend a tree-pruning workshop. » Continue Reading.
Warren County Soil & Water’s next“Farm Talk” will focus on growing Christmas trees and fruit trees. The first presentation of the night is “Christmas Tree Farming: We’ll get you in the Spirit” with Mark Brown of Brown’s Tree Farm. The second presentation of the night will be “Planning a Small Fruit Tree Farm: Where do you start?” with Nate Darrow of Saratoga Apple.
The talks will be held this Friday, March 27th, from 6 to 8 pm at the DEC’s Warrensburg Office, 232 Golf Course Road, in Warrensburg. » Continue Reading.
A large percentage of the farm workers who harvest New York State’s apples, potatoes, onions, and other fruits and vegetables are immigrants working long hours with no overtime pay, few benefits, low salaries, often substandard housing, and no right to collective bargaining, as those rights fought for over fifty years ago in California by Cesar Chavez were excluded from being applied here.
The fire is crackling, the dew is settling and the full moon is so bright that I can clearly see the two does quietly munching on fallen apples in the lower field. They don’t seem to mind that Pico and I are outside, and quite frankly, I’m happy that they don’t.
Fall is here. About half of the hardwoods around have either lost all their leaves or are changing color as we speak. I think it’ll be a poor year for fall colors. Too many trees have already changed, and there are still plenty that are solid green. The colors are changing too slowly for there to be any real “peak” this year.
The other very noticeable change is the amount of daylight we are having. It’s starting to get dark around seven-thirty, as opposed to the nine or nine-fifteen of a few months ago. It’s more tolerable now, with the solar panel powering a couple of nice LED lights. But still, winter is coming and it won’t be all that long. » Continue Reading.
I love it when a few moments of laziness lead to something good. I had weed whacked all around the big fire pit and hammock a couple weeks ago, but there was one section of lawn that I just buzzed through quickly, and I did a poor job on about a ten square foot area. Last night as I was moving some junk wood into the new wood rack, I caught a glimpse of some bright red in the slightly overgrown region: two wild strawberries.
Only one of the very small strawberries was ripe, so after taking a couple pictures of the first strawberries of the season, I popped the ripe one in my mouth. That was the first strawberry I’ve had in quite a while, and man was it delicious. There was enough flavor packed in that little pea-sized berry to make all the rain worthwhile. » Continue Reading.
Well, I woke up to pouring rain this morning. It’s really coming down, to the point where my alarm didn’t wake me up, the pounding of the rain on the tin shed roof did. All the windows are even closed due to the cold temperatures, and the rain was still loud enough to break my slumber. But at least it wasn’t snow coming down like this. The forecast has called for a chance of snow for the next few days, and while it wouldn’t be a major inconvenience to get some snow, it would be a little depressing. Plus, I’m worried about the apple trees. » Continue Reading.
Well, I survived Winter Carnival, along with another monster snowstorm. So far this winter, I’d say that I’ve gotten between four and five feet of snow, most of it coming in two big storms. Luckily, I had a friend with a plow help me out this time, so I’m not having to hike in to the cabin. There’s no way I’m moving that much snow again. I’d rather hike than shovel.
Last week I house-sat for some friends of mine who live in Saranac Lake. It was glorious to have running hot water, fast internet and unlimited electricity. Out of the three though, I would still take hot water over the other two. » Continue Reading.
With Thanksgiving looming on the horizon, my thoughts the past few days have been centered on my favorite part of the holiday preparations- pie making. I’ll admit, I can spend hours upon hours in the “pie zone”- slowly but carefully making the pastry, rolling it out, crimping the edges and then finally filling the pie and baking it up.
There is just something that is so satisfying about baking a pie from scratch. The taste and flavor of a homemade pie are one bonus, but I think the best part is taking the pie out of the oven and beholding the beautiful creation you have spent hours making. » Continue Reading.
While most people associate Massachusetts as cranberry bog haven, wild cranberries can be found on low-lying bushes throughout the Adirondacks up through to Canada near streams and ponds. Harvested in the fall, this vibrant fruit is a rich source of vitamin C and a welcome staple at many holiday tables.
Native Americans were probably the first in our region to use cranberries as food, especially in their preparation of high-energy pemmican, made by drying a mixture of venison (or other meats) and fruit. Now, we not only see cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, but bake with the fruit, adding them to cakes or muffins, and snack on the dried, sweetened variety. » Continue Reading.
Pairing a crisp autumn day with the first crunch of a freshly-picked apple is my idea of perfection. During my teen years good times with friends might include a drive up from Van Nostrand’s Orchard in Mayfield (now Lake View Orchards, 518.661.5017), munching on crisp and sweet Macs while taking in the foliage.
While the rain of the past weekend dampened my enthusiasm to go out apple picking, I was invited to be a judge at the Cambridge Valley Apple Pie Bake-Off at the Cambridge Hotel, said to be the home of pie à la mode. The cast of judges included the hotel’s own Chef Rich, Sara Kelly as representative of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, Sally King, a decades-long baker and former owner of the King Bakery in Cambridge, and Chloe, an 11 year-old pie aficionado. » Continue Reading.
Fresh apples are in season. The markets are brimming with those just picked fruits ready to be turned into pies, sauces or eaten fresh. For those not familiar with apple picking there are numerous opportunities around New York State and the Adirondacks to go into the orchards and find your own perfect batch of apples. Not only is apple picking a fun activity, but also it’s an easy way to get outside as a family, show children where food comes from and spend time together.
I remember the first time I went apple picking with my son. I was surrounded by such a talented group of parents that they could have woven their own clothes and built the car they arrived in. During this excursion, one of the other chaperones asked my son if we would make applesauce with the apples he picked. He solemnly informed her that his mother did not know how to make applesauce; at his house, applesauce came in a jar. » Continue Reading.
For the first time, I have apples that are perfect! Admittedly, I only have a few (okay, four), but that’s more than I’ve had in the past. I’ve been on the fence, however, about picking them. Last year I finally picked my Northern Spies out of desperation—we were expecting snow. I made tarts and took them to our Book Club meeting, but they really weren’t ripe. Unlike most people I know, I do not like green fruit (green as in “unripe”, not green as in color, although the two can be synonymous). This year there was enough rain that the apples grew well. The sunny days of late August and September made the fruit grow. No scab appeared, and only a few were attacked by insects. But each day the fruits remain on the tree is one more day for something to happen. When should I pick the apples?
It all depends on what type of apples you have. Some varieties ripen early in the season (some, I’ve read, as early as July), while others linger until almost Thanksgiving. Up here in the North Country, that can be a problem; by Thanksgiving the tree could be buried in snow!
Your best bet is to find a local orchard and find out what apples are being picked and when. Sure, you could go on-line and find picking dates, but unless the orchard you select is in the same climate as you, you cannot count on the accuracy of those dates.
But suppose you don’t have any local orchards. There are certainly plenty of orchards along the Champlain Valley, but that’s the banana belt compared to the central Adirondacks. No one in his right mind has an orchard in our neck of the woods. Sure, there are lots of “wild” apple trees, but you can’t necessarily go by them. These were likely planted by early settlers as a source of fruit for making apple jack, a fermented tangy cider (not the sweet cider that you get with your donuts when you go pumpkin picking). They didn’t care what the apples tasted like or what condition they were in. No, you can’t go by these wild apples. The bears may like them, and the deer, but most of them are not for the likes of you and me.
So you stand there staring at the fruit on your tree. Do you go by color? If it’s red, is it ripe? Well, suppose your tree doesn’t bear red apples – what if they are yellow, or green? Can you trust color?
The answer is yes, sort of. First, you need to know what color your apples are supposed to be. Unless they are green apples, you can use color as a guideline. You want to look at the color of the skin near the base of the stem. If this area is green, the apple isn’t ripe yet. Once it turns red, or yellowish, then it is probably safe to pick.
You can also go by firmness. If your apple is hard as a rock, it isn’t ripe. If, however, it has a little bit of give to it when you give it a gentle squeeze, go ahead and pick.
You can test readiness by the ease of of the apple’s release from the tree. When you pick an apple, it should pluck easily, almost falling into your hand. If you have to tug and wrench it off, it’s not ripe.
Now, suppose a heavy killer frost is coming, and your apples are still on the tree. What do you do? You have to make a decision. Are they ripe enough that if you pick them and place them in a cool, dark place they will continue to ripen? If so, pick away. If not, then you might want to cover your tree, just like you would your pumpkins and squash.
Up here in the mountains growing perfect apples can be frustrating. Some years you might succeed, and other years your crop may be a complete failure. The best thing you can do it relax; after all, there isn’t much you can do about the weather. Get to know your trees, learn what varieties you have, and check the picking dates at the nearest orchard(s). From there you can only use common sense. With a little luck, you will have apples to enjoy throughout the cold and grey days of winter – a little taste of fall.
The forecast says the low temperature tonight in Saranac Lake will be 22 degrees. The apple tree we share with a neighbor decided to bloom yesterday. What to do?
Since the tree has thrived at an elevation of about 2,000 feet for longer than anyone living in this neighborhood can remember, it must be a pretty cold-hardy variety. But a deep freeze at blossom time really threatens to thin the crop. So we called Bob Rulf, who owns Rulf’s Orchards, in Peru. He said it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to light charcoal in a couple of grills beneath the tree (this is a pretty big tree) and keep the smoke rising. Between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. is the coldest part of the night, Rulf said. The temperature is only supposed to get down to about 29 degrees in Peru, the more-temperate apple basket of the Adirondacks. Cornell Cooperative Extension advises that when an apple blossom is tight and in the pink it can stand 30 degrees F for an hour; when it’s wide-open white it can stand 28 degrees for an hour, which seems counterintuitive, Rulf said.
His orchard is not equipped with wind machines or any large-scale equipment for dealing with frosts, so he’ll take his chances with the apples. However Rulf does plan to tow a furnace around the strawberry patch tonight with helpers riding along to blow hot air on that crop.
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