When we bought the orchard in 2010, we sold most of the apples we grew at farmers markets, seven in all. I liked the weekend markets best. Although the mornings were early, I enjoyed the quiet busy-ness of all the vendors getting set up for the day and being in a calm, semi-dark space that would be bright and buzzing in a couple of hours. These days, we’re busy enough on the weekends that it’s “all hands on deck” at the orchard. But we still like farmers markets and so this year, we’re going to one farmers market — the Nokomis market at 52nd and Chicago in Minneapolis — and we take the whole family. It’s a good day in the city for our kids who marvel at all of the playgrounds, all of the houses, all of the dogs, and all of the people. And then on top of all of that, you’ve got the sidewalks too, which you’d never find in the country at all! From a more adult perspective, we enjoy the simplicity of selling apples, which is something that we love to do even though most of our business these days comes from hard cider.
Apples keep us grounded, but so, too, does just being outside, picking apples, noticing the first color of the fall, and observing the progression of the early season apples to the mid-season apples. Early season apples are delicious, but they don’t say “fall” like mid-season apples do. There’s something about the flavor of a mid-season apple that is so evocative of this time of the year. And there’s a distinct difference between eating an apple off the tree when it’s 65 degrees outside versus when it’s 80 degrees outside.
There’s an optimism to this time of the year too. I’m particularly optimistic about the summer’s heat being behind us for good. And I think that collectively, as Minnesotans, we don’t yet feel the burden of winter’s dark days on the horizon. We’re at that golden place between summer and winter: we’re still harvesting food, we have lots of daylight and warm sunshine ,and the light is golden, especially if you’re standing underneath a tree with yellow or orange leaves.
Enough reflecting. There are apples to be picked! This week, it’s Honeycrisp, Mcintosh, Cortland, Chestnut Crab, and Regent. We’ll have maybe one more week of midseason varieties before we start to pick Haralson, Fireside, and Prairie Spy. Read on for more details of this week’s apple varieties.
Sweet and crunchy and almost always a surprise that a crab apple can taste that good. Siberian Crab x Malinda, U of M, 1949.
Sweet and somewhat crisp. Originated in Virginia as a chance bud and named after the orchardist’s wife. Virginia, 1960s. It’s become a real favorite for many of our customers.
The Honeycrisp apple needs no introduction: it’s Minnesota’s state apple and, overwhelmingly, is our customers’ favorite. Mid-season variety. Best for fresh eating and keeps until April. Keepsake x unknown, U of M, 1991.
The taste of a Haralson with the texture of a McIntosh, which makes sense since it’s a cross between those two apples. Developed in New York.
Look for bumpy Red Barons; the smooth ones don’t taste nearly as good. Mild, sweet flavor. Despite its name, it’s not very red. Stores for 4-5 weeks. Introduced by the U of M in 1970.
Excellent sweet-tart flavor. Keeps through February. Introduced by the U of M in 1964.
The skin of the Jung pear is somewhat tough, but it’s a juicy, tasty pear.