Right now, in the orchard, the last of the Red Astrachans have dropped, with the exception of a few stubborn red orbs of fruit in the overgrown tree next to the main house. The Starkey is producing decently this year, and we have been taking evening walks and picking off an apple when we pass by. The Sweet 16 is loaded and ready to pick. The apples are nice this year, bordering on great, but the taste doesn’t begin to match the same tree last year. You never know if your taste has changed or if there is something about the growing season that makes one apple taste amazing one year and merely good the next. For the first time, the Frostbite is producing fruit. It doesn’t taste as bad as I remember, gone is the molasses taste in its place a sweet apple- not bad but not good. Of course, the Black Oxford is loaded, as are the Golden Delicious and the Golden Russet. There is one apple with fruit that I can’t identify and name right now. I can consult the map to find its name, but for now, it is enough to munch and enjoy it as the weeks go on. Seeing how the taste changes with the changes in weather and the shortening of the days has become a pastime of mine.
I guess all of this is a roundabout way of saying, I really love apples. Probably more than I love my dog, and about as much as I love my wife. It’s definitely a close call on the last one, but I think she wins by a nose on it. She’s a much better cribbage partner than the apples are.
I am an apple nerd. Really more of a geek than a nerd, I suppose. Maybe just an apple enthusiast. I love apples, but don’t know enough about them to even begin to qualify as a nerd. For someone to truly qualify as an apple nerd, they have to be approaching the level of John Bunker and the fine people at Fedco trees, if you ask me. You can imagine my excitement this afternoon when I was so excited this afternoon when I opened up my mailbox and inside was the Fedco Tree Catalog. The Fedco Catalogs are the highlight of any growing season in my mind. I can thumb through their pages and dream about the varieties I will grow in the next season. Will anyone notice if I sneak in another dozen plants towards the fringes of the orchard? I know we already have more than we can eat and store, and more than we can harvest, but looking at the orchard I know I don’t have a Washington Sweet an apple that Fedco tells me was “Probably from Sidney ME, before 1850.” I need that! Sidney isn’t far from here, and in the 1850’s I bet we shipped the apples or their cider all over the east coast and maybe even to England.
Fedco’s catalog even gives me stories of important apple curators like Joseph Taylor and books I need to read on cider making or simply apple varieties. It gives me websites to visit as well as orchards where I can taste some of the varieties. It has root-stock, and tools, soil amendments, and gives me tips on tree care. There are flowers, bulbs, and other plants. It also sells lesser fruits like plums and pears- but really the star of the catalog are the apples- let’s be honest.
If you are unfamiliar with Fedco, you should sign up for their catalogs at fedcoseeds.com. They have great illustrations, cover art, and specialize in varieties that grow well in New England. I find the information and charts they include to be vital in planning an orchard. They let you know how big a tree may get, when the apples are typically ready, and also what may be nice plants to have to attract pollinators and repel pests.