The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Hunting down local apples

Winesap apples

It's been about five months since I've eaten a significant amount of store-bought fruit, and when the Virginia Beauties finally ran out last week, I went into withdrawal.  (Remember, I'm a fruit snob and think grocery-store fruit, for the most part, is insipid and barely worth eating.)  We used to have a fruit stand which provided fruit a notch above the grocery store (if not up to my exacting standards), but the fruit stand didn't open up this year, so we'd need to drive over an hour round trip to find moderately-edible fruit.  Or so I thought until I remembered that the little town twelve miles away had opened up a farmer's market a couple of years ago.

Farmer's market

Virginia beauty apple

The first thing I saw upon entering the farmer's market was apples --- jackpot!  I browsed through all the vendors and ended up selecting at least a few apples from each of three sellers.  I've yet to taste the Virginia Beauties from the lady to the left (I got a pound, curious to see if they taste at all like my homegrown morsels), but have already sampled two kinds of Winesaps and an Arkansas Black.  The latter is a milder apple than I usually like, but I'm curious to see how long it will last in storage (reputedly "forever") and whether the apple-grower is right when he says the flavor will improve over time.

Half bushel of

The Winesap comparison was more interesting.  The guy shown above sold us both Winesaps and Arkansas Blacks, both of which he grows conventionally (with sprays).  And the apples did look beautiful!  But in terms of flavor, they merely matched what you'd find at a moderate-to-good fruit stand.

In contrast, the Winesap apples shown at the top of this post came from an old-style organic farm, meaning that the standard-sized apple tree had been there longer than the farmer had owned the land, and that all he did to the tree was to pick the fruit.  Although smaller and less aesthetically appealing than the sprayed apples, these old-style Winesaps were delectable and I wish I'd bought more than one of the $5 baskets pictured.  They nearly matched the flavor of my homegrown Virginia Beauties.

I plan to put our bushel-plus of apples in the fridge root cellar and eat to my heart's content for at least the next month.  In the meantime, I clearly need to put more thought into fruit that does well in winter storage since the more summer fruit we grow, the less inclined I am to go back to bought offerings after our homegrown stores run out.  Some of the slack will be taken up by our pears and Virginia Beauty as they come into their prime, but Mark and I are quite frugivorous and could probably use some more winter keepers.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Although I'm from Arkansas and love the heritage of the Arkansas Black, I have to tell you that they don't ever taste as wonderful as good fresh eating apples. They were good for shipping in barrels by unrefrigerated trains and then being processed in the cities by cooking, drying, or making cider or vinegar. Because they ripen so late and are so hard they can last four months in root cellars, taking you well in to winter. But they get mealy then and the skins surprisingly "greasy," and I've never wanted a second bite of a long stored one. I'll be interested in how well they store for you, and hope you find a midwinter apple crumble can ease the ravenous frugivore. (Our local pomology professor just wrote a magazine article about the Arkansas Black and I'd be happy to mail you a copy.)
Comment by sweetgum Sun Oct 20 09:14:08 2013
Don't forget your food drier to extend the apple crop. Fried apple pies, on cereal, boiled into a sauce, etc.
Comment by Errol Hess Sun Oct 20 09:57:58 2013

Hi Anna, Mark and All,

Checkout and "Korea Natural Farming".

They suggest treatments with FFJ and Sea Water greatly improve flavor of fruits. Bascially 2 treatments a few weeks before and a week before harvest.

I have yet to follow their procedure to the letter, but I suspect it would help make apples and other fruit trees more pest resistant and taste better.

This year I have been picking perfect apples from trees in the MOST unlikely places. Good soil, lots of bark mulch may be the relevant factors?

I have had some VERY positive comments about their taste from well experienced persons. Can I get more, etc.

Maybe I know something after all ;-).

Lots of fun!


Comment by john Sun Oct 20 15:28:40 2013
In the Sat. paper, Dewayne Porter, from Dungannon is shown weighing his monster pumpkin (462 lbs!) at the Abingdon Farmers' Mkt. He said when his pumpkin reached basketball size in July, he started a weekly regimen of organic ferilizers, incl. fish and seaweed sprinked on the plant, then brought in huge camping tents to place over top of the pumpkin to makae sure it didn't get too much sun. He also sprayed for insects and fed them twice weekly...and earned $465. for winning the contest!
Comment by adrianne Mon Oct 21 15:21:46 2013
We found that Cameo apples keep quite well in the root cellar. They shrivel just a bit, but they don't go mealy. I also like the flavor (more complex than Honeycrisp but less sour than a Gala).
Comment by Emily Tue Oct 22 15:45:50 2013
I want to know where this fruit stand is that you got the arkansas black apples at,please. I do not know where anything is up here. move up here from Louisiana so I need help. you can reach me at thanks Beverly
Comment by Beverly Arnold Tue Aug 5 00:30:53 2014

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