THE 2012 NEW ENGLAND APPLE CROP was celebrated around the region yesterday, as state officials in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont visited orchards to meet with growers and sample fresh-picked apples.
In Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick and the state legislature declared September “Apple Month.” Officials from the Department of Agricultural Resources visited Honey Pot Hill Orchards in Stow, Bolton Orchards in Bolton, and Westward Orchards in Harvard to present signed copies of the declaration.
In Connecticut, Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky read Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s proclamation of September 5, at New England Apple Day at Belltown Hill Orchards in South Glastonbury. In Rhode Island, Ken Ayars, Chief of Agriculture, presented a similar proclamation at Appleland Orchard in Smithfield. State officials in New Hampshire gathered at Apple Hill Farm in Concord to show their support and present their New England Apple Day proclamation.
The 2012 New England apple crop is expected to be smaller than normal due to damage inflicted by a spring frost and scattered hail in mid-summer, but over all the harvest looks strong and is off to a robust start, a week or more ahead of schedule. There will be plenty of fresh apples for picking throughout the season.
Varieties like McIntosh, Cortland, Gala, and Honeycrisp are already being picked at many of the region’s orchards and should be available at pick-your-own farms this weekend. Call ahead to see what your favorite orchard is picking, or visit New England Apples for a listing of orchards throughout the six-state region.
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Gala has become one of the most widely grown apples in the world since it was introduced from New Zealand in 1934. It has a conical shape and red-orange coloring with yellow striping, and it often turns a deeper color late in the season and in storage. Gala is a sweet, crunchy apple, and juicy. Its flavor has hints of pear. Gala is well suited for both fresh eating and cooking, and it is ready for harvest in many orchards now.
Gala derives its genetic heritage from Cox’s Orange Pippin, an English apple dating back to 1825, and both Red and Golden Delicious. One of its offspring is Jazz, a managed variety introduced in 2000.
Managed, or club, varieties, are now the norm for new apples developed around the world. Growers can only plant these varieties if they are licensed to do so. The goal of managing varieties this way is to maintain quality and limit production, and return more revenue to the people and programs that develop them. While this can prevent a popular apple from being over-planted, it means that consumers may not find certain new varieties in their local orchard.
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HERE’S A RECIPE for Galas or other New England apples adapted from the kitchen of Roy Palmquist. For a healthier version, substitute plain yogurt for the sour cream (try the Greek kind for extra creaminess), or applesauce for all or part of the butter.
Sour Cream Apple Cake
6 T butter
1 c all-purpose flour
1 c whole wheat flour
1/4 t salt
1 c sour cream
3/4 c sugar
1 t vanilla
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
2-3 apples like Gala or Honeycrisp, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 c walnuts or pecans, chopped
1/3 c sugar
1 t cinnamon
3/4 c confectioners’ sugar
3/4 t almond extract
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients and sour cream, and mix well. Spoon half the batter into a greased 9”x13” pan.
Layer apple slices on top and sprinkle with half of topping mixture. Repeat the three layers: batter, apples, topping.
Bake 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Mix together confectioners’ sugar and almond extract. Add just enough milk to make it moist enough to drizzle off a spoon. While cake is still warm, drizzle with icing.
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IT TAKES GREAT EFFORT and a little luck to bring an apple crop to the crescendo of harvest, but visiting an orchard teeming with apples in September and October is a treat for all of the senses.
Read about how about apples are grown and the challenges growers face as they guide their crop from spring bloom through harvest in America’s Apple, a new book about apple growing in the United States by Russell Steven Powell.
Powell, who has worked in the apple industry for the past 16 years, visited more than 50 orchards across the country gathering information for the book, and interviewed some of the nation’s leading apple researchers.
The hard-cover volume features nearly 50 full-color photographs by Bar Lois Weeks, plus a photographic index of 120 apple varieties grown in the United States.
To learn more, including how to order, visit America’s Apple.