Welcome Vista Bella and Green Tomato and Apple Pie

Russell Powell New England apple varieties, Recipes Leave a Comment

Young Macoun apples at Honey Pot Hill Orchards in Stow, Massachusetts, in early July. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Young Macoun apples at Honey Pot Hill Orchards in Stow, Massachusetts, in early July. (Russell Steven Powell photo)

Vista Bella apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Vista Bella apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

APPLE SEASON is upon us! Our eyes spied a roadside stand with the word “Apples” while driving through western Vermont July 27, and sure enough, there were tote bags mounded with red fruit among the vegetables of the season.

The apples, a relatively new variety called Vista Bella, came from Apple Hill Orchard in North Clarendon. Developed at Rutgers University in 1956, Vista Bella, so named because the apple grew well in the Guatemalan highlands, was released commercially in 1974. Its heritage includes Julyred, Melba, Sonora, Starr, and Williams.

Vista Bella is a medium to small-sized, round apple, red with a green blush. Its white flesh is moderately juicy, with a flavor that is mildly tart. Some have described it as having hints of raspberry flavor. Like most early season apples, Vista Bella is best eaten soon after being picked, and does not store well. But their relatively brief appearance is a good way to introduce the 2013 fresh apple harvest, a crispy, crunchy taste of things to come.

Barring a late summer weather incident, it is shaping up to be an outstanding New England apple crop. Most of the region’s orchards experienced good weather during spring bloom, and there were few reports of frost. While the possibility of hurricanes or hail is not yet past, so far damage has been scattered and light across the six-state region.

That means that there should be plenty of apples this fall, and now that Vista Bella have arrived, there will be a steady flow of early season varieties like Ginger Gold, Jersey Mac, and PaulaRed between now and September. Check out what local orchards have available at New England apples, and call ahead to see when farm stands open or pick-your-own begins.

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Opalescent apples ripening at Blue Hills Orchard in Wallingford, Connecticut, in early July. An heirloom dating back to the 1880s, it is beautiful to behold and has a mild, sweet flavor and dense yellow flesh. Opalescents turn red as they mature, ready to harvest in early September. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

Opalescent apples ripening at Blue Hills Orchard in Wallingford, Connecticut, in early July. An heirloom dating back to the 1880s, it is beautiful to behold and has a mild, sweet flavor and dense yellow flesh. Opalescents turn red as they mature, ready to harvest in early September. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)

THIS RECIPE for Green Tomato and Apple Pie was submitted to us last fall by Ruth Griggs of Northampton, Massachusetts, and we offer it now that both apples and green tomatoes are in season. Here is what Ruth wrote:

“I wrote down this recipe in the early 1970s as told to me by Louise Leu, the woman who looked over our family farm, Stone Farm, in Chesterfield, New Hampshire. Louise was of German heritage and moved next door in the early 1960s from Ozone Park, Queens, with her husband, an accomplished violinist named Lou Leu.

“Louise tended our huge vegetable garden and put up all the vegetables come harvest — both freezing and canning — plus she made jams, pickles, sauerkraut, and the like. She was also a very good cook. I suspect this is a very old recipe, as the pie is served with “rich cream” — perhaps before ice cream was invented?”

Green Tomato and Apple Pie

Brush bottom and sides of a pastry-lined pie with unbeaten egg white and cover with a layer of small green tomatoes, thinly sliced. Sprinkle with a little salt mixed with a little cinnamon and nutmeg and dot with 1 T butter creamed with 1 T brown sugar. Cover with a layer of thinly sliced, tart apples and repeat the seasoning and sugar. Add another layer of green tomatoes and two of apples, each layer seasoned and sugared. Round the filling in the center and pour in 1/3 cup apple cider.

Adjust the top crust, make a few slashes, and brush with milk. Bake in a moderate oven for 40 minutes, or until the crust is delicately browned. Serve warm or cold with rich cream.

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