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The core of the matter: an apple ending

Our apple adventure ends today - here on your screen, and on the radio. And the way I see it, if you spend some time with orchard manager Ezekiel Goodband among the heirloom apples at Scott Farm, you’ll never look at (or taste) this fruit quite the same way. (In case you’re wondering, that red, dewy apple in the photo up top is a Cortland. The green/pink luminescent apples in the bin are Holsteins.)

Goodband grows 100 historic varieties in all, and they have music in their names: Ananas Reinette, Winter Banana, Hidden Rose, Pitmaston Pineapple, Chenango Strawberry, Opalescent.  When I asked him to tick through the names on tape, he started with Red Astrakhan and by the time he got to Jonagold it had taken him a full minute and a half, nonstop. (And he’d only gotten through half the varieties he grows!) Walking through the orchard, he kept showing me different trees and saying, like a proud parent, “this is my favorite apple!” before admitting, “I have maybe 100 favorites here.”  (My personal favorite based on beauty alone: Winter Banana— half golden, half pink, glowing on the trees as if lit from within.)  

Goodband sees himself as the shepherd of these trees, and it’s year-round hard work: grafting cuttings onto root stock, pruning all winter, bringing in beehives for pollination in the spring, keeping an eye out for disease and critters. Hard work, but you can tell by the gleam in his eye that he adores doing what he does. And his “office” is an apple orchard! Can’t beat that.

At 61, Goodband is looking for the next shepherd for this “flock”: someone younger who wants to learn the craft and will love these trees and historic apples as much as he clearly does.  

Our radio story airs today (Friday) on All Things Considered.

Updated: Link to the audio is now up here:

http://www.npr.org/2014/09/19/349626755/keeping-heirloom-apples-alive-is-like-a-chain-letter-over-many-centuries

The six-man Jamaican picking crew at Scott Farm is surrounded by temptation - 100 varieties of heirloom apples - but as Michael Johnson (top photo) tells me, “maybe for the whole season we don’t eat more than one!” He laughs, “When we see them up there looking beautiful, our intention is to get them into the bin! They say, ‘come and get me!’”  

They’ll pick 22 tractor-trailer trucksful of apples over the course of a season - enough to fill a hockey rink up to the plexiglass, figures orchard manager Ezekiel Goodband. Then, it’s home to Jamaica and their own farms:  sweet potatoes, sugar cane, bananas.

A lobed French beauty: Calville Blanc d’Hiver. Tastes like good champagne with a hint of vanilla, our heirloom orchard guide Ezekiel Goodband tells us. When he’s too tired to cook, he’ll just sautee slices of these with butter and drizzle maple syrup over them.  ”Some of these apples I’d grow just because they look beautiful,” he says. “That they taste good is a bonus.”

A lobed French beauty: Calville Blanc d’Hiver. Tastes like good champagne with a hint of vanilla, our heirloom orchard guide Ezekiel Goodband tells us. When he’s too tired to cook, he’ll just sautee slices of these with butter and drizzle maple syrup over them.  ”Some of these apples I’d grow just because they look beautiful,” he says. “That they taste good is a bonus.”

An apple tree full of shrunken heads

Apples only a mother could love: these are Knobbed Russets, and they’re actually SUPPOSED to look like this, all gnarled and gnarly. On our visit to Scott Farm in Vermont, orchard manager Ezekiel Goodband tells us they remind him of shrunken heads. Others say they look like toads or potatoes. Or brains. But inside that forbidding, warty skin: off-beat deliciousness. Author Rowan Jacobsen calls the Knobbed Russet  ”a sweet, funky, tasty beast, both perfumed and earthy at the same time…. It is here to freak out your friends.”

I got dizzy just looking at these ladders. Now imagine balancing on one high in the upper reaches of an apple tree, with 40 pounds of fruit in your basket. The ages of this six-man Jamaican crew range from 52 to 63, and they’ve been picking apples here for more than 20 years. They work with speed, precision, and care. And sometimes music! One of the workers was softly singing Bob Marley’s “Who the Cap Fit” as he plucked fruit today.

"No bruises!" This crew of six Jamaican workers will carefully pick 20,000 bushels from 6,000 trees over the course of apple season at Scott Farm in Dummerston, Vermont. Fredson Brissett is about to unload his 40-pound basket of Hubbardston Nonesuch. They balance on beautiful century-old ladders to pick from the treetops. "The six of us are like brothers," they tell me. "Like a relay team."

A perfect cool day to spend at Scott Orchard, where they grow 100 varieties of heirloom apples. Here, delicate and tiny Lady apples, which date back to ancient Rome. Orchard manager Ezekiel Goodband told us that centuries ago, women would tuck Lady apples into their bosom and use them as breath freshener. Nifty trick!

A perfect cool day to spend at Scott Orchard, where they grow 100 varieties of heirloom apples. Here, delicate and tiny Lady apples, which date back to ancient Rome. Orchard manager Ezekiel Goodband told us that centuries ago, women would tuck Lady apples into their bosom and use them as breath freshener. Nifty trick!

A tumble of Red Delicious apples from Somewhere, USA, dominates the display at a Vermont supermarket. They’re still America’s #1 apple, with 40% of the market, according to author Rowan Jacobsen, who calls the Red Delicious “a freakish, deep-burgundy molar.” They’ve been bred to be deeper and deeper red, at the cost of flavor. “Remarkably bland,” sniffs Jacobsen. “It is more icon than fruit.”  We’ll be out in the orchard here early tomorrow morning in search of stranger fruit.

A tumble of Red Delicious apples from Somewhere, USA, dominates the display at a Vermont supermarket. They’re still America’s #1 apple, with 40% of the market, according to author Rowan Jacobsen, who calls the Red Delicious “a freakish, deep-burgundy molar.” They’ve been bred to be deeper and deeper red, at the cost of flavor. “Remarkably bland,” sniffs Jacobsen. “It is more icon than fruit.” We’ll be out in the orchard here early tomorrow morning in search of stranger fruit.

melissablock:

Maybe you know the feeling. Call it an apple awakening: the moment when you realize there are infinitely more delights to be found in the universe of apples than Red Delicious (meh), McIntosh (booooring and prone to mushiness), or Granny Smith (holding up well for her age, but a one-note standby.)
My first apple awakening came early on, growing up in apple country in upstate New York, when my family switched from McIntosh loyalists to devotees of the Macoun (crisper, more full of flavor) and never looked back.
But my true initiation came in my 20s, when I went apple-picking at an heirloom orchard in the Virginia countryside.  Revelation! Apples of every shape and size and color, from rosy peach to deepest purple, with fabulous names:  Black Twig. Newtown Pippin.  Esopus Spitzenberg (a favorite of Thomas Jefferson).  Each with history, and a taste to make you rethink the essence of appleness.  
So imagine my delight when the book “Apples of Uncommon Character” landed in my mailbox, a glorious compendium of “123 heirlooms, modern classics, and little-known wonders.”  Author and self-described apple geek Rowan Jacobsen does for apples what he did earlier for oysters: he captures in vivid language what makes the flavor of each type unique (with extraordinary photographs by Clare Barboza you want to bite into.) 
One apple makes Jacobsen “think of the aurora borealis, of green ribbons of cold fire swaying against the blackness.”  Another is “tart and snappy, with an acid tongue and a rustic coarseness. Picture a ruddy barmaid in some nineteenth-century Holland tavern.”
Say no more. It’s clearly time for an All Things Considered apple foray.  I’m off, with producer Viet Le, to Scott Farm in Dummerston, Vermont. We’ll meet up with Rowan Jacobsen and the orchard manager, Ezekiel Goodband, and talk heirloom apples.  Word from Zeke is that Ananas Reinette, Claygate Pearmain, Chenango Strawberry, and Opalescent are among the dozens of varieties that may be ready for picking (and tasting.)  We’ll bring you the story next week on ATC, and will post photos from our visit here along the way.   (Photo: Clare Barboza)

melissablock:

Maybe you know the feeling. Call it an apple awakening: the moment when you realize there are infinitely more delights to be found in the universe of apples than Red Delicious (meh), McIntosh (booooring and prone to mushiness), or Granny Smith (holding up well for her age, but a one-note standby.)

My first apple awakening came early on, growing up in apple country in upstate New York, when my family switched from McIntosh loyalists to devotees of the Macoun (crisper, more full of flavor) and never looked back.

But my true initiation came in my 20s, when I went apple-picking at an heirloom orchard in the Virginia countryside.  Revelation! Apples of every shape and size and color, from rosy peach to deepest purple, with fabulous names:  Black Twig. Newtown Pippin.  Esopus Spitzenberg (a favorite of Thomas Jefferson).  Each with history, and a taste to make you rethink the essence of appleness. 

So imagine my delight when the book “Apples of Uncommon Character” landed in my mailbox, a glorious compendium of “123 heirlooms, modern classics, and little-known wonders.”  Author and self-described apple geek Rowan Jacobsen does for apples what he did earlier for oysters: he captures in vivid language what makes the flavor of each type unique (with extraordinary photographs by Clare Barboza you want to bite into.)

One apple makes Jacobsen “think of the aurora borealis, of green ribbons of cold fire swaying against the blackness.”  Another is “tart and snappy, with an acid tongue and a rustic coarseness. Picture a ruddy barmaid in some nineteenth-century Holland tavern.”

Say no more. It’s clearly time for an All Things Considered apple foray.  I’m off, with producer Viet Le, to Scott Farm in Dummerston, Vermont. We’ll meet up with Rowan Jacobsen and the orchard manager, Ezekiel Goodband, and talk heirloom apples.  Word from Zeke is that Ananas Reinette, Claygate Pearmain, Chenango Strawberry, and Opalescent are among the dozens of varieties that may be ready for picking (and tasting.)  We’ll bring you the story next week on ATC, and will post photos from our visit here along the way.   (Photo: Clare Barboza)