New York State Apples
New York State apples are finally back in stores. Beyond the obvious, this should signal the season for apples from Chile and New Zealand is over. You may or may not have known that there are two seasons for apples. There is the Northern Hemisphere season, which we are in now, and the Southern Hemisphere season, which starts in the late spring and extends through the end of the summer. I’m sure you know a lot more about the Northern Hemisphere apples so I will jump right into the ones from the Southern Hemisphere. Then, hopefully, we will never have to speak about them again. For the most part the Southern Hemisphere apples you see in your supermarket are from Chile and New Zealand. And they are not good. Think of them like you would a Chilean peach. Do you eat a peach from the supermarket in the dead of winter? I hope you answered no. If you answered yes then the next time I ask you the answer should be an emphatic “no!”.
Now, back to the Northern Hemisphere apples. Right now we have a few different varieties from New York state in stores because apple picking season is a continuous process. For each variety of apple it occurs rather quickly after they reach peak ripeness. This means that there are early, middle and late season apples. Once an apple is picked it goes through a cleaning and sorting process before it is boxed and sent out to market. The apples that are not sent out to market are stored in refrigerated rooms. Although apples store rather well I still don’t like them more than a month after they first appear in market. Otherwise they have been sitting in storage for a while and there is a better chance you will pick a mealy one. There are definitely exceptions to this rule as some apples hold up better than others, but this is a good place to start.
Without a doubt the most popular apple these days is the Honeycrisp. It has a nice crunch to it with a good balance of sweet and tart flavoring. They are already available so if you haven’t had one yet I suggest you give it a try. Here are some other early season apples you may or may not like:
The Ginger Gold has a milder flavor than most apples and is sweet with a hint of cinnamon and a slightly tart finish. It should be crisp and firm to the touch but will begin to soften as the season progresses as it does not store well.
The Gala, pronounced gay-la, is not as crisp as I would like but it certainly carries enough sweetness. I was pleasantly surprised by this apple when I visited Fowler Farms last fall. It doesn’t hold up as well as some other apples so make sure you refrigerate it and buy it early in the season.
The McIntosh is the apple that will remind you of your childhood. But some things are better left in the past. I’m all for nostalgia but I think this apple is crap. I don’t like an apple that isn’t crispy and to me its flesh is like soggy cardboard. if you still want to give it a try you will find this apple starts a little sweet, finishes with a little tart tang and is full of juice. The key word there, though, is little. That juice just does not carry a ton of flavor.
The Zestar is a good substitute if you like the Honeycrisp. We’ve had it in New York for about three seasons so it hasn’t quite caught on yet. The flesh is crisp and crunchy like a Honey Crisp but is a little more dense and heavy. You will find a nice balance of sweet to tart.
This Week’s Tip: Picking a good apple is an art form and can take some time. But it is worth it. There is nothing worse than biting into a rotten apple. You do not want to see bruises, punctures or wrinkles on the skin. Those are the obvious flaws but I also prefer to choose apples with the stem still in place. Once the stem is removed from the apple they tend to breakdown quicker.