Earlier this month, we posted an easy-to-make recipe for Healthier Blueberry Crisp. With very little added sweetener (only 1/4 cup of maple syrup) and delicious local and organic blueberries, this is a recipe to make often. And it’s a handy recipe for use with other seasonal fruits: like this season’s apples.
Upstate New York is apple country. New York is the second-largest apple producing state in the U.S. after Washington. Perennially, Michigan ranks third; Pennsylvania and California round out the top five.
But as we reported last autumn, apples are consistently on the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables to avoid. We also noted in that earlier post that the Grow Organic Apples Holistic Orchard Network’s Orchard List provided leads on five apple orchards in upstate New York as a source for organic apples.
Last autumn, this apple lover decided to venture over to West Danby (Tompkins County) near Ithaca to stock up on Hemlock Grove Farm’s organic apples. Hemlock Grove Farm sparked a special interest since the orchard utilizes a CSA (community supported agriculture) model to distribute a large part of its organic apple harvest.
But this year, although tempting, instead of a three hour (175 mile) road trip, the produce department of my local food co-op, the Honest Weight in Albany, became the focus of my frequent attention. I decided to await the (less than certain but very likely) arrival of local and organic apples.
Decades later, the lyrics of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi are still fresh in the aging brain, perhaps due to the catchy tune that goes with them. But it’s her words that reverberate, especially now as industrial agriculture has become ever so powerful in the 21st century. Important to note, nonetheless, that D.D.T. referenced by Joni Mitchell in the lyrics composed in 1970, was thankfully banned in the United States in 1972.
Hey farmer farmer
Put away that D.D.T. now
Give me spots on my apples
But leave me the birds and the bees
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
For an apple crisp, it’s no big deal to cut away any spots on organic apples, so when two pound bags (at the very reasonable price of $4.99, an extremely competitive pricing of $2.50 per pound) of Nectar Hills Farm’s never sprayed, certified biodynamic apples from its Antique Orchard (but with visible spots) appeared in the produce department of the Honest Weight, I loaded up.
The co-op also had available organic Red Free Apples from Champlain Orchards in Shoreham (Addison County) Vermont, described as early season, fresh eating, mild flavor. These organic apples from the greenest state in the union at $3.49 per pound, also found their way into the shopping cart. With few spots, they looked like perfect fresh apples for eating out of the fridge.
Champlain Orchards’ Vermont fruit is proudly Grown with a Conscience as noted on the home page of the orchards’ website. It is one of the oldest continuously operating orchards in Vermont and grows over 100 varieties of apples, as well as peaches, pears, plums, cherries, nectarines, and berries. As careful stewards of its land, fruit is grown following strict Eco Apple requirements. And four of its 220 acres of fruit trees are certified organic by Vermont Organic Farmers.
As I prepared the three cups of apples for the crisp, cutting away any spots, it was irresistible to savor some flavorful slices of the heirloom apples from Nectar Hills Farm in Schenevus (Otsego County) not far from Cooperstown in upstate.
With the success of finding local and organic apples at the Albany food co-op, I decided to check out the produce department of Wild Oats, the food co-op in Williamstown (Berkshire County), MA on a recent visit to the Clark Art Institute. Although no organic and local apples were available, there was a sign up noting that apples would soon be available from Scott Farm Orchard in Dummerston (Windham County), Vermont.
Scott Farm Orchard, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been in active cultivation since 1791. The 571 acre farm has been owned by The Landmark Trust USA since 1995. The orchard now contains over 130 heirloom and unusual apple varieties due to the extraordinary work of Ezekiel Goodband, the farm’s present orchardist, who has searched for old varieties throughout New England and as far as Kazakhstan, the birthplace of apples according to information on the farm’s website.
Scott Farm Orchard’s apples are certified ecologically grown and it has worked with both the University of Vermont and the University of Massachusetts to develop pest controls such as pheromone traps and visual lure. The orchard’s Growing Practices web page is worth reading. Bravo!
As a final note, on a visit to the Honest Weight this morning, the organic and local apples from Nectar Hills Farm and Champlain Orchard were no longer available. Rather, organic apples from New Zealand, Argentina and Washington State filled the refrigerator cases. In past years, the Albany food co-op later in the apple season sold tasty Northland Organic Gala apples (packed by Ricker Orchards in Turner, Maine). This apple lover will maintain an eagle eye out for their return.
(Frank W. Barrie, 9/25/19)