Friday, October 23, 2009

More About Growing Apples

(Third of three parts)

For a third (and last) day this week, I want to again stress the importance of understanding that growing apples isn’t as sterile as supermarkets’ apple displays make it appear.

Visit Jim Kent’s fruit stand at various farmers’ market locations in Manhattan and you’ll see 70 apple varieties of all shapes, sizes and colors. Bite into them and you’ll experience a wide range of flavors, textures and smells.

And even more noticeable—especially compared to what our supermarkets offer—are the bumps, nicks, spots and still-connected twigs that characterize many of Locust Grove Fruit Farms’ apples. But this doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the fruit. Instead, the imperfections (known here as “Mother Nature at work”) make you wonder in what hermetically sealed bubble the “perfect” (and usually tasteless) supermarket apples grow.

Understanding the factors Kent regularly encounters can help us better appreciate his final product.

“There are always problems we deal with,” Kent said.

For example, this year’s heavy rains caused trees to contain too much moisture, which led to mildew, imperfections and improper ripening of early season varieties such as Lodi and Tydeman.

In addition, trees sometimes grow a plethora of branches, which shade the apples and block the sun’s ability to properly color the fruit. To combat this, Kent will thin out branches, allowing the necessary photosynthesis to occur.

Deciding when to harvest late season Pink Lady apples presents its own challenges. Pink Ladies should be picked after the third or fourth frost (usually in early November), so timing is everything. If Kent harvests them even a day or two early, he’ll be left with inferior-colored apples; too late and he has frozen fruit.

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