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There are more than just Macs to be picked at local orchards


September 15, 2010
LAKES REGION — The hunt for the perfect apple at local orchards depends on what one intends to use the fruit for from snacking on a raw, crisp apple to salads, baking and canning, the type you want may not always be the most commonly found in the supermarket.

Typically grocery stores in New Hampshire offer selections of Macintosh, Cortland, Red Delicious and Granny Smith apples, but there are so many more to chose from at orchards throughout the Lakes Region.

At Smith Orchard in Belmont visitors can find "antique apples," varieties grown nearly one hundred years ago that are still thriving today. Owners Rob and Wende Richter say there isn't always as much interest in the older varieties, but they are just as good as any of the newer varieties grown today.

"They may not always be a shiny and pretty as the others but what they lack in looks they make up for in taste. They're delicious and keep very well," said Wende Richter.

Visitors to Smith's who wander into the older section of the orchard are always pleased to see the old apple-laden trees and even happier to hear how well the fruit will last in cold storage. Wilson, Starking and Roma Beauty are a few of the older selections still grown in the orchard, but they also offer newer varieties like Jona Gold, Ginger Gold and Macoun, a great apple to eat fresh off the tree.

"Macoun's are delicious; the real connoisseurs like them for eating," said Brenda Stowe of Stonybrook Farm in Gilford.

Macouns do not store as well as some apples and are more suited for ready eating or baking. Stowe said Ginger Golds are another favorite each year at her farm, but she's been the bearer of bad news for her customers who come just for them.

"We unfortunately got hit by a late frost that came just as they were blossoming, so we won't have Ginger Golds this year," she said.

The orchard does have many other types available for picking though, including an older apple known as Red Rome. These hardy apples are ready in mid-October and keep well through the winter. Stowe said many of her older customers look forward to late apples like the Russet as well. While not as pretty in appearance, the Russet is known for durability in storage and its versatility for cooking, she said.

Spy Golds, a cross between Northern Spy apples and Golden Delicious, are another late variety with a peach color that is not commonly found in the supermarkets.

"It's fun to try different apples. We encourage people to pick all kinds and try them out, not just go for the Macs and Cortlands," said Stowe.

In Sanbornton, Katie Surowiec said picking begins on Surowiec Farm each year with Paula Reds, an early ripening version of the Macintosh apple that cooks down well for sauces. Gala is a later variety of apple that Surowiec termed a "good kid's apple." Great to eat fresh, she said it is also versatile in ways it can be used for cooking.

Empire apples come very late in the season. She noted that it is a cross of the more common Red Delicious and Macintosh apples and is great for pies.

"When you're baking apple pie you want a hard apple that will hold the shape of the pie, and Empire does that," said Surowiec.

The last apples of the season on her family farm is the Mutsu, or Crispin, a hard green apple with a hearty crunch.

Orchard owners and bakers agree that a variety of apples makes the best pies and ciders. Surowiec said she mixes many types of apples in her pies, including Macouns and Honeycrisps. They each add a different flavor to the pie and there isn't a "void" between the crust of the pie and the apples, because the harder apples hold the shape.

"I always bake with a lot of varieties. It makes a great pie that way," she said.

Orchard owners said picking is a little early this year and many varieties are done for the season already. As the later apples ripen however, people still have a chance to pick varieties that will last through the winter months and provide holiday pies and other desserts.

Nhliving.com has an online listing of orchards in the state as well as contact information so people can call ahead to see what varieties are currently being picked.

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