Monday, April 26

Introduction to Ithaca

The days are getting longer, the air sweeter and this past week I had a satisfying amount of time with my hands in the soil at the Ithaca Community Gardens.  As I get settled in here, I am starting to make contact with some of the local farms and orchards.  Little Tree Orchards about 8 miles outside of Ithaca, has been making a showing at the local farmers market and also presses cider that is sold at the food cooperative just down the street from me.  They were still selling a few varieties from last years harvest including Northern Spy, which I grabbed for a snack as I perused the rest of the market this past Saturday.  They also offer an "Apple a Day" CSA.  West Haven Farm is located just up the road from me and grows organic apples as part of there larger market-garden and CSA program.  They were also at the farmers market this past Saturday, offering some of last year's Ida Reds.  Black Diamond Farm, in near-by Trumansburg or T-burg as it is called by the locals, raises as variety of heirloom apples and also devotes a section of their orchard to antique French and English apples grown for hard cider.  They sell their crop at the farmers market during the harvest season. 
Although I have recently come under the employ of the vegetarian classic Moosewood Restaurant here in Ithaca, I still plan on finding time to spend in some of the local orchards this summer.  Come picking season I hope to find myself, at least some days, with a picking bag over my shoulders and an apple in hand.

On a side note, I went ramp hunting in the rain yesterday and returned with a good "crop."  Ramp pesto, ramp Quiche and pickled bulbs are a few of the items on the menu.  Hooray for spring!

Monday, April 19

Story of an Apple: Baldwin

The Baldwin is a staple in the history of North American-born apple varieties.  In it's time it perhaps held as much renown as the McIntosh has held in the later part of the 20th century.  During the 1800s it become one of the most popular apples in New England and New York.  Orchards upon orchards full of enormous Baldwin trees (see below) popped up all over the northeast as the apple became a popular export for the industry.

The Baldwin is believed to have originated as a chance seedling on the farm of John Ball, near present-day Wilmington, Massachusetts sometime around 1740.  The "discovery" of the apple however, is commonly credited to a man by the name of William Butters, who later come into possession of the farm and named the apple the Woodpecker or Pecker for short, in honor of the many Woodpeckers he observed frequenting the tree.  Even after it's naming however, the apple largely remained unknown until a local surveyor by the name of Deacon Samuel Thompson, encountered the tree and brought the apples to the attention of Loammi Baldwin.  Baldwin a Colonel and an engineer on the Middlesex Canal, took a liking to the apple and is largely responsible for it's propagation and further introduction into other parts of New England.  A statue of the Colonel at North Woburn is wreathed in apples and reads "Disseminator of the apple in honor of him called the Baldwin apple, which proceeds from a tree growing wild about 2 miles north of this monument."  The original tree is believed to have perished sometime between 1817 and 1832. 

By the early 1800s the apple had began to spread to other parts of New England and in 1833 the New American Orchardist said about the Baldwin, "No apple in the vicinity of Boston is so popular as this, at the present day. It is raised in large quantities for the market...and is recommended for extensive cultivation"  By mid-century the apple had spread well beyond eastern Massachusetts and in 1852 a man by the name of Hovey published a description of the Baldwin in which he stated:

The Baldwin is the most popular apple of New England, and is cultivated to a much greater extent than any other variety. Several large and fine orchards are to be found in the vicinity of Boston, some of which produce about one thousand barrels of fruit every bearing year. For exportation it is much sought after; and the large number of f1fteen hundred barrels have been sent to the East Indies in one season

The apple held prominence in New England and other parts of the Northeast, including New York, throughout the 19th century.  However, by the early 1900s the Baldwin began to loose favor as an eating apple, being replaced by the Jonathan.  It's plight was not helped by an especially cold winter in 1934 that wiped out entire Baldwin orchards in many parts of New England.  After this massacre, many of the orchards were either never replanted or were replaced by new cultivars.  Because of its desirability as a cider apple, however, it can still be found in many parts of the Northeastern United Sates.   
Baldwin at Cornell Orchards, early September
The Baldwin is generally known to have a good crop, but can be susceptible to biennial bearing.  It is normally harvested in mid-October and can keep under normal conditions as late as April.   

Saturday, April 10

On the Move

If I seem to be a bit remiss in my blogging as of late it is because most of my attention is going into moving myself and my few, but spread out possessions to Ithaca, NY.  This move is the culmination of a rather long hiatus from routine and normalcy, which has been largely a blessing, but has also given me a craving for certain inalienable domestic habits and the desire for community.  The next few days will be filled with packing driving (one more road trip) and the inevitable unsettledness that accompanies settling.    

 Ithaca Falls, Ithaca, NY

I am looking forward to being so near one of the epicenters of the apple world.  The state of NY itself has a long relationship with the apple.   S. A. Beach's Apples of New York, is a wonderful example of the magnitude and importance of that relationship.  Cornell University in Ithaca NY has been the birth place of varieties such as Empire, Liberty, Cortland, Jonagold and Macoun among many others.  With a number of orchards in the area I have little doubt I will be able to feed my picking addiction.
I also hope to explore the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva where, if I am lucky, I could wander down the many rows of wild and heirloom apple varieties.
With spring comes a new beginning.  I am looking forward to putting may hands in the dirt!  See you in New York.