Monday, December 27

The Golden Apple Part III a.k.a. Goldrush

Unlike my first two posts about the golden apple, this is not a story of mythology, but rather one of a tangible fruit.  The Goldrush apple is a product of nature, but also of science, more specifically of apple breeding, which has been  the source of many new apple varieties over the past century.  Unlike the Baldwin, McIntosh or Red Delicious, which all originated as chance seedlings, the Goldrush is the progeny of several existing varieties including Rome, Golden Delicious and a variety of crab apple, which were all intentionally crossed and recrossed over a series of generations to eventually yield what would become the Goldrush. 
The Goldrush Family Tree from:

All of these crosses were performed by the Purdue, Rutgers and Illinois (PRI) breeding program, which developed the Goldrush as part of their ongoing attempt to breed scab resistant apple varieties.
Almost all of the varieties released by PRI under this breeding program, which include Enterprise, Redfree and Goldrush among others, contain a single scab resistant gene Vf derived from Malus floribunda, a species of crab apple.  The original tree that bore what would become Goldrush apples was planted in 1973 on the Purdue Horticulture Research Farm in West Lafayette, Indiana.  It was one of many trees that were planted with seeds resulting from a cross between a Golden Delicious as the seed parent and a variety known as Co-op 17 as the pollen parent.  Its official location on the farm was in block HE row 4, tree 16.  In October 1980 the tree was selected for further testing under the name Co-op 38.  Not until 1994 was the variety finally released to growers under the name Goldrush.  
Because of it's scab resistance, Goldrush is a good variety for organic growers, who often struggle to control scab in varieties that do not have the built-in genetic resistance.  I had not heard the name until this fall when I picked at Cornell Orchards.  During conversations about the picking season, Goldrush would often be mentioned as the variety that marked the end of the season, the final apple to be picked, often in the cold, sometimes snowy days of early November.  Like many late season apples, Goldrush are particularly good keepers, often needing additional time in storage to fully ripen.  In fact, several people I have spoken to, do not recommend biting into a Goldrush until at least a month after they have been picked.
I chose them as one of a few varieties to store in my basement for the winter months.  My basement, although cooler than the house, is not a true cellar by any stretch of the imagination.  I have found it takes truly good keepers to stand the test of time with my storage methods.  Today I dug out a Goldrush to test the flavor and texture.  Although it was slightly soft to the touch, when cut open the texture of the flesh was firm and amazingly crisp with no mealiness.  It tasted strikingly sweet, yet there was a distinct zing hidden in the complex flavors.  Of the storage varieties I have encountered this is one of my favorites.  We will see how it holds up in February or March, but for now I can say this apple excited my taste buds and added a little sweetness to a cold and very snowy December day.

Sunday, December 12

First Snow

Winter's first snow is always a thing of excitement for me.  Like the sight of the first Robin or the taste of my first apple, I feel as though it serves to mark the season.  This past week the flurries and flakes flew in the Finger Lakes region, blanketing the ground with a dusting some places and up to a few feet in others. 
After a few weeks back in Wisconsin for an extended Thanksgiving visit with family and friends, I returned to Ithaca last weekend.  With flurries in the air this past week, I also returned to the orchard to help with some fencing work.  
Slowly, over the past several years, the orchard has been replacing the archaic chain-link fence that has surrounded the Lansing orchard since before the first trees were planted.  November and December are usually the only months slow enough at the orchard to allow for time to build the fence and that is only if there is not too much snow on the ground to prevent the tractors to from getting around the orchard.
So this week, with highs only in the mid-twenties, I dug out my long underwear and fleece-line boots and headed out to the fence line.
The trees in the orchard are almost all bare.  Here and there a few leaves still cling, mostly on the later varieties like the Ida Red and Gold Rush.  The trees left naked, dozing off for their winter sleep, appear so much smaller than they did in their full regalia.  Those that seemed to tower above you in October now have a more modest reach towards the sky.  The fallen, half rotten apples still show their rosy cheeks through the dusting of snow upon the ground.  The apples missed by the picking crew, those camouflaged by the leaves, now hang like forgotten ornaments on the tree.  The Golden Delicious, which were so well hidden a few months ago now stand out in stark contrast to the dark branches and snow the flies through the air and blankets the ground.
Building fence is not something that can be rushed.  Stretching three hundred and thirty feet of ten-foot tall wire mesh, requires close attention to detail in order to maintain proper tension and work out any kinks that form as the fence conforms to the contours of the land.  The key is finding ways to keep warm, moving as much a possible.  Taking breaks for a cup of tea or hot chocolate never hurts either.