HEIRLOOM APPLES AND “THE DEVIL IN MIDWINTER”
In my paranormal romance “The Devil in Midwinter,” my heroine Esmeralda is bound to serve her magician uncle for a period of seven years. Uncle Oscar is something of a plant wizard and he specializes in growing heirloom apples.
Once upon a time in America there were hundreds of strains of apples. Varied in color and shape and size, these were eventually considered problematic by grocers and fruit sellers, because they didn’t conform to the specifications of a “proper” apple, which should be red, big and round. For the past fifty years, apples have been bred for appearance, rather than flavor, and we’re all the worse for it, in my opinion.
Luckily a few orchardists—like Esmeralda’s uncle—devote themselves to trying to revive these ancient strains of misshapen but tasty fruits. If you are ever lucky enough to visit a heritage orchard, I urge to try as many of the apples as you can. They are not all pretty, but they are all distinct and tasty. Here are some varieties to check out:
Pitmason Pineapples – really do have a hint of pineapple flavoring and a very sweet smell
Ashmead Kernal – tart and crisp, it typifies the “best” apple flavor, although it is not at all an attractive fruit, having a rough exterior
Calville Blanc – mostly yellow, with little red dots on the skin, this one smells fantastic, and makes a lovely pie
Hidden Rose – has pink flesh, it’s like biting into a dream
Heirloom apples are often site specific (many of them only grow properly in certain areas of the country), so you can’t get all varieties in all places. Most of them have not been hybridized for cold storage (like Red and Golden Delicious apples) so you can only get them at certain times. But heirloom varieties are worth exploring. A good place to start is The Heirloom Orchardist:
And Trees of Antiquity:
You can also contact orchards near you and ask if they grow heritage fruits and when they have tastings.
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