Thursday, October 04, 2012
With fall color comes the onslaught of hand-painted plywood clapboards propped up along county roads advertising Fall Suppers in German Catholic communities, fundraisers and community get-togethers that have occurred annually for many years. And while many farmer's markets in the Ozarks have closed for the season, equally as many seasonal markets and truck farms remain open for business as fall crops come to fruition: acorn squash, kale, garlic, onions, and fresh Missouri apples are all omnipresent in area farmer's markets. North Missouri counties (around Moberly, Macon and north) are particularly noted for growing enormous crops of Jonathan apples, but other, smaller orchards are also producing fantastic apples that one can't find in plastic bags in larger grocery stores.
Winesaps, Honeycrisps, baskets labeled with a question mark indicating unknown varieties, I grabbed handfuls of all of them last Saturday morning. I spoke to one grower selling paper bags of apples: "What variety?" I asked. "No clue. We have five trees on the property and they've been there for over 100 years. We've owned the property for 80. I don't know what kind they are, but they're sort of like a Jonathan, but not really...." I paid $3 for a bag of 10 small and incredibly tasty apples. See here for a nice article about my Willamette Valley botanist friend, Ed, and his orchard of heirloom apples.
As most of you probably already know, those beautiful, perfect, Snow White-worthy grocery store staples, Red Delicious apples, the apples that appear in fruit baskets every Christmas lack the texture and crispness and general flavor that local heirloom variety apples possess. I think I was gypped many years ago when I worked in horticulture for a non-profit: we were all offered a free Butterball turkey or a fruit basket as a Thanksgiving token of appreciation. Because I don't eat birds, I took the fruit basket. The oranges were probably three years old, stored in some refrigerator somewhere until they were totally desiccated and inedible; the big shiny Red Delicious apples were also inedible, probably two years old- not pie-worthy by a long stretch, not smothered-in-peanut-butter-to-make-edible worthy. The bananas were fine, of course, and the mango was hard as a rock. I should have opted for the frozen bird and taken it to a food bank. Not all Red Delicious apples are terrible, of course. It's not an issue with the graft, but the variety tends to be grown widespread for shipping stability and for looks rather than for flavor or texture. This, of course, is my personal experience living in the apple-growing countries of New York and Wisconsin (Go Badgers!).
If you visit a farmer's market in Missouri and see a bunch of small, pocked little apples, grab a handful and cut into them to eat or bake them in a pie. My experience with Missouri apples is incredibly positive, with the only downside being that I seldom recall what variety I've purchased the previous week.
Posted by Allison Vaughn at 9:23 PM