October 30th, 2015, by Lisa
October 28th, 2015, by Stephanie
There may not be much more to be said about Gold Rush that you don’t know already, but we’ll give it a try with a bit of interesting history….
Gold Rush is a variety out of the Purdue Rutgers apple breeding program (using natural plant sex methods, NOT GMOs!).
The breeder decided to discard Gold Rush because it ripens too late in the season, so most growers would not be able to deal with it.
However, the assistant to the breeder loved the apple and, using buds from the original tree, saved Gold Rush from the dump heap!
Over time, more and more people discovered and fell in love with Gold Rush, and so ta da…here we are!
However, it does still ripen very late in the season. We often do not finish picking them until the second week of November. So frost (and late-season massive hurricanes!) can be a major concern. Because of this, many growers who do have Gold Rush pick them earlier in the season when they are still too green. Of course, if Gold Rush is picked green, it doesn’t taste like much of anything but green apple. It also does not keep for months like the properly-ripe apples do.
We want Gold Rush that taste mighty fine (ok, we’re a bit selfish here…because that’s what WE want to eat!). So we take the risk, year after year, and let Gold Rush get properly ripe. Some years it’s no problem, and other years we have send a lot of the apples to the ‘seconds’ bin due to cracking from frost or too much rain.
But we feel good, ripe Gold Rush are worth their weight in gold…so enjoy!
(PS. We are also using Gold Rush as a parent in our own apple breeding projects, so you may very well see some delicious Gold Rush offspring coming along in a few years!)
If you haven’t staked your claim yet in this year’s Gold Rush Rush, you can do so here!
October 15th, 2015, by Lisa
Since Halloween is coming up, I thought I would step outside the box and do something a little different. Cheesy ghost stories are one of my favorite parts of Halloween (after the candy of course) and there just aren’t enough mad libs in the world today so I decided to combine the two….
Fill in 1-15 before continuing
2. Verb ending in ing
4. Verb ending in ing
6. Type of fruit
7. A famous person’s name
13. Favorite apple variety
READY? SET? HERE WE GO!
On a dark and (1)__________ afternoon, Farmer Ike was (2)________________ through the orchard at 3226 Limestone Road. Everything was in its place and nothing was out of the ordinary until a (3)________ caught his eye. As he crept closer to get a better look, it began (4)_________ towards him. He let out a startled yell and ran for the (5)___________. But just before he could reach it, a hand shot out of the (6)__________ tree and grabbed Ike by the sleeve. He spun around and came face to face with (7)______________! He was so surprised to see his old college friend that he momentarily forgot about the (8)__________ that was after him. However, just as Ike was about to give his old friend a tour of the orchard, a (9)___________ growl was heard to his left. With terror in his eyes and his heart beating fast, Ike turned to see none other than a (10)___________ and (11)_____________ (12)____________! He grabbed the nearest (13)______________ and threw it as hard as he could at the beast, but his aim was off and only angered the (14)___________ more. With no other weapons and no chance of escape, Ike did the only thing he could think of. He cut open a perfectly ripe Gold Rush apple and offered it to the creature. Since, as some of you might already know, Gold Rush is a pretty magical apple which has been known to defeat even the pickiest of eaters, the monster took the apple into its (15)_____________ paw, took a tentative bite, and smiled happily. This is how the not-so-scary monster came to live deep within the trees of North Star Orchard.
The End….Or is it?
October 14th, 2015, by Stephanie
Winecrisp is a complex, crunchy, sweet, and very hard apple with a fruity sweet flavor (with hints of berry!) and a beautiful dusky red skin.
When we planted this new variety, it was simply known as Co-op 31 (the poor nameless thing). We only planted one tree, just to try it out. With the first apple, came our “Wow!”….so we planted a lot more of them.
We couldn’t let them remain nameless, however, so we dubbed them “Emperor” (we are quite challenged in the naming department, as you may know, so that’s the lame name we came up with). A few years later, the breeder named them “Winecrisp”, which of course is an infinitely better and much more appropriate name; why didn’t we think of that??
Farmer Ike says of Winecrisp: “It is just a damned fine apple!”
So try one (or three or more) this week, and see why. My feeling is after one bite, you may not want to share!
October 2nd, 2015, by Stephanie
Now that summer is officially over, you might be wondering what still gets done on a farm like North Star Orchard. It’s true that we no longer have peaches or plums, tomatoes or cucumbers, but we still have plenty to keep us busy.
In the orchard, we have Asian pears like Olympic and Niitaka to pick, European pears like Clairgeau and Sucre de Montlucon to pick, and so many of our favorite apples (like Golden Russet!) that we have run out of crates to put them all in! We are also making weekly trips to Bauman’s in Sassamansville to make Asian pear cider, apple cider, apple butter, and Asian pear butter. All of the jarred products are great for the winter when fruit is scarce and the cider freezes really well and tastes great warm or cold!
Meanwhile, in the garden, we are still harvesting lots of vegetables like broccoli, kale, spinach, and leeks. We are also busy seeding our fields that are no longer needed this season with cover crops like rye, field peas, and buckwheat. This allows nutrients to go back to the soil and to keep moisture in. The cool nights and eventual frost won’t even stop us from growing vegetable because we are able to keep planting and harvesting inside our plastic-covered greenhouse and high tunnel. The extra few degrees of warmth make a huge difference in December!
As work in the orchard and garden start to slow down, there will still be quite a bit going on here. Ike and Lisa will be interviewing potential new staff members for next season, there will be planning meetings for planting in spring, cleaning up and organizing equipment, the Gold Rush Rush!, plans for opening our very own, on-site market in the blue star barn next August, and much more.
And even though the nights are pretty cool now, the days are just right for working outside- mostly sunny and mild. This is pretty much our favorite time of year to be working so we don’t mind that there’s still plenty of work to be done!
September 25th, 2015, by Lisa
Making applesauce is a great way to deal with all the apples that come with a fall fruit CSA share or big trip to the farmers’ market. Whether you are into water bath canning or just want some to freeze for the winter or refrigerate for a week, here is an easy, rainy day project!
Easy Applesauce Instructions:
Step 1: Rinse apples and peel if you want (I don’t peel mine since the skin on our NSO apples is pretty tender)
Step 2: Cut apples into small chunks, avoiding the core, seeds, and stem (the smaller the chunks, the faster they will cook down)
Step 3: Add to a deep walled sauce pan or a large stock pot depending on how large of a batch you want to make
Step 4: Add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan/pot so that the apples don’t burn as they start cooking
Step 5: Stirring often, cook on low to medium (depending on the thickness of your pan) until applesauce reaches the consistency you desire – starting the cooking process with the lid on will help get the temperature up quicker but then remove it so that moisture can evaporate and your sauce can thicken up
Step 6: If you like chunky applesauce, you don’t need to do anything here but if you want a smoother applesauce, you can use a potato masher or immersion blender to mash the apples a bit
Step 7: If you are going to use a water bath canner, fill (1/2 inch head space) sanitized jars with hot applesauce and boil for 20 minutes. If you are going to freeze or refrigerate applesauce, let it cool to room temperature before putting it into your preferred containers.
Step 8: Enjoy!
There are plenty of different recipes out there for applesauce including some that add sugar or cinnamon/nutmeg/cloves but this is how I like to make mine- no extra ingredients and not a lot of hassle.
And applesauce can be used in many different ways such as in baking as a replacement to eggs, oil, or butter, on pancakes- especially potato pancakes!, with peanut butter (trust me, when it’s April and we are out of apples, it is a great alternative to our favorite snack of pb and apples!), with dessert, with savory entrées, as part of a Thanksgiving feast, and more!
What do you make with applesauce?
September 23rd, 2015, by Stephanie
Not the peas – the apples! The name says it all: They are not-too-sweet and not-too-tart, have a great flavor and crunch, and they’re quite juicy. We think they have the quintessential apple flavor and texture when your brain thinks of the word ‘apple’, and most everyone just loves these striped beauties!
And now, for a bit of trivia: We named these Sugar Snap right away (it was love at first bite). They’re known, in the orcharding world, sadly and simply as NY-74840-1. They were discarded from the NY apple breeding program as not being a suitable ‘commercial’ variety: the color is too variable, and they develop some russeting and sometimes cracking, none of which suits the wholesale market. But here at North Star, you know we have NO problem with any of those issues. We say bring on the FLAVOR!!
Smile! This is one happy apple. Well, it did had a little help from Lisa to look that way, but still.
Many fruits develop their own protective waxy coating, called ‘bloom’. That’s what you often see on grapes and plums. You don’t often see it on apples, since they get polished up in a brusher machine before they come to you. Varieties like Sugar Snap exhibit a lot of bloom, so sometimes we like to play with our food before we even pick it!
Too bad the rest of the world won’t get the opportunity to munch on these. But for you North Star apple aficionados, it’s time to dig in!
September 18th, 2015, by Stephanie
You may have heard terms like “locavore”, “locatarian”, or “seasonal eating” being used at farmer’s markets or local restaurants and wondered what all the fuss was about. These are terms that describe, in part, what you already do by having a CSA share with us or shopping at one of our market stands: eating food grown locally and in the correct season for the area you live in. Barbara Kingsolver even wrote an entire book on the subject called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (which we highly recommend!).
We live in a time where everything we want to eat is just a trip to the grocery store or a click of a button away. But what are we giving up for this convenience?
Fruit tastes best when it has been picked at the perfect time and doesn’t need to travel long distances to get to the consumer. Grocery store fruit needs to be picked “green” or under-ripe so that it can be transported from the grower to the distributor to the grocery store and finally to the customer. Some of the distances are greater than others like apples from Washington, bananas from the Caribbean, and grapes from Chile.
Eating seasonally may not allow you to make your favorite recipes year round, but it does insure that when you finally do get to the right season for it, you have the best ingredients available which will make your meals that much more enjoyable and memorable. And if you have patience and plan ahead, there are plenty of delicious options year-’round.
Summer is a great time for peaches and plums. Eat them in oatmeal, on salads, grilled, on pizza, in pies or cobblers, and in muffins. They freeze well for use later in the year when peaches and plums are not in season and peaches also dehydrate really well!
Fall is a great time for apples and Asian pears. Both can be frozen, canned into sauce, dehydrated, and stored in the fridge for quite a while. Of course we also recommend eating them fresh for snacks, with peanut butter, on salads, with roasted vegetables like beets, sautéed with onions (one of our favorite things to do with them!), in pies, crisps, tarts, cakes, and more!
Winter and Spring are great times to use up what you have stored up in jars or the freezer and what you dehydrated. Or as some of you may know, it is a great time to eat GOLD RUSH! I know it’s still a bit early to even think about it but we do have an amazing storage apple called Gold Rush which, if kept in a cool, dry, safe place, can last until March or later! The texture might change a bit but so will the flavor – it gets sweeter as the months go by!
Eating locally and seasonally applies to vegetables as well, and provides many additional options for all seasons but particularly for the fruit- sparse times like winter and spring. Early spring crops like asparagus, greens, or rhubarb are a nice fresh addition to storage crops like potatoes, beets, butternut squash, onions, garlic, and sweet potatoes. And the canning, freezing, and dehydrating options are abundant and delicious too!
It might seem silly to wait months and months for a particular fruit or vegetable to be in season when the grocery store has them available year round, but we think that locally grown produce that looks and tastes great is worth waiting for. And it feels pretty good to support growers in you own community as well. Thank you for choosing to eat locally!
Here are the fruits WE wait all year for….
NSO Staff Picks:
Hannah: Hosui Asian pears and Aurora European pears
Paige: Shinsui Asian pears and Hudson’s Golden Gem apples
Justin: Jupiter grapes
Susan: China Pearl and Loring peaches
Chris: China Pearl peaches and Shinsui Asian pears
Caleb: Any of our Asian pears
Lisa: Jupiter grapes
Abel: Any of our freestone yellow peaches
Ike: Purple Heart plums- the first plum of the season!
Stephanie: Imperial Epineuse plums and Russet apples
Josh: Purple Heart plums and John Boy peaches
Sarah: Purple Heart plums and Jupiter grapes
Maureen: Jupiter grapes and Hosui Asian pears
What do YOU look forward to?
August 26th, 2015, by Stephanie
If someone has never had an Asian pear before, it is pretty hard to describe what they are like. Sweet, juicy, round, crisp, unique, and amazing can all be used but the best way to describe it is to just say “try one”.
We grow six varieties of Asian pears: Shinsui, Hosui, Niitaka, Olympic, Yoinashi, and Raja. There are differences between all of them but also differences within each type. Depending on where they were on the tree the color can range from bright orange (full sun exposure) to greenish brown (mostly shaded). They can also be the size of a small apple or as large as a cantaloupe!
Unlike European pears which are picked about a month before they are ready to eat, kept in cold storage, and need to sit on the counter to soften up before they are ready to eat, Asian pears are picked ready-to-eat right off the tree! No need to wait for the perfect moment because we do all the difficult work for you!
Please refrigerate our Asian pears, as they are picked ready-to-eat. Some varieties will keep up to 2 months in the refrigerator, but will lose quality if they are left at room temperature. Larger pears may be cut in half, and the unused portion saved for later use – they will not brown like most cut apples or peaches!
Asian pears may be eaten peeled or unpeeled, and are a great addition to salads. They can be used in cooking in any way you would use apples or pears. Over the years, our customers have made them into pies, tarts, ‘baked apples’, poached pears, and more. They can be dehydrated but have a very different texture than dehydrated apples and will be much sweeter.
Asian pears tend to be more expensive than regular European pears because they are much more difficult to grow, requiring a lot more hand-labor and suffering from more horticultural issues (early bloom time, fireblight, etc.). We spend several weeks in late spring thinning the Asian pears which means we leave a single pear every eight inches and snip off all the pears in between! They tend to grow in clusters of two to five and about every inch so the ground is quickly covered in tiny round fruit. It is a bit like walking on marbles which adds great excitement to our days.
We also need to spot pick them as the tops and ends of the branches ripen faster then the bottoms and near the trunk. As large and heavy as Asian pears are, they have surprisingly delicate skin so we need to snip the stem off of each pear as we pick it in order to keep them from stabbing one another and making lots of tiny holes in the fruit. If you have ever seen Asian pears in the grocery store, they usually have some sort of foam woven sleeve to keep them from getting beat up while they are shipped from who knows where and handled by so many people in between.
Despite all the extra work and potential issues that go hand in hand with Asian pears, we still grow them because we think their flavor is beyond com-PEAR!
Don’t you agree?
August 7th, 2015, by Lisa
We get the question all of the time: “What is your favorite apple?”
Ike says something to the effect of “It’s the one I’m eating”. Which is true in his case. He has to sample and evaluate over 400 varieties of apples during the growing season. So if he’s chosen an apple to actually eat rather than just sample (like the old taste-and-spit method wine makers use), then you know it’s one he really likes.
Lisa will often say one or the other is on her Top Ten list. Here’s her list (in no particular order – that’s too hard- but just recently she made Rubinette and Gold Rush her official favorites!)
5. Crimson Gold
6. Golden Russet
7. Hudson’s Golden Gem
8. Gold Rush
Interestingly, most of those Lisa listed are yellow, gold, or have a high percentage of those colors on them. The exceptions being Winecrisp which is so dark red it’s nearly black, and Ludicrisp which again is dark red an speckly. If you are familiar with these varieties, you’ll also know they are sweet (‘cept maybe early-season Gold Rush), hence you know where Lisa’s tastes lie as well.
It’s a shame that in commercial apple sales, yellow apples are much maligned. Indeed it can be hard to convince a new-to-North Star customer to even try a yellow apple, so ruined they have been on very icky Golden Delicious. You cannot judge a book by its cover, nor can you judge an apple by its color.
Here are some staff favorites!
Paige: Hudson’s Golden Gem and Golden Russet
Justin: Adam’s Pearmain
Abel: Pristine and very ripe Golden Supreme
Josh: Sweet 16 and Keepsake
Chris: Sansa and Pristine
Sarah: Golden Harvey
Hannah: Dave’s Delight and Golden Russet
Kelly: Golden Russet
Stephanie: Hudson’s Golden Gem and Gold Rush
What do you think – do any of those apples make it on your personal Top Ten list? What other varieties really float your boat? To make this easier, we have made a NSO Apple Passport, so you can keep track of your tasting notes!
Earlier this year the FDA approved genetically modified (GMO) apples, and we may see them hitting the grocery store shelves by 2017. Dubbed ‘botox apples’ by some, these altered Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples are designed (ie. genetically modified in a lab) to prevent bruising and browning. (Read more about it in this NPR article and this New York Daily News article).
We at the farm believe that the development of GMO crops is like opening a Pandora’s Box (or can of worms, if you prefer). Things could take off and become big problems in no time. We’ve already seen that in pesticide-resistant monster weeds which have developed in response to GMO corn, soy, and other field crops.
And honestly, in the case of the GMO apples – what IS the point? Sure, some apples start to brown nearly immediately upon cutting them, but others do not. The non-browning characteristic already exists in some varieties, like the Sansa we recently picked.
Sansa is a delightfully fruity and sweet early apple. Not commercially ‘pretty’, perhaps, with its non-solid pinkishyellowish/lightly russet-y color scheme, but it certainly looks beautiful to us! And you know we at North Star do not care much about looks anyway – it’s flavor that counts!
Sansa, hours after slicing
Every year when the Sansa start producing I am reminded of how lovely they are. And then as I cut them up for eating, I remember that they also don’t brown.
Some varieties, like Royalty, will start browning within seconds, but others do not. When there are already naturally-occurring non-browning gems like Sansa around, why on Earth are food and Ag scientists fooling around with genes in a lab? So they can have nationally-recognized varieties like Granny Smith and Golden Delicious with that characteristic? Then people will have no idea if they’re eating a GMO apple or not (because, of course, there are no labeling laws in this country….YET).
Personally, I think it would be so much better if the apple industry would stop fooling around with unpopular varieties which “look good” (although many customers hate Golden Delicious just as much as Red Delicious now because the apple industry has ruined it – but that’s another story). Why not start growing some YUMMY varieties and NOT fool around artificially with the genetics? Consumers can be taught that delicious apples can come in “ugly” packages…we’ve seen that happen with our own farm. We routinely have customers pick out the “ugliest” varieties for sale at our market stand, as they know those apples will taste just awesome!
Sansa core 2 days after being cut
And so it is with Sansa….a very unassuming-looking apple with great flavor AND a nifty non-browning characteristic….and no GMOs are involved!
By the way – those GMO apples, when they come out (and I’m sure they will), will hopefully have the word “Arctic” attached to their variety name. So if you see “Arctic Granny Smith or Arctic Golden Delicious”, you know what they are. Of course, that is if that name is kept with them. I’m betting the “arctic” part of the name will mysteriously disappear.