North Star Orchard Blog

Summer isn’t technically over yet, but the temperature is dropping and the fall crops are ready to take over!  Even though it happens around the same time every year, it always seems to take us by surprise.  How is it already mid-September?  What happened to the summer?  However, as sad as we are to see the summer end, we are very excited for all the fall crops and events.

Here at NSO we’re known for our wide range of unique and flavorful apple varieties. We grow right around 350 varieties of apples that are anything from green, to red, to yellow, to russetted, to big, to small, to sweet, to tart, to heritage, to recent introductions, and everything in between! Some of these apples are our tried-and-true favorites that have been part of our orchard for many years. For those varieties, we have large trees and lots of them! However, at least 250 or so of those 350 varieties are in what we refer to as our “trial block”. That means we have one or two young trees that we are trying to determine if we like well enough to plant more of.  Flavor is definitely our top priority but we are also looking for texture, disease resistance, growth habits (like spur types and if branches are upright or droopy), breeding potential, as well as storage life. We take lots of notes on taste and keep track of what day we start and stop picking each year to make it easier on ourselves the next year!  

WIth 350 varieties to try, it stands to reason that some of them will be delicious while others fall a bit short. We try to weed out the truly bad flavors before they ever make it to market, but some of the “uniquely weird” flavors like banana, tangerine, and bourbon are interesting enough to let the customers decide for themselves. And some, like Knobbed Russet, are so ugly that even we are afraid to take a bite!   

This year things will be looking mighty different at market, as there will be very few, if any, Asian pears for sale at our stand. Asian pear fans are already saddened and confused by this sudden change of events, so here’s what’s going on…

You are in for a real treat this week and next as you discover (or re-discover!) the Sansa apple. Don't let the unassuming, "unattractive" appearance of this gem fool you. Remember the old adage, 'Don't judge a book by its cover'. Here at North Star, you are wise to do likewise with fruit appearance.

We planted our first Sansa trees about 18 years ago and pretty quickly realized it was a high quality apple which was difficult to grow to perfection. Now in 2017 we have 80 trees in production. This year we have produced one of our best-flavored and abundant crops of Sansa ever. When I walk my dogs around the farm in the evening, it is currently my favorite snack apple. They are so delicious and easy to eat, I can eat two or three just walking around the farm. And I'm pretty particular when it comes to apple flavor...so I hope you'll appreciate this ugly duckling as much as I do.

And now, for a bit of true apple "geekery":

Hello!  My name is Zoe Yost, and I am fourteen years old.  The founder of My Tern!™, I sell cards of my original artwork and photographs with 100% of the proceeds supporting the Delmarva Ornithological Society’s Delaware Bird-A-Thon.  

Resembling a walkathon, the Bird-A-Thon has been raising funds for eleven years primarily to purchase, protect, and rehabilitate vital habitat for migratory birds along the Delaware Bayshore.  The proceeds of all My Tern!™ purchases will support further conservation of these essential lands.

It's time to meet the farmers growing your food!

But what IS a farmer, anyway?

Someone who likes being dirty? Who enjoys sweat, bugs, and rain filling their boots? Who really loves country music?

Well, maybe not those things too much (or at all!!), but what this year's "crop" of farmers is includes people who are interested in:

I first came to North Star Orchard on my dad’s birthday (in 2012), when we planted the Bloody Ploughman apple tree in his honor. That visit lead to many questions -- what the heck is a Bloody Ploughman apple? Why does this farm not have any Red Delicious apples? Now I finally got the chance to work on this farm as an intern for my school’s senior independent project. What I’ve experienced is beyond anything I originally imagined. I realized after the first day that my preconceptions about farmers were much more dull than what a farmer actually is. I thought that farm work was easy and not complex. I thought all farmers do is plant some things here and some things there, and then eventually harvest them…boy was I wrong.

 

Meet teosinte. You might be surprised to learn that the rather unappetizing morsel pictured to the right would give rise to a much more recognisable staple. Genus Zea, a group of plants in the grass family, encompases all modern domestic corn varieties and their wild cousins, the teosintes. Corn’s sudden appearance in the archeological timeline was a mystery to scientists, until they looked closely at the DNA. A mere five genes separate corn from its ancestral precursor, and both plants have the same number of chromosomes. The two can even produce fertile hybrids! How did wild teosinte become the corn we know today?

"My tricorder can't make heads or tails of this thing, but I hear it's helpful for farms. Beats me - I'm a doctor, not a annelidologist!" 

 

Dear Dr. McCoy: You have evidently been shrunk and transported to Earth. That is a simple and common earthworm, not an unknown life form.

Don’t let anyone ever tell you farming isn’t a year-round job. It most definitely is. Even when it isn’t harvest season, there are still planning sessions and a slew of tasks vital to making the rest of the year run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. This is especially true at North Star Orchard!

Pages