Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Fall Garden

Fall is in full swing, but the garden is still producing.

 The black beans are beginning to fade, and I am anxiously awaiting their harvest so we can get them stored and the bed put up for the winter.
This bed did double duty this year.  The beans were planted when the peas came out.

The pods are just now beginning to turn papery.  If you pick them too soon, they aren't black yet.  I've shelled about 2 quarts so far, which is more than my harvest last year already.  I've probably picked less than 20% of the pods.

Bush beans and leaf lettuce will keep going until a killing freeze does them in.  We began having frosty mornings in September, but have not had a killing frost yet.

How long does one wait for a cherry tomato?  My cherry tomato plant died this year.  I only got about half a dozen ripe tomatoes.  But when I pulled out the onions in July, there were two tiny volunteers from last year's plant.  I transplanted them and here they are on August 8th, about the size of May nursery transplants.

I had to wait until September for my cherry tomatoes.  The anticipation makes them taste even better!

I had quite a few nice bell peppers.  I made fresh Salsa once, but what I really want them for is my Black Bean Stoup.  I chopped them up, froze them on a tray, and then transferred them to bags.  I'll have colorful peppers to add to recipes all winter.

And here is what you call "too many apples"  My mother took this photo one day while out driving around.  Now that's an apple harvest not to be ignored.  You have to find a use for those babies or mow around them!  Whew!  I'm glad that's not in my yard.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Spy Revealed

Yesterday Mom and I went to the Apple Orchard to pick some apples.  There are bushels of wind fall apples.  Because the trees are standard size, the remaining apples at the tops of the trees are virtually unreachable, even with a very long apple picker.  (frustrating!) You would need the added advantage of a tractor bucket to reach most of them and we didn't have one.  So, we went to the back of the orchard and worked our way forward, sorting through the ground apples and picking up the unblemished ones.  You can still get too many apples this way.  In the end, I had to just walk away toting my 5 gallon pail, and leaving bushels behind for another day.

Each time I would find a large, perfect looking apple, which when lifted proved to have too much damage, I would take a couple of bites just to console myself.  As I bit into one under one of the largest, healthiest trees, my mind suddenly went down a familiar path... hard crunch> sweet then tart> grainy texture> and then the unique, subtle, sub-acidic finish...  

I looked around orienting myself in the orchard.  "Mom, taste this apple".  I handed it to her as I picked up another noting it's physical characteristics.  "This is a Northern Spy right?"  Mom agreed, yes.  
"I think that's my apple.  In fact, I'm almost certain"

The Northern Spy is a late apple discovered in the finger lakes region of NY in the early 1800s.  
Skin color is a green ground, flushed with red stripes where not shaded, and it produces fairly late in the season.  It is a hard apple with a more tart taste. Excellent for storage and often used for cooking, and is one of the most sought after pie apples.  It is also noted for it's high Vitamin C content and for being the apple with one of the highest anti-oxidant levels.  Awesome!

Ripens Late Sept-Early Oct R
Green background  R
Red Stripes R

My mother asked for comparison photos so she could see just how big these apples were.  Remember there were only three on my little sapling this year out of the six that pollinated, and all three were huge.  Here it is next to a nice sized Cortland from my orchard.

It also weighs in at a hefty 12.2 ounces.  I did a quick study of my other old heirloom windfall apples and they range from about 5.5 oz to 7 or 8 for an extra large specimen.

So, in conclusion, I am much more inclined to believe that this is a Northern Spy than a Red Astrachan.  All the characteristics point in that direction, as well as the comparison taste test.  Am I happy?  You bet.  This is a great apple to have growing in the backyard.  I look forward to many harvests and many pies!