It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the multitude of apple varieties on offer at farmers tailgate markets each autumn. Some are better for baking, some for snacking.
Maybe you prefer a sweeter apple or something more tart. Maybe you know you’ve tasted the perfect apple before, but you can’t remember what it was called. How do you choose? Well, apart from asking the farmer’s advice (which is always a good first step), you might consider throwing together an apple taste test.
Many growers will sell quarter peck bags (about eight or nine apples) of mixed varieties that come out to be cheaper than buying individually. Make your selections, label them (sticky notes will work, as long as the apples aren’t shifting around too much in the bag), and gather a few family members, co-workers, friends, or students to sample slices. You can vote on favorites or arrange according to sweetness—but don’t forget to take notes!
At a recent taste test at the ASAP office we sampled about a dozen varieties. Swiss Gourmet was an all-around favorite, straddling the sweet-tart line and rendering a juicy crunch. The pale green Golden Delicious also made a balanced sweet-tart choice, and the ones harvested now have a nice crispness, though it will get softer later in the season. At the sweeter end of things were the Pinova (with honeyed, tropical flavor and satisfying crispness), Jonathan, and Jonagold (a cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious). York apples have a funny oblong shape and were mildly tart with just a hint of sweetness, and pleasantly crisp. Stayman, often used in cider-making, also fell on the tart side of the spectrum.
October is National Farm to School Month and schools across North Carolina celebrate with the NC Crunch. But you don’t have to be a student or an educator to participate! Anyone can join in by crunching into a locally grown apple at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 23 (or another day during the month of October!).
Vendors selling apples at area farmers tailgate markets include B&L Organic (North Asheville Tailgate Market, West Asheville Tailgate Market), Creasman Farms (Asheville City Market, Black Mountain Tailgate Market, North Asheville Tailgate Market, River Arts District Farmers Market), Long Valley Eco-Biotic (West Asheville Tailgate Market), Lyda Farms (Weaverville Tailgate Market), McConnell Farms (Asheville City Market, North Asheville Tailgate Market, West Asheville Tailgate Market), and Thatchmore Farm (North Asheville Tailgate Market, West Asheville Tailgate Market).
In other market news, we spotted the fall’s first broccoli and cauliflower this past week. You’ll also find winter squash, pears, grapes, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, salad greens, kale, chard, and more.
Area farmers tailgate markets take place throughout the region. As always, you can find information about farms, tailgate markets, and farm stands, including locations and hours, by visiting ASAP’s online Local Food Guide at appalachiangrown.org.
Prepared by Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project.