The apples of autumn
Any fruit or vegetable that is grown locally tastes delicious, but perhaps the most popular and most amazingly delicious “just picked” is being harvested now in orchards around the region: Apples! Our country has been growing apples since European colonists brought them over in the 17th century. Today, Nova Scotia produces about 10 % of the commercial apple crop in Canada with some 1800 hectares under production, while New Brunswick produces about 1% on about 225 hectares. (Statistics Canada for 2010). This of course does not count the many apple trees growing in backyard plantings by homeowners wanting to grow their own apples.
While there are wild crabapples growing throughout all of Canada, the apple varieties that we enjoy today have been specially developed by breeders over the years. Apples don’t come true from seed, so if you plant a seed from a Cortland apple, you won’t necessarily get a Cortland-producing tree; if you even get a tree at all. Commercially sold apple trees are developed by grafting twigs from a desirable tree onto special rootstocks varieties. Many of today’s varieties are grown on semi-dwarf or dwarf rootstocks, so that the tree never gets beyond the size of a large shrub, and most apples can be picked without the use of ladders.
Ask people for names of some apples, and you’ll often hear about half a dozen very common names: Red and Golden Delicious, Mcintosh, Gravenstein, Cortland, Gala, and the hugely popular Honeycrisp. There are actually hundreds, if not thousands, of apple cultivars that have been developed or discovered over the years by apple enthusiasts. Many are not necessarily suited to Atlantic Canada climates, but there are many that do extremely well here. Some were even developed at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research station in Kentville, NS, such as NovaRed and NovaSpy.
Summer apples are early apples harvested in August and September, and are best suited for fresh eating, as they don’t store as well as later-ripening cultivars. Summer apples include Yellow Transparents, Sunrise, Ginger Gold, Vista Bella, Paula Red, Zestar, Mcintosh and the very popular Gravenstein.
Midseason apples are harvested in September and early October and can be used for fresh eating or cooking. Many of the mid- and late-season apples store extremely well either in cold storage (a root cellar or other cool place), and even longer in Controlled Atmosphere Storage, which is how many fruit producers store their crop for months. Mid season apples include Ambrosia, Cortland, King, Empire, Spartan, NovaSpy, Honeycrisp, Jonagold, Gala, and Macoun.
Late season apples harvest begins in early to mid October and can continue into early November in a good autumn. These apples are great for fresh eating, cooking, or processing and also store very well. They include Red and Golden Delicious, Northern Spy, Golden Russet, Idared, Cox Orange Pippin, Mutsu and Splendour.