Not until I turn my calendar to September and the temperatures start to drop do I feel ready for apples. And although apples started showing up early this year at Green City Market, only in recent weeks have the numbers of baskets and bushels multiplied and signs screaming “We Have Honeycrisps” popped up all over. It’s hard not to get caught up in the Honeycrisp craze. If they weren’t so good, the signs would get annoying. The apples are exceptionally crisp, juicy, and sweet, but not overly so.
But while the rest of the world is chomping away on this popular, relatively new variety (produced by breeders at the University of Minnesota from a 1960 cross-pollination between two apple varieties, Macoun and Honeygold), I race for the first pickings of an heirloom variety called Golden Russet. At Green City Market, only two growers offer them, Seedling Farms and Nichols Farm and Orchard. I’m told that demand isn’t big for these obscure apples because wholesalers find them too small and too strange, so the markets are the only place to sell them.
I can’t remember exactly how I discovered these greenish-gold apples with light brown russeted skin (hence the name). I think it was three or four years ago when this heirloom got a lot of coverage on local TV and a number of chefs starting snapping them up. I had to check them out, tasted one, and fell in love with the dense, crisp texture and slightly tart flavor. They have since become one of my favorites. Their small to medium size makes them perfect for snacking and easy to pop into a lunch or tote bag. They also hold up well for months in the refrigerator.
Finding an apple variety you like is certainly a subjective matter, as it should be. Before you get too attached to Honeycrisps, check out some other varieties. At Green City Market, for example, Nichols Farm offers 20 to 30 varieties (a post for another day), any one of which can be sampled. A few bites and you’ll discern the differences in tastes and textures and realize how bland and boring many supermarket apples have become. In fact, like me, you may find yourself filling your crisper drawer to the max to take you as far into winter months as possible with apples you’ll want to eat.
South Haven, Michigan
Nichols Farm and Orchard
at Green City Market
1750 N. Clark Street
(Lincoln Park at Clark and LaSalle)
7:00 am – 1:00 pm