October 20, 2011

Hipster x plantster - A Wilder Quarterly sprouts

This Sunday's New York Times Magazine introduced many of us to a new, and very exciting magazine for those of us who love home farming, gardening and plant collection. WILDER QUARTERLY, a magazine edited by Kate Sennert, a former editor of Tokion magazine, promises to appeal to 'contemporary gardeners'. "People who are growing in unusual situations: people who have gardens on their fire escapes, or kids who have moved out to start farming in very strange and unusual ways" says Celestine Maddy, the publisher who lives in Brooklyn.

The magazine looks beautiful on-line, and I can't wait to get my copy, praying that it appeals to those of us who are looking for a magazine that offers more for us plant geeks. Odyssey Bulbs' owner Russell Stafford wrote an article on bulbs, so that is promising.  Check out a sample of the magazine on issuu, here.

I have mixed emotions about this magazine, I really want it to be good, but, of course, since this is the sort of magazine I always wanted to do ( see PLANT SOCIETY on right), but I just don't have the time.  I will be lucky to get my next issue out this autumn/winter. I do believe that there is a market for a well-designed gardening magazine like this, but that will take all of us who love design and plants, to support such efforts.  WILDER appears to cross-over, to blur the boundaries between beginner and expert - I just hope there are not too many articles on growing arugula on a fire escape. My standards are high, I guess!

 Most publishers tell me that it can't be done - book or magazine that can appeal to the mass market, but I remain hopeful.  Martha had to go Mass, but when she takes over her company again, maybe that will change too. Hey, you never know, maybe I can write for them, or at least, contribute some of my photos?

Oh Wilder Quarterly? I wish you the very best. And you? readers? Let's go support them by ordering an issue.

A single issue of WILDER QUARTERLY is about $19; and a one-year subscription is about $60, so it is about the same price as a botanical society journal. WILDER targets the everyday gardener, whereas the NARGS (North American Rock Garden Society Quarterly), or the APLINE GARDEN SOCIETY QUARTERLY, check out their quarterly here. These society journals come with a membership to the specific society, and the cost, if over sees, remains around $60 annually. ( the Scottish Rock Garden Club membership for North America is about $40.)

I keep an entire bookcase next to my bed where I read, and re-read many of the specialized plant society quarterlies. They are always well written, and have subjects for both beginners and for those who are more experienced, but it's the photos and cultural hints that make them so valuable.

October 18, 2011

The Antique Apples of New England

Antique apples are suddenly back in style, which is no surprise given that heirloom tomatoes and other vintage vegetables are getting a lot of attention lately, but just try and find some in your local market. Like many things, antique apples will simply remain rare, since the market dictates availabilty based on demand,  the high cost of producing and delievering such treats will always keep the antique apple on the specialty produce list, whic too, is not surprising in our mass-market world. ,The number game will keep our Walmart shelves packed with Macintosh and Cortland, so we can jsut forget about convincing ‘Granny Smith’ to try a ‘Fameuse’ snow apple for three times the cost. If you don’t believe me, just try to convince your little daughter to take a big bite out of  brown, corky colored ‘Esopus Sptizenburg’.

The truth is, once you bite into that Spitzenburg, your life will never be the same again; (not that all antique apples taste better than modern ones, some, indeed, suck), but many are quite yummy, a few, even could be food for the Gods- that is, if the Gods don’t mind a few blemishes. Like fine wine and cheese, antique apple varieties are best appreciated by the connoisseur - those who can appreciate the subtle nuances between the hundreds of varieties that are being grown, today. 

Most antique apples are classified as ‘winter storage apples’, which simply means that tthey have a higher starch content than modern selections. Many of the storage types though, are tasty, but one must have patience -  with time in storage, they can develop a sweetness which one may miss when chomping on the pomme, right from the tree.  There are also varieties primarily grown for baking, or for cooking into sauces and stews, and then of course, there are the cider apples, (which, let’s face it - is what old apple varieties generally were used for - alcohol). 

Antique apple varieties have been shared among those who have been in-the-know for at least 150 years. Most are shared between enthusiasts as grafts, and are not started from seed. So sharing these old apples with friends is a little harder than it is with those plants which come true-from-seed (like heirloom tomatoes). Apples are open pollinated, and seed will revert back to whatever parents where used to create the original selection.

My friend Glen Lord sings his praises about a variety called ASHMEADS KERNEL, a russety, misshapen yet tasty variety from the 1700's, and if anyone knows apples, he does - after apprenticing at a well known orchard and winery here in Massachusetts. Glen is practically  J. Appleseed incarnate - he even lives in the town where Mr. Appleseed was raised.  I prefer HUDSON'S GOLDEN GEM, a crispy yellowish russeted variety that tastes a bit like an Asian Pear with a dash of lemon. I prefer hard, crispy apples, but I can sometimes get down a few bites of a store bought Mac or a Rome, if I was tied up and force fed. 

The apples seen here were all picked last Saturday in Walpole, New Hampshire at Alyson's Orchard. They do not allow their antique varieties to be hand picked, but I asked if I could get some of these rare apples to photograph, and they sent me down to the cider house to speak to Homer ( I just can't make this crap up!). Thus begins my Cider House Rules moment - Homer lead me to some crates behind the barns, where they had a few old varieties waiting to be washed and packed for markets ( I'm guessing that they must send the choicest apples to fancy markets in New York - and it's not as if I ever expect to find a nice ORANGE PIPPIN at my local Price Chopper - they are still selling the mealy Braeburn's  that were in cold storage from last year, I can tell).

BLUE PEARMAIN  is not blue, ( and I am too lazy to revise the error in the name above - the blue comes from the bloom that give it a pale tint. Some date this old apple back to 1833,  others, from 1890's, but most are certain that this variety came from to the US from England.  FYI - The dots are called lenticel's, and they are used in identifying many apple varieties, as well as the shoulders, the base, the stem end shape, the color, the russeting, and the taste. Most sources romanticize this apple, but I think that it's like biting into a raw potato. Really?

I know a Blue-Pearmain tree, growing within the edge of a swamp, almost as good as wild. You would not suppose that there was any fruit left there, on the first survey, but you must look according to system.... If I am sharp-set, for I do not refuse the Blue-Pearmain, I fill my pockets on each side; and as I retrace my steps in the frosty eve, being perhaps four or five miles from home, I eat one first from this side, and then from that, to keep my balance.

                                                                                 Henry David Thoreau

On this tasting trip, our favorite apple by far was Hudson's Golden Gem. This russeted conical apple was as hard and crispy as an Asian pear, but was so sweet and juicy that I found myself stashing away a private stash in a secret spot on one of the porches of the house. If there is one tree that I want to plant next year, it will be this one. There seems to be some disagreement on when this variety was introduced, but that is not uncommon with any old variety be it apples, tomatoes or squash. Hudson's Golden Gem is a great duel purpose apple,  a great cider variety and a crispy, firm-fleshed eating out of hand, variety.


BELLE DU BOSKOOP is a Dutch variety, introduced in 1856. A popular cooking apple, it contains two times the amount of vitamin C than Golden Delicious.

Read on for more.........

October 16, 2011

and the winner is.....

The winner for the autographed copy of Julia Rothman's book Farm Anatomy is the blog reader called 'Acantholimon'. Yay!

Congrats! Please contact me directly at mmattus@charter.net with your shipping  information, and I will arrange for the book to be sent directly to you!

Thanks to everyone who posted...wow! I never had so many comments before! Thanks again.