Day Trips To Find Antique Fruit
There are excellent orchards nearby where you can pick fruit for yourself or buy it pre-picked. Windy Hill Farm in Great Barrington, Mass., has five varieties of apple on offer now and will make other varieties available (including some heirlooms) as they hit their peak. Find out what they’ve got at www.windyhillfarminc.com.
Ellsworth Hill Orchard in Sharon, Conn., has 10 varieties of apples, and ancillaries such as cider and doughnuts, www.ellsworthfarm.com.
But this autumn, when so many other travel opportunities are curtailed, I’m thinking about making a day trip to someplace, maybe an hour away, to pick apples (with masks on).
About one hour from my home in Lakeville, Conn., is the excellent Love Apple Farm in Ghent, N.Y., a town famous for its cherries in spring and apples in autumn. Love Apple Farm supplies outstanding fruit throughout the year to many of our area farm stands. At the moment they have four types of apples but in all they have 19 varieties that will ripen in the coming weeks, www.loveapplefarm.com.
When you hear the names of some of their varieties you might think, “Gee, how ordinary.” But once you’ve tasted a golden delicious or a red delicious from a local orchard you’ll understand why everyone went crazy for these apples in their early days (so much so that they were overbred and perhaps ruined).
When I want to go hunting for apples I go to Red Hook, N.Y., which is 40 minutes away and also has good restaurants and cute shops.
If you want to pick your own in Red Hook, you can try Greig Farm (www.greigfarm.com), which has 11 types of apples that will ripen between now and October.
Up the road a short ways is Hardeman Orchards (www.hardemanorchards.com), which has pick-your-own as well as pre-picked fruit plus doughnuts and hay rides. The website doesn’t have a full list of the available apples, and in fact doesn’t look like it’s been updated but I drove by it yesterday and it’s definitely open.
And yes, you read correctly that I drove by it, because my favorite apple source is just a few minutes up the road: Montgomery Place Orchards farm stand is at the T intersection of Routes 9G and 199 in Red Hook.
This is an exquisite little stand with a fascinating history. Montgomery Place is one of the historic Hudson River estates, and was, unusually, run by a woman, Janet Livingston Montgomery. A full history of the property, including the extensive and exquisite orchards, can be found on the Bard College website at www.bard.edu/montgomeryplace; the college recently purchased the property as well as the farm stand, which is more or less walking-distance away from the campus.
History is obviously an important part of Montgomery Place, so it’s appropriate that this is a farm that has an unusually high percentage of heirloom varieties. Heirloom or antique apples (like their cousins, the antique or heirloom tomatoes) are quirky breeds — often with funny names that are charming and romantic.
These are not like the grocery store apples that so often disappoint us. They are tender and delicious and sweet; they never made it into the Apple Big Leagues because they don’t travel well and often don’t have a long shelf life.
Many were originally found in distant places; someone loved them enough to carry a twig from their favorite tree to the New World and graft it so they could eat a favorite apple in their new but distant homeland.
Some of the antique apples at Montgomery Place have names like Pitmaston Pineapple (from Pitmaston in England); Cox Orange Pippin (created by Richard Cox in England in the 1800s using Ribston Pippin seeds) or its cousin, the Newtown Pippen, which was a favorite of Benjamin Franklin and is considered the oldest commercially grown native variety in America.
Some apple names hint at subtle deliciousness: Hidden Rose, Pink Pearl, Ashmead’s Kernel.
And of course Montgomery Place grows the Hudson River Valley’s own famous variety: the Esopus Spitzenberg, first developed in the town of Esopus in Ulster County, N.Y. This apple is a special treat, according to the Montgomery Place website, which warns that, “One problem is that it is a shy bearer and bears fruit only every other year.”
The sign at the farm stand promises that, yes, 2020 is an Esopus Spitzenberg year, and bushels should be available by Oct. 10. The full list of newer and older apples is listed on the sign at the farm stand, and you can call the stand to ask what’s in (845-758-6338). The season is just now beginning; there is still plenty of time to experience the full glory of the orchard.
And on your way back to the Tri-state area, if you no longer have flowers in your own garden to clip and bring inside, stop by the big white Battenfeld anemone farm (you’ll see the sign, you can’t miss it) and stop in to buy a bundle, wrapped with rubber bands and reasonably priced and sold on the honor system.
Stacks of old New York Times pages are on a nearby table so you can wrap your flowers; it’s a good idea to have a container with some water in your car to help the blossoms survive your drive home.