Sunday Drivers goes all fruity.

Today's SD stayed relatively close to home as we realized the urgency of garden and orchard planning.  We laid out three rows for fruit trees and set a tentative boundary for the garden.  I am going to rent a rear-tine tiller from the local rental place and get to work on tilling the garden plot this week!

We've found a local farmer who has over 45 varieties of apple trees, up to three years old, for sale.  But because we know absolutely nothing about apples (or trees for that matter) we decided that a taste-test might be in order.  Keeping in mind that it's April - not prime apple harvesting season - we stopped at Noggins Corner Farm in New Minas to sample some of the local produce (we were up at Home Depot collecting a free clothes line kit from Efficiency Nova Scotia).

The apples we chose were long-keeping varieties. For obvious reasons, these apples have been in storage since the fall and the flavour may not be at its best. We chose Cortland, Ambrosia, Empire, JonaGold and Crispin.  Here is an "official" description of each (Ok, so maybe you don't care about apples, s'ok. Skip to the bottom to see what we liked!).

Empire - Started from seed gathered from an orchard of McIntosh and Red Delicious. The very juicy, sweet flesh is creamy white and semi firm. Excellent for both cooking and eating fresh. Mix with cider blends for adding flavour. Slices are slow to turn brown when exposed to air so it is good for salads. It is also a good keeper, but prone to diseases.

JonaGold - A cross between Golden Delicious and Jonathan. The flesh is crisp and juicy, with a sweet, perfumed, exquisite flavour, among the best of the newer varieties. Although it is promoted as storing well, it does not retain its fresh picked flavour long. 

Cortland - The quality is excellent with fine grained, crisp, tender, white flesh which doesn't turn brown when sliced (a quality imparted to it by Ben Davis). Perfect for adding to salads or for pies and sauces. Sliced pieces have a tendency to hold their shape when cooked. It is not as aromatic as McIntosh and the flavour is slightly more tart. It is preferred over McIntosh by those who like a tart, hard apple. Cortlands are very good keepers, lasting well into May in controlled atmospheric storage.

Ambrosia - In the early 1990s, the Mennell family in BC’s Similkameen Valley discovered a tree in Sally Mennell’s orchard which bore unusual apples. Their orchard had previously been planted with Red Delicious and Golden Delicious, but they had replanted the area with Jonagold trees. A chance seedling grew up in one of the rows and the Mennells noticed that the fruit pickers that season seemed to really favour the apples on this unique tree. Ambrosia apples have a distinct honeyed and slightly perfumed flavour.The flesh is tender and juicy, with a very fine, crisp texture. It is a sweet, low-acid apple with a pleasing aroma.

Crispin - The Mutsu, or Crispin, Apple is a cross between Golden Delicious and Indo apple, a cultivar first grown in Japan. It is a large to very large greenish yellow to yellow apple with a conical shape with a sweetly tart flavor. Crisp and juicy with an alluring hint of tartness, the Mutsu apple has a unique exotic flare. Some say the flavor is closer to apple cider than simply an apple itself.

Kookum's apple slicer makes beautiful, consistent slices.   Plus it's kinda fun!

Our choices

Keeping in mind that each of these apples have been in storage for at least five months, our far and away favourites were the Empire and Ambrosia.  Still crisp, tangy and firm, these two varieties are pretty new on the apple scene.  It appears that Ambrosia may be subject to sale restrictions (welcome to GMO plant patents), but we'll definitely be checking to see if Empire is available.

That said, when I arrived in Nova Scotia this fall, I bought a 10lb bag of JonaGold apples on a whim (I'm in Nova Scotia, why not?).   I'd eaten apples before (who hasn't) but had never been a huge fan.  Oh man!  I'd NEVER tasted an apple like this, and carried that 10lb bag in the truck with me wherever I went.   I snacked on those apples morning, noon and night!

Sadly the JonaGold sample we selected was in very poor condition and were not able to get a good taste.   Again, it's a newer variety (developed in the 50s), but it is not likely to be subject to patents.

Although we have not yet tasted the following, Laur has decided that she wants a Gravenstein ("I like the Germanic sounding name") and I would like a Golden Russet.  Luckily  all four of our selections are early and long-lasting bloomers so we should be good to go for pollination.

Our new orchard plan has enough room for twelve trees, four of which will be apple.  We would also like to have several cherry and a few peach trees.  All of those will round out or initial orchard space.  Of course we can expand the orchard to the south should we have a need for more fruit. 

... do I see bees in our future?


  1. can you grow honeycrisp there? honeycrisp rock

  2. Sure can. Honeycrisp are all over the place here. Usually a bit more expensive than the other varieties, probably because it's relatively new, a bit delicate and susceptible to diseases.

  3. You could even have one in Chicago! Just plant it, no one would ever notice!