McIntosh, Empire, Red Delicious, Cortland and Honeycrisp are just a few of the hundreds of apples we grow in Vermont— and we’ve been growing apples here for over 200 years. The most abundant apple in Vermont orchards is the flavorful “Mac” — the McIntosh — which accounts for more than 50 percent of our production. But the other varieties (actually cultivars) have their fans, too.
We grow well over 100 different cultivars of apples in the Green Mountain State. Many are older heritage varieties, including Northern Spy, which originated in Connecticut in the early 1800s, Cortland, a McIntosh X Ben Davis cross which originated in Geneva, New York in 1898 and Wolf River, which originated on a farm in Wolf River, Wisconsin in 1875. We also grow many newer varieties, such the Empire, a 1945 McIntosh- Red Delicious cross from New York, Gala, a 1965 Golden Delicious-Kidd’s Orange Red cross from New Zealand, and Honeycrisp, a 1991 Macoun-Honeygold cross from Minnesota.
By far, the most exciting time for apples in Vermont is in the fall, when we can visit orchards and either pick our own, or buy them already-picked. Vermont apples can be purchased at local grocery stores supermarkets through much of the year, thanks to controlled-atmosphere (CA) storage. CA storage is a process in which oxygen levels in the sealed rooms are reduced to 1-2 percent (the air we breathe is about 21% oxygen). Temperatures in CA rooms are kept at a constant 32-36 degrees F. Humidity is maintained at about 95%, and carbon dioxide levels are also controlled. Exact conditions in the rooms are set according to the apple variety. Researchers develop specific regimens for each variety to achieve the best quality.
Regardless of your particular favorite, when you get your just-picked apples home you’ll want them to stay crisp and delicious for as long as possible, so it’s best to store them in the refrigerator. For larger quantities use a cold room or storage area – usually a cellar or an unheated garage will do. Bring them inside as your refrigerator supply runs low, and you’ll be able to extend the pleasure of your “apple outing” for many days. Even as they get older they become just right for making pies, cobbler, and apple sauce.
Apples, enjoyed in so many forms, are a Vermont tradition. You’ll find orchards, farm stands and cider mills in every part of our beautiful state. You can’t go wrong with Vermont apples.
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