October 2, 2011

Spitzenburg apples.

Spitzenburg apples


This was, I keep reading, Thomas Jefferson's favorite apple, but the Monticello Explorer says:
'Esopus Spitzenburg' was one of Thomas Jefferson's two favorite Apple varieties, the other being 'Albemarle Pippin.' He planted thirty-two of these trees in the South Orchard at Monticello between 1807 and 1812. A.J. Downing, America's foremost nineteenth-century pomologist, described 'Esopus Spitzenburg' as "a handsome, truly delicious apple...unsurpassed as a dessert fruit...considered the first of apples." Today, Apple connoisseurs still consider this variety among the finest ever known. It bears handsome red apples, ripening in late autumn, with firm, juicy yellow flesh. The apples have a delicious, brisk, rich flavor that is unforgettable.

Spitzenburg apples

From a 2004 NYT article titled "Apples With Pedigrees Selling in Urban Edens":
The peculiarities of his varieties both vex and intrigue [Stephen Wood, the owner of Poverty Lane Orchards here, who planted 20 acres high-flavored "uncommon apples"]. His favorite — it was also Thomas Jefferson's — is Esopus Spitzenburg, bright red, with sky-high levels of sugar balanced by floral acidity. But its limbs grow chaotically, shading out the branches below, and it often produces "blind" wood, with no buds.

"It's the tree from hell," Mr. Wood said, waving his arms at a row of unruly Spitzes as if to say, "Behave!"

"From my perspective, however," he added, "the apples are sufficiently valuable that we put up with this nonsense."
We bought some in our "Urban Eden," the Dane County Farmers Market. Five dollars for a small bag. By the way, the word "apple" does not appear in Genesis. The first use of the word "apple" in the various English translations of the Bible that I am checking is in Deuteronomy, 32:10:
For the LORD's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.

38 comments:

chickenlittle said...

Ben Seisler is a modern day Johnny Appleseed.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Althouse: Five dollars for a small bag.

But dude, what do YOU think they taste like? Was Thomas Jefferson and the NYT full of shit, or what?

Ann Althouse said...

@Jason Meade and I read the signs and he picked Spitzenburg — picked in the sense of: chose! — and I picked Spartan. I have a problem with sour foods, and so, based on the labels, Spartan looked more appealing.

Meade peeled the appealing apples of both types and set pieced on plates for a taste test. It turned out he preferred the Spartans, and I preferred the Spitzenburg. The Spartans were slightly sweeter, and Meade found them more fruity. I favored the Spitzenburgs because they were crisper. But both were really good.

Photographing both kinds, I definitely favored the Spitzenburgs. I love the pattern of dots on the skin and the rough texture around the stem.

Joe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe said...

I grew up with a variety of apples. Not only did my father make it a small obsession, there was an orchard between our house and my elementary school. (And, for pun sake, the first computer I learned to program on was an Apple II+ and the first computer I owned was an Apple IIe; my first professional programming job was writing games for Apple II's.)

Early in my life, my favorite apple was the Cortland (one neat thing about a Cortland is it takes much longer to brown), but when a teenager I experienced the joy of a crisp, cold Red Delicious and that has remained my favorite to this day (though only if crisp), save in pies.

edutcher said...

The Blonde would like the Spartans, too. She has a sweet tooth fostered by her mother.

PS I sense a late-developing theme.

E.M. Davis said...

I have not tried either of these types, and I should seek them out.

Always been a Pink Lady fan.

chickenlittle said...

Glad to be gala.

Chip Ahoy said...

I too am fascinated with the area of apples around the stems -- applebum, and other apple-admiring photographs for pie.

YoungHegelian said...

The Suncrisps and Mutsus seem to do very well in the DC exurban area.

There is nothing like the taste of local orchard apples. The complexity of their flavors remind me of fine wines.

chickenlittle said...

Highly recommend: link

Maguro said...

Always been a Pink Lady fan.

Really? You should like this, then.

Chip Ahoy said...

My God, there are stars inside.

deborah said...

My favorite eating apple is Braeburn...crisp and pleasantly tart.

MacIntoshes are great for carmel apples.

Granny Smith for pies.

Carol said...

We got a hundred McIntosh this year, one tree, but mostly all et up by birds and rotting. If it's not birds, it's bugs destroying the leaves.

Fruit trees are a pain in the ass.

fivewheels said...

I used to favor the Empire apple when I could get them, but now, when they're in season, I have a $40 a week Honeycrisp habit. Crisp, tart and sweet. And they can grow surprisingly large without losing any flavor.

michaele said...

I, too,am a huge fan of the HoneyCrisp apple.They do not seem to be available all throughout the year. I mope around the apple section from maybe Jan until late Sept. I practically squeal with joy when they finally start reappearing. Often times when I see someone bypass the Honeycrisp to select some other variety, I can't help myself and ask them if they have ever tried one. I know they are a bit pricey but darn, they are good. I am a Honeycrisp evangelist.

chuck b. said...

"the word 'apple' does not appear in Genesis"

Apples wouldn't have grown well in the part of the world where the Bible was written.

Between Revelations and the concordance, my Bible--an authorized King James, by the World Publishing Company, without a publisher's date, but with an inscription dated 1968--has an interesting "study help" section at the end where, among other things, the plants and animals of the Bible are discussed (written by Earl L. Core, Ph.D., Chairman of the Biology Department, University of West Virginia). On the subject of apple, Dr. Core wrote:

Apple, tappuah (Gen. 3:6; Josh. 17:8; Prov. 25:11, Song 2:3, 5; Joel 1:12). A great deal of discussion has taken place over the "apple" of the Bible. It is now generally considered to have been the apricot (Prunus armeniaca), since the apple does not thrive in Palestine.

Joan said...

Honeycrisps are amazing, but very pricey here. I usually go with the Galas or the Fujis from Sam's Club. I was stymied yesterday morning when I wanted to make apple muffins and found there was only one puny one left in the fridge. (I shopped and made the muffins later -- my daughter declared them better than the ones we get at the cafe @B&N, which is what inspired me.)

Anyway, if you're feeling flush, Honeycrisps are even great in pie. I mean, really great -- they have both flavor and texture. I'd love to try some of the these other apples but don't shop in the right places often enough. Cortland and Braeburns are two of my favorites, but I rarely see them here in AZ. I think I've seen Macintosh maybe 3 times in the 16+ years I've been living here.

chuck b. said...

Many other translations of Deut 32:10 avoid the obviously very figurative translation "apple of his eye".

http://bible.cc/deuteronomy/32-10.htm

chuck b. said...

Apple...Core. That's funny!

chuck b. said...

"since the apple does not thrive in Palestine."

He probably should have written "since the apricot does not thrive in England."

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Not being much of a connoisseur of anything, I like Galas. Are they relatively new? I don't remember seeing them when I was a kid. The obsessive-compulsive in me insists that I peel my apples and pare them. There is a certain sensation when the knife enters a perfectly ripe Gala, kind of a smooth slipperiness. If it's too early, the knife judders along as if through a raw potato.

Jon said...

@Althouse: I think the English Bibles are being poetic when they use the term "apple." In the original Hebrew, Deuteronomy 32:10 uses the term "eshon" (pupil) rather than "tappuach" (apple). The Hebrew/English Bible I checked translates the sentence as: "He preserved him like the pupil of his eye."

Curious George said...

"fivewheels said...
I used to favor the Empire apple when I could get them, but now, when they're in season, I have a $40 a week Honeycrisp habit. Crisp, tart and sweet. And they can grow surprisingly large without losing any flavor."

Amen brother. The. Best. But only from MI or WI..the WA ones have too thick a skin.

Jason (the commenter) said...

My favorite has always been the homely McIntosh, newly ripe.

Fred4Pres said...

Heirloom apples are awesome. I like ginger golds.

Carol_Herman said...

Milk and Honey.

Yet they didn't breed cows! The ancient Israelites bred sheep and goats.

As to Apples. They do better in the cold north. So probably not seen by Israelites, either. Unless men traveled a lot. And, found fruits you could store over long shipment periods? They'd have oranges way before they had apples, in my book.

Carol_Herman said...

ABRAHAM LINCOLN STORY

Apples were once growing in abundance on trees ... From the East Coast to the Midwest.

Abraham Lincoln would pluck an apple off a tree. And, he'd eat it BLOSSOM END, FIRST. And, he'd eat it core and all.

No. I don't remember where I read this. But I did read it.

gail said...

I just tried a SweeTango. It was released by the U of MN a few years ago and plants sold to only a few orchards under some kind of licensing deal.

The apple was expensive and good. But I can't stand apples...gave the last of it to a sheep.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Genesis doesn't refer to an "apple" but "fruit."

The confusion may be due to the Latin, and the commemoration of Dec. 24.

Little known fact; Dec. 24, on the Roman liturgical calendar, is Adam and Eve's feast day; that is, it was in the Middle Ages.

It was customary to mark the day, in Germany, with plays that told the story. So they'd put on a skit with a tree and fruit.

Well, what sort of fruit do you get in Germany in December? Maybe apples?

Remember the tree is the tree of knowledge of good and bad; in Latin, "bonum et malum."

Guess what the Latin word for apple is?

Malum.

So was it because the apple was the ready-to-hand fruit? Or the Latin?

A subject for a dissertation perhaps.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Very interesting, Father Fox. You always raise the level of discussion around here.

Fred4Pres said...

"Yet they didn't breed cows! The ancient Israelites bred sheep and goats." The Book of Carol Herman


"And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it. So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate." Genesis 18:6-9

"Now the woman had a fatted calf in the house, and she hastened to kill it. And she took flour and kneaded it, and baked unleavened bread from it." 1 Samuel 28:23-25

Fred4Pres said...

FMF, thanks for that. I knew the Latin name, but did not make the connection of why it was called Malus domestica.

It is also a fruit popular in myths and legends, such as Hercules and the Golden Apples.

Fred4Pres said...

Apples grow quite well in Lebanon and are native to the Central Asia. Apples may not grow well in Southern Israel but they are grown in the Golan (granted more Syria than Israel) and I am sure would do okay in Galilee.

Suburbanbanshee said...

"Apple of his eye" isn't figurative. "Apple" was exactly the older English way to say "pupil". Do you go around explaining that "daisy" and "window" are obviously figurative, under the impression that people will think eyes grow in your meadow and your outside walls?

It's "pupil" that's weird and figurative. "Dollbaby of the eye". That's creepy, it is.

Suburbanbanshee said...

Anyway... in Middle English, any kind of tree-grown fruit could be called an apple, like the French "pomme". An "apple of oak" was an acorn, and an "apple of paradise" was a banana. Cucumbers were also apples.

A pupil was the "apple of the eye" or the "hole of the apple". "Apple of the cheek" goes back that far, too. This came from the usage of "apple" for any kind of round thing.

Fred4Pres said...

Wisconsin is like a garden of plenty.