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Oct 11, 2010 08:47 PM

Heirloom apples

In a recent column, Rowley Leigh wrote of the English apples of yesteryear that they possessed nutty and raisiny, or maybe spicy and raisiny flavors. He expressed nothing but scorn for Pink Ladies. So which market or orchard should I head for to find these raisiny apples? The apples I bought from the Ferry Building apple merchants near Gandhi might as well be Pink Ladies.

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  1. It's not the Bay Area, but you could take a drive up to the Philo Apple Farm. It's off Hwy 128 in Mendocino Co. They have a huge range of heritage apples and, if I recall correctly, not all were as cloying as Pink Lady & co.

    2 Replies
    1. re: bgbc

      The Philo Apple Farm has a stand at Ferry Plaza that is near Gandhi, but there are other apple sellers near there. They will let you taste everything they bring to market which does vary from week to week. Raisin flavors are usually associated with oxidation and age but who knows?

      1. re: wally

        Good point. The apples the author was rhapsodizing about may have been from storage (some apple varieties are better fresh of the tree and some, like (in my experience) Arkansas Black, need to age a little).

    2. There's a vendor at the Jack London Square farmer's market who has some really old varieties of apples -- Hillview Farms from Watsonville. I think they're also at the Danville and the San Jose (Vallco) markets.

      Jack London Square
      70 Washington St # 207, Oakland, CA

      8 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Thanks, BGBC and Ruth Lafler. Have you noticed raisiny flavors?

        1. re: poot

          It was too long ago to remember anything that specific -- sorry. But please post back when you find what you're looking for!

          1. re: poot

            I purchased heirloom apples at Whole Foods about a month ago. I don't recall the local farm from where they came. I bought both the Fuji and Honeycrisp. I found both varieties to be smaller and more tart than the current versions you find in the store. I did not notice any raisin quality at all.

            1. re: Scott M

              Fuji and Honeycrisp are modern hybrids.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Both varieties were being sold as heirloom apples and packed in small brown paper sacks, the Fuji were marked as Japan 1969.

                1. re: Scott M

                  I guess there's no law against labeling Fuji or Honeycrisp "heirloom," but the term becomes meaningless if you apply it to such modern varieties. Honeycrisp is still under patent protection in some countries.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    According to wikipedia, there's no real definition of "heirloom" but Fuji and Honeycrisp apples would not fall under any of the possible criteria.


            2. re: poot

              Not that I can recall. But he had 115 varieties of apples and I'm sure I haven't tried all of them. Did the article mention and specific varieties?

          2. Berkeley Bowl and Monterey Market, sometimes.

            Philo Apple Farm sells at the Ferry Plaza market on Saturdays (or is it every other Saturday?)

            Berkeley Bowl
            2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

            1. This past weekend I was in Sonoma County. We visited Walker Ranch and purchased some delicious apples, including about 4-5 varieties that are considered heirloom: Northern Spy, Baldwin, Rhode Island Greening, and Bellflower are the ones I recall. You can taste whatever they have available before you purchase them.

              Walker Apples
              10955 Upp Road
              Sebastopol, CA 95472
              Sonoma County
              Phone: (707) 823-4310
              Open: Aug 1 - November 15; Daily 9-5.

              Walker Apples
              10955 Upp Rd, Graton, CA

              6 Replies
              1. re: jillyju

                I decided on Walker's Apples and will be going on Saturday. In his article, Leigh mentioned the following with approval: Cox’s , Russets, Howgate Wonder, Charles Ross, Lord Lambourne, and James Grieve.

                1. re: poot

                  Cox's Orange Pippin is one of the best cooking apples.

                  The local Sierra Beauty is a great substitute.

                  1. re: poot

                    If these are English apple varieties, you really shouldn't expect to find them fresh off the tree in the San Francisco Bay Area. Because we have a different climate, different apple varieties flourish here. Go to Walker's and see what they have and what you like. You could also check out Gizdich Farms outside of Watsonville. Great apples, great fruit pies.

                    1. re: 512window

                      I've bought Cox's and Russets from Hillside. I believe they had both of them last week, in fact.

                    2. re: poot

                      I bought Cox's about a month ago from the Apple Farm. I much prefer Sierra Beauty.

                      1. re: poot

                        Wear boots, the parking area is pretty muddy. I bought several varieties today and I don't believe any of them are those you mention. I left them somewhere for a later tasting so I have to rely on my faulty memory. I got Winesaps, Greening, Winter Banana, Bellflower, Baldwin, Rome Beauty and Pippin. There were several others Jonathan, Jongold, Delicious, Fuji, you know the common stuff. No Arkansas Black or Pink lady yet. The turn to Upp road from Gravenstein Hwy has the Dutton-Goldfield tasting room and just east from that corner, about 2/10 miles, is Merry Edwards.


                    3. FWIW, I was eating Hauer Pippen Apples from my Frog Hollow aka Happy Child CSA box this week and found them deliciously raisiny. I couldn't place the unusual taste at first -- they taste almost spiced -- and then I remembered this thread. According to the CSA newsletter they're from Bruce Rider & Sons (Watsonville, CA). Not sure if FH sells them retail but you always ask.

                      Frog Hollow Farm
                      11435 Brentwood, Bl Brentwood, CA

                      Frog Hollow Farm
                      1 Ferry Bldg # 46, San Francisco, CA

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: bgbc

                        Hauer Pippins are a local (Santa Cruz) heirloom. A lot of the Watsonville apple growers have them, but you usually have to ask because they are not popular. Prevedelli (who are at most of the big South Bay farmer's markets) has them now.