Hello again wild apple folks! — I apologize for the long period of silence on here. There hasn’t been a dull moment since the last post during bloom time…
Here’s a short recap: In late May into June, I ventured across the pond to Europe to explore cider and wine regions in France, and meander over hill and dale to enjoy a bit of apple research and scenery before getting back to the farm. (Pictures and per-diem writeups from this trip are still viewable on Instagram @gnarlypippins).
July had me trudging through blueberry crop. That kept me hostage from any musings on the wild apple, but I am glad to say my thoughts are back in the pomosphere. Now in late August, I am in my second week of harvesting Summer apples. 4 some varieties coming in from the orchard, and many pippins dropping ripe early fruits. This is rather early, perhaps unbelievable! Peach harvest is now tapering off (another testament to how early apples have developed this year). Almost in line with harvest in California orchards…yikes! Wild apples run a longer harvest period than orchards, of course, so we can rejoice in the fact there is still some time!!
EARLY FORAGING, RAIN OR SHINE.
The local banter that I’ve been hearing and shooting is mostly that this is the earliest harvest of ripe fruit in many seasons. Such a peculiarity has no absolute [apparent] cause, but here are my thoughts on why New England apple people may be picking and foraging a month earlier this year than in 2016.
7 inches of rain in a 3-week period is about as wet as it gets in New England. Those 3 weeks comprised the post-bloom and fruit set period. It has made for some interesting outcomes in the orchard and among wild apples. A consistent schedule of rain throughout the rest of the summer was quite the contrast to last year’s drought. Flood/drought cycles are something that apples are equipped to deal with. Last year’s crop was mainly limited to older, established trees whose roots grew deep enough to reach moist layers of soil far beneath the topsoil layer. This year, partly due to biennialism, younger trees whose shallower root systems mostly “surface feed,” on water via lateral roots in the topsoil layers are cropping better than last year and have healthier foliage at this time than they did last year. Older trees whose roots are sitting in more water have already begun to defoliate, as if it were already October.
I am by no means an expert on how apple trees react to degree days and inches of rainfall, but any layman’s naturalist can offer their own opinions on the topic. If you have some ideas about it, share in the comments section!
FORAGING DAY TRIPS
The first year I will be offering this: and it will be somewhat limited due to the scarcity of time (and to see if it is a successful idea & offer). Hardcore apple people act fast! I am offering two types of day trips:
Everyman’s forage: your classic apple foraging journey! Scheduling a day trip with me will take us through hill & dale to roadside apple trees throughout bountiful parts of the region I will share personal insights into foraging methods, quality of cultivars, and any circumstantial insights into each tree. This is a bountiful method of harvesting: lots of ground covered. Recommended for cidermakers, and people who are interested in preserving the wild apple harvest in the form of canned/dried apples, as there is most typically a hefty harvest. Foragers riding with me are guaranteed 3 bushels of wild apples, what we harvest beyond that will be split in half between the forager and Gnarly Pippins. Range may vary by seasonality, but areas we may travel include are: upper pioneer valley, southern VT, south county Berkshires, and hilltowns.
Quabbin backcountry forage: RESERVED This is a special opportunity to participate in the harvest-time exploration of the Quabbin Reservoir as part of ongoing research for the Lost Apples of the Quabbin project, an effort sponsored by the Massachusetts DCR. This offers the opportunity to see the restricted, off-limits part of the Quabbin that are gated to the public. We are permitted to enter with a pickup truck that can haul the apple harvest around and cover lots of ground. This is a deep-woods type of forage, where abandoned orchards still exist throughout the woods of the disincorporated towns of the Quabbin reservoir. This is likely to be a smaller volume harvest than the forage mentioned above, but more rewarding for those apple folks looking to learn first-hand about apple history in Western Massachusetts.
Wild apple cidermaking session: Though this is not so much a foraging trip, this is an offering for a lesson on how to get the most out of your wild apple harvest. Participants in foraging day trips who do not have their own cider pressing equipment should consider this as a way to make use of some of the harvest. We will press cider at my home in Montague, and the participant will take home a carboy full of wild apple cider, ready to drink fresh or ferment as they choose…
To sign up for a foraging day trip or cidermaking session, or for further details, email Gnarly Pippins.
GNARLY PIPPINS @ CIDER DAYS
The biggest news of the week is that I will be delivering a presentation on the Lost Apples of the Quabbin project at Franklin County Cider Days this year. This festival is the longest running and awesomest celebration of cider anywhere in the nation. My talk will be on the topic of the Lost Apples of the Quabbin Project (which you may have a chance to participate in! See above.) and on apple scouting, spotting, and foraging methods.
My talk, as well as an entire day’s worth of great workshops, tastings, and amazing views will take place at New Salem Preserve and Orchards, a fitting choice as it is a more-than-centenarian orchard in the Quabbin region. My talk, and many others will be free of cost! Check out the schedule for times and workshops that you may want to hit. You could hang out all day long at New Salem Orchards or motor around to the many different places you’ll find events at.