Ginger Gold – Apple Review

Its review season again! We’ll start with one of our favorite early apples.

About –  Found as a chance seedling in Virginia. Likely parents are Golden Delicious and Newtown Pippin. Found in 1969 after Hurricane Camille.

Shape – Slightly lopsided, medium size. Uniform, some are larger on top, round.
Skin –  Green and yellow blended colors, very ripe specimens have orange flushes.
Flesh – A more dense, less soft Golden Delicious, but over time does soften to a Golden Delicious consistency, even in cold, high humidity storage.
Taste – Its fresh, juicy, crispy, and reminiscent of cooler summer nights.  Slightly sweet, slighty tart and the flavor lingers, unlike other early apples. Flavors are light, and include sweet lemon and dusted sugar. Cristin describes it as a lemonade and apple juice flavor.

Bottom line: This is not your typical early season, soft apple, with only flashes of flavor. This is a pretty full bodied apple compared to most of the early season offerings. Ginger Gold is one of our favorites early in the season, and it keeps reasonably well. Its been 3 weeks since we picked them and they are starting to break down a little bit now, but not much. If you loathe the softness of Golden Delicious, but enjoy the sweetness and want a little more tart experience, this is the apple to try. I think everyone should at least give this one a shot, and it really shines over the “Early Macs”, and offers more complexity in flavor over Zestar! and Paula Red. Ginger Gold is in a class of its own for first early apples, competes with Gala in flavor.

Variety Note: Still an early apple, so it has its limits. You cant expect high quality flavor for over a month off the tree. 

Fresh eating rating: 7/10 – If I were judging only early season apples it would be a solid 9 in my opinion. Fresh, bright, lemony pop, with sweetness. Refreshing

Culinary rating: 6/10 – Holds its shape, brightens the flavor of other apples, but you still cannot expect a richness normally associated with mid season apples, and classic cookers.

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August Update – Surprise!

July came and went so fast, but in that time my yard had quite the surprise. I was out walking around the yard, and I stepped on some stiff bristles in the grass. 15 feet from the Frankencrab low and behold…

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Rootsuckers from the Frankencrab, likely M7 rootstock.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve debated what to do with it. Thoughts have ranged from Cristin telling me we dont need a 5th tree to a bunch of different varieties and even another multigraft tree.

Initially I thought we’re going to have enough apples for us and some to share with the family easy with 4 half standards and a dwarf tree. So with that thought I was instantly thinking winter keeping apple, mulling Newtown Pippin. Thats one of the few apples I know of that keeps well into spring with 33 degree cold storage. I dismissed it after about a week because our growing season up here in Saratoga county is borderline at best for an apple harvest into November. Our first killing freeze averages around first week in November, and while Newtown Pippin is a great keeper, the green ones I’ve purchased from Samascott Orchards a hour south of here really werent all that good, even into winter and early spring out of cold storage.

Then I started thinking about Ashmead’s Kernel, a fantastic apple, but a shy bearer, and to make matters worse its a Triploid, meaning the pollen isnt useful for other apple varieties. So I’ve scrapped that idea. Then I thought about other russets, Golden Russet, which has bug and fireblight issues, St. Edmund’s Russet, which is early in the year and wont keep all that well, then Egremont Russet with its small fruit and bitter pit issues, Roxbury Russet, another Triploid. Im starting to get aggravated, I cant find a variety that keeps but doesnt harvest too late and has useful pollen.

Onto posting on GardenWeb and bouncing ideas back and forth with the members there. scottfsmith recommended a few including Swayzie and Pomme Gris. A few others chimed in and then I thought to myself, why not do it the analytic way with the USDA GRIN database?

I love Golden Russet, if I were to pick 1 russet to grow it would be that one, but its a tip bearer which isnt all that productive, and too vigorous for M7. Also, its really a bug magnet, and not in a good way. So I looked at Golden Russet’s soluble solids rating on the database and its a remarkable 21%. This helps the apples store well, taste great with complex sugars after the apple has matured on the tree and stored after picking.

I punched in the following, using the long form query page:

Soluble Solids greater than 20%
Harvest season at least mid october
Fruit weight greater than 100 grams
Diploid only

This is what came up:

GRINRoss

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Out of all of the apples in the GRIN database the only one that comes close to Golden Russet in measureables is Ross Nonpareil. So I did some reading about it online from here and here. Apparently it does keep well and harvests mid season. Its not a true russet though.

I went back and did some more number punching onto the GRIN Database, long form.

Fruit Russet equal to 100%
Harvest Season at least mid-October
Fruit Weight greater than 100 grams
Diploid only

Results:

GRINPommeGris

GRINPommeGris

apple (Pomme Grise

My blogging buddy Adam did a review on this apple here and a comparison with Ashmead’s Kernel here. It did well, even if it doesnt compare to Ashmeads in overall depth and breadth im comfortable with it if its productive and easier to grow without the thin fruit years Ashmead’s Kernel is known for. This should keep well into winter and be usable in just about anything. Plenty of soluble solids (sugar), close to Ashmead’s Kernel.

Additional references: Here and here and here and an entry in Apples of New York

So thats that, im putting my faith in the research of Cornell University to select the apple varieties for me. All I needed to do is specify exactly what im looking for and pick from the results. I’ve got 2 here and what im going to do is, graft Pomme Gris onto the rootstock first, and then graft Ross Nonpareil again on the leader after about 8-10 feet of growth,  maybe 1 season’s worth, but likely 2 for thick growth to graft to. I’ll have a permanent 2 in 1 tree that does not need additional grafting. It will be self sustaining with 2 diploids that blossom close in time and neither have big disease red flags.

Additional pictures from the yard:

Jonamac, ripening. Not happy with the shade. This tree may need to be moved.

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Kidd’s Orange Red, ripening in the sun.

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Orleans Reinette, I see terminal buds and fruit spurs. Fruit next year?

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This Frankencrab is just a beast, more grafting of same varieties in the spring.

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July Update

This post has been a long time coming, but I will update on what I’ve been up to thru the offseason so far.

Well, the grafting went reasonably well. Grafting was done first week in April. I did it so early because with cleft grafting you take a chance with the cambium layer separating from the rest of the branch if you wait too long in the season to split it. The cambium becomes moist and loose later in the season, into May.

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What did I graft?

Belle de Boskoop – From the Netherlands, known for its use in strudel and its prolonged keeping ability. I had these last year, and they kept for a very long time, probably would have made it to May. Large, dense, sour eating off the tree but well balanced when used after the new year. Vigorous tree, grafted on the north side of the tree where it can be allowed to consume a large amount of space without hindering other varieties. About 3 feet of thick growth in 3 months. Also grafted as a new central leader into a injury callous on June 6th, its put on about 6″ of growth in a month, also getting thicker.

Photo: Both grafts, the giant scaffold graft on the right, and you can see the injury callous graft on the left, wrapped in green plastic tape.

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Calville Blanc d’Hiver – Classic French cooker, Cristin loves it and is always looking forward to using these each year. I call these champagne effervescence. Very different apple, ugly in appearance but amazing as a cooker. More vigor than I anticipated.

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Reine des Reinettes – Another heirloom French variety. This one is more of an all purpose apple. Keeps reasonably well, nice sweet/tart balance, juicy. Mid Season. Seems to be of moderate vigor, slightly behind Calville Blanc and Belle de Boskoop.

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Freyberg – The wildcard. Never have had this one, but I’ve had its siblings (Kidd’s Orange Red) and its parents (Golden Delicious & Cox’s Orange Pippin). Its a desert apple said to taste almost tropical in nature. Mid season, vigor seems to be moderate.

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Notes on grafting:

A few lessons learned.

1. I wish I had waited a couple more weeks to graft, I dont think it would have hurt to wait until mid to late april to graft. The tree started to wake up early April, and I got anxious, so I grafted in 25 degree weather early in the morning. The grafts really didnt wake up until first week in May, so there is a window there for sure. I grafted Belle de Boskoop as the new central leader June 6th and within 5 days a saw growth, so in the future i’ll wait until at least 3rd week in April to graft.

2. Make sure the scion wedges are shaped with a longer taper. I lost a couple of grafts because I was more concerned with the wood drying out than doing a good job. I lost a 2nd Freyberg graft and a 2nd Reine des Reinettes graft because of sloppy work.

3. When inserting the wood at an angle, start in the rind and angle the scion inward. This is a lesson from last year when I attempted 1 Liberty graft for fun and it didnt work out because I aligned the wood on the outside edge of a large scaffold. It never had a chance from day 1 because the cambium layers didnt match up.

4. Do a good job, but dont meddle. Get the grafts done to the best of your ability but dont harp on it being perfect. I had an AWFUL practice graft on June 6th take, and I ripped it off today because its competing with the new central leader graft. It was sloppy, but it still took. The key is cambium contact, it doesnt seem like it matters how big the contact point is, the tree heals over it and does the rest.

5. Take off wraps after you see the wrapping material get tight. As Stephen Hayes says about when to take the wraps off: “If you dont wait long enough, you’ll be sorry, and if you wait too long… you’ll be sorry.” For me, 8 weeks seemed appropriate. I removed the wraps on those grafts and all is well.

6. Expensive grafting materials arent necessary to graft. I used a razor bladed utility knife with a fresh CLEAN blade to shape my scions with 1 smooth pulling cut. I heard from somewhere “Remember we’re not whittling a toy boat, one smooth pull”. Trowbridge grafting wax and a roll of Parafilm. 1/2″ green plastic nursery tape. A long tapered flat head screw driver for keeping the clefts open for grafting. Opinel #10 to split large wood. I didnt even use my #6, but I will probably use that as a clean up knife for stock growths. Last but not least, Rubbing Alcohol to keep my tools sanitary and clean between cuts.

7. I prefer bark grafts now. After going in with a cleft graft is easy mentality, I think I prefer bark or rind grafts because the cambium contact is so easy to make. I did a horrible job on one up in the tree, and it still amazingly took. I cant say the same for the cleft because the contact point has to be crossed at a small spot and your tapering of the scion has to be dead on. Bark or rind grafts have to be done when the cambium is wet and active, likely mid May.

Musings on future grafts.

Cristin’s gonna kill me most likely but I am considering a 5th and final variety to graft to the Frankencrab called Golden Nugget. I love Golden Russet, and I really cant have that apple here. Im avoiding a fireblight and bug magnet, and that apple is certainly one of them. Its an early season variety ready early September, and it would kick off our harvest season about 2 weeks before Jonamac. Its a Cox’s Orange Pippin and Golden Russet cross. Montgomery Place Orchards has it. I’ll be looking for it there in September to try, then I’ll make a decision.

Current tree updates:

Jonamac – Skyscraper at this point, 11 feet and counting, still weak looking. I’ll probably have to prune it some come early March to get it to thicken up and hold more apples better. Spring was very wet during bloom, 3 apples this year. Its probably best, it needs to thicken up.

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Kidd’s Orange Red – This tree is a gem, very little interaction from me. 3 apples as well.

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Orleans Reinette – I was warned that this tree was slow to grow by Cummins Nursery and they were right. Slow to fill out, late to get started each season. I wish I had planted it 2 feet further out of the cut out area of my house, so the house doesnt block the early morning sun at 8AM, so it loses an hour of sun. Probably not a big deal, the upper part of the tree get the most sun anyway. No apples, but a strong, thick grower.

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Geneva scion wood came in!

I put in an order for scion wood with Cornell/Geneva. I didnt know how well it was going to work, so I put in an order by mail. Their catalog is listed online and it include instructions on how to order the scion wood.

2012 Geneva Catalog

In the comments field on the order form I put in: “For private grafting and observation.”

I was pleasantly surprised to see a USPS package at my door today.
I unwrapped, and here is what came:

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It ends up being 2 pieces of scion wood each line of order you put in.
I ordered:

Calville Blanc
King of The Pippins (Reine des Reinettes)
Belle de Boskoop
Freyberg

I cant wait to graft these in the spring on the frankencrab!

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Suncrisp Apple Review

About –  Golden Delicious cross with a Cox’s Orange Pippin and Cortland hybrid. Relatively new apple, released in the Mid 1990s by Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Shape – Golden Delicious like, fatter on top, tapered and rounded bottom.
Skin –  Red flushes over a green background, some yellowing. Chewy skin.
Flesh – Starchy, medium density, juicy enough to deliver the interesting flavors.
Taste – Very acidic if eaten too soon. Almost a tropical pinapple flavor mixed with fruit punch juice. Maybe some slightly unripe banana flavor. Not really intense for me. I like cold specimens more than warm.

Bottom line: Let me put this in bold: Not to be eaten before January 1st. I think this apple gets a bad rap, because the general public will see an apple turning a flush of red, pick it, and expect it to be good off the tree. This isnt one of those apples. “Battery Acid” may be the best way to describe this one fresh. So acidic that even those who enjoy tart apples probably wont enjoy it due to the odd unripe flavors.

Taste specimen stored 15 weeks.

Variety Note: We had a long growing season here, and I picked these pretty late. Most of them, even the ones basking in the sun at the top of the tree, were mostly green. Even now after storage the flesh is hinted green. I would definitely consider this one if you have a long growing season and your site has a lot of sun. They seem to do well in heat. Size varies greatly based on irrigation, wet summer last year, I picked these at Samascott Orchard and they were bigger than my fist in October. This year, dry, hot summer, I picked these at Bowman Orchard, and they’re the size of my palm. No flavor difference.

Fresh eating rating: 6/10 – Great for storage, great snacker, good flavors when stored, crunchy, juicy, a little starchy in consistency. Recommended for long growing seasons and hot sites. Might not be optimal here in 5a – NY. If you give this apple to someone who wants “an apple that tastes like an apple”. They’ll love it. Very refreshing. Why only a 6? It doesnt blow me away, its just a solid selection for a keeper.

Culinary rating: Unrated, not used for cooking yet. I’d think it would be average.

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Ashmead’s Kernel Apple Review

About –  Era of the 1700’s. Originated near Gloucester, England, in the garden of a Dr. Ashmead. Newly discovered as a triploid.

Shape – Almost square shape, but more rounded edges. Has a flatter bottom. Uniform shape. I dont see bumps on these like seen on many others grown.
Skin –  Rough texture, like 400 grit sandpaper, covered in russet, rosy orange/pink cheek. Uniform textures, pretty attractive.
Flesh – Fine, crunchy, yellow class apple. Juicy enough.
Taste – Citrus is the first thing you get, then tangy. There is a brightness here, almost approaching a BURST type of flavor, but not quite. Hint of pear. Hint of floral. No vanilla notes or anything like that. Nuttiness from the skin adds to the experience. Sugars, tart, citrus notes all happen at once.

Bottom line: This apple is rated often very high in taste tests. Often top 5 in the Monticello Apple Taste Tests annually. A great sweet/tart balance that doesnt make you pinch your lips, just a lot of umani triggering salvation. A delightful treat, worth growing if your zone calls for it.

Specimen was stored for 13 weeks, it passes the “next year” test, its superb out of storage.
I’d say based on how well its held up, it may make it to March or April unscathed.

Fresh eating rating: 8/10 – A mellow experience compared to Orleans Reinette but delivers similar flavors. If you like a buttery smooth sweet/tart experience mixed with flavors of walnut, orange/citrus juice, this one is for you.

Culinary rating: Unrated for now – Havent personally done anything with this type of apple. But I have read its excellent in pies and baked goods. Once I get more of these next year when Samascott farm is back in full production, I may be able to give a personal rating. I’d proceed baking with these based on multiple internet sources.

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Roxbury Russet Apple Review

About –  Possibly the oldest United States named variety. Pre-1600’s. Origins unknown.

Shape – Flattened, but fatter on top than on the bottom.
Skin –  Rough, like a typical russet. mostly brown, flushes of orange. Smells of summer grass.
Flesh – Slightly yellow, tight, fine grained, not super juicy, dense. Crunchy!
Taste – A lot of similarities to Golden Russet in the flavor department, but not as sharp. Very light citrus notes, mixed with the grassy flavors of the skin, plus a sugary freshness. Very good! Some tangyness from time to time. This would probably go well eaten with a fruit bread, like Cristin’s cranberry orange bread. Cider flavors for sure.

Bottom line: This is the only apple of Roxbury Russet I took back from Scott Farm at the beginning of October. So, this one has been in cold storage for over 12 weeks now and its still tight, has good juice and is nicely sweet. Cutting into this, when the knife goes thru, it sounds like you’re slicing thru wood, its so dense.

Fresh eating rating: 7.5/10 – Solid, but like the other russets I’ve tasted. I havent had a Golden Russet stored this long, but I would probably find it to be similar in flavor, maybe more sugars. I am giving this a 7 based on flavor but an extra half point for how well it stored. The flavor wont blow your doors off, but its very good, and hard to find an apple that tastes this good, being off the tree for 12 weeks+. No dents, no bruising, tough as nails.

Culinary rating: N/A – Only 1 specimen, and I chose to taste test. I’ve heard these are unforgettable in apple sauces.

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