Posts Tagged ‘Northern Spy’

I was always partial to Macintosh apples until one day years ago I was given a half bushel of Northern Spy apples. Since then, Northern Spy has become the benchmark that all apples I eat are measured against. Once you have tasted the best of any food all challengers seem to pale in comparison. For my money the Northern Spy simply can’t be beat.

Northern Spy is considered an heirloom variety-the first seedling was discovered near Rochester, NY in 1800. It is still well known in upstate New York but, though grown in other states, is becoming increasingly difficult to find. There are several reasons for its increasing rarity; it can take a Northern Spy apple tree as long as 10 years to bear fruit and it is less disease resistant than other varieties. This means that small orchard owners are less likely to grow it. It also has a thin skin and bruises easily, which makes shipping difficult. This means that large growers are less likely to grow it. This is why it isn’t found in most grocery stores even though it is considered by many experts to be the best apple ever produced in the United States.

Northern Spies can still be found in this area if one is willing to do a little searching, and it is worth searching for.  It is crisp, crunchy and juicy, and sweet but somehow tart at the same time. It is higher in vitamin C than many apples, keeps well into the following spring in cold storage, and is one of the most sought after apples by professional pie bakers. “Spies for Pies!” is their mantra. Its superior quality is the reason it is also known as the Northern Pie Apple. Finally, as if all of that weren’t enough, Northern Spy is an outstanding cider apple and contains more antioxidants than any other apple except Red Delicious.

Locally, Northern Spies can be found at Alyson’s Apple Orchard in Walpole, NH and at Maple Lane Farm on Gunn Road here in Keene. But, there is no need to rush because it is a later variety and doesn’t usually ripen until mid to late October.  I have to warn you- once you have tasted one there will be no turning back. A few years ago a neighbor told me she “liked a good, tart apple.” Once she tasted a Northern Spy she couldn’t wait for them to ripen each fall.  

 Photo by Willis Orchard Company © 2011

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