Sappy About Winesaps From Reed Valley Orchard

Reed Valley Orchard gallery, Bourbon and Harrison Counties, Kentucky

Reed Valley Orchard gallery, Bourbon and Harrison Counties, Kentucky

One of the highlights of any year comes the minute I hold the first ripe, heavy, cool, hard Stayman Winesap apple from Reed Valley Orchard in my hand. Utter happiness: I know in one second I'll be enjoying a taste and texture like no other apple. I know I can stop mourning the end of summer tomatoes and sweet corn because life's goodness keeps right on coming. This year my Stayman Winesap Arrival Moment came on September 18, at 8:52 AM, at the Reed-arena on the northwest corner of the Lexington Farmers Market.

Even when the year brings lots of earlier apple delights like Honeycrisp (which failed this year), I mark time until the precious few weeks of Winesap Season. The Stayman Winesaps came a bit early this year, and they arrived loaded with their signature rich, spicy, wine-y juices and their distinctive coarse, almost chewy texture. It has been hard to eat no more than two a day since their 2010 debut.

Given all their glories, it is heartening that Stayman Winesaps lack perfection. For example, Staymans are far from beautiful, except to those who love them best. Honestly, even I have to acknowledge these apples are a bit drab, often more red on one side than the other, and actually more yellow-green-brown than red all over. I'm pretty sure those are Stayman Winesaps in the upper left corner of the photo grid above. Or visit google's array of winesap photos.

Instead of shine, Staymans pride themselves on dull, thick skins that often sport russet spots just to make things even more coarse. In the fall, Staymans crunch and drip juices for about a month, and then they "mellow," softening inside their tough skins -- though in their softer state they still keep well for long periods. All my fervent adoration revolves around the just-ripe apples, the pre-mellowed ones that require real jaw strength to bite into and chew. After the mellowing happens, Winesaps are grand for cooking and applesauce, but my eat-out-of-hand allegiance shifts to Gold Rush or an apple that holds its crunchiness.

Speaking of Gold Rush, the amazing, crispy long-keeper, its rich flavors marry well with Stayman Winesaps in this Kentucky Apple Salad, invented last fall. and likely to be just as bright and bracing this year once the Gold Rush fruits mature.

Trudie and Dana Reed and their staff inspire me with their energy, integrity, and generosity. Their fine fruits fill my table and freezer year round. Dana and Trudie are throwing their annual fall party at the Orchard this weekend. Their Country Festival and Back Forty Nature Walk happens on Saturday, October 2, from 10:00 AM - 5:30 PM. You are invited. You can pick your own Winesaps!

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The world is coming to visit central Kentucky this year for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. To help our visitors know more about Kentucky's food and food ways, Savoring Kentucky is rolling out 116 Savory Kentucky Bites, one for each of the 100 days before WEG begins, and 16 for the days during WEG, September 25 - October 10. Today's Savory Bite is number 103.

116 World EQ Game Postrona