Gold Rush Apples for May Day Lunch?

Reed Valley Orchard apple treeIt was chilly Saturday (November 8, 2008), and the numbers of both farmers and customers at the Lexington Farmers Market had dropped in just seven days. This was Reed Valley Orchard's last Saturday at the 2008 Market, though their excellent store at the Orchard (see map) will be open through November. Usually the customer line at the Reed stand is long and patient, but not as patient as the kind people behind the bushels and pecks, who offer sample slices of any apple that interests any customer. Saturday the conditions were good for enjoying a tasty conversation with Dana Reed, the superb orchardist whose skills burst through in each bite of a Reed Valley fruit. I will do a separate post about the ways Dana and his work crew cultivate intensely flavorful fruit.

Here, though, my purpose is to share what I have learned about storing and keeping fresh apples for the next few months -- and enjoying them. This will be my first year to get serious about storing local apples for eating fresh well into the winter.

Successful storage, for me, has to begin with an apple with flavor and texture that appeal to me. A mushy, tasteless apple won't "call" to me from the refrigerator, and so it just won't do.

I'm enchanted with the Gold Rush apple at the moment, as I am every fall. Trudie Reed once said that Gold Rush seemed to her like it included all the tastes of all the other apples. The firm, crisp texture and the intense sweet/tart flavor make it a favorite of mine. Dana told me yesterday that he had just been reading about Gold Rush, and part of its distinction is that it is high in both acids AND sugars. Fortunately, it is a good candidate for my experiment in stretching out the fresh local apple season by several months.

For weeks, every worker at the Reed stand has encouraged each apple-loving shopper to store some apples in a cool place for the coming months. The instructions apply to Gold Rush, Arkansas Black, Granny Smith, and most other apples that ripen in October: Enclose unwashed apples in sealed plastic bags. Store in the refrigerator or other cool place. Eat throughout the winter.

Nursery catalogs tout Gold Rush because it retains its crispness and flavor after as many as seven months in cool storage. This year I put about a half bushel of Gold Rush in Ziploc bags in my refrigerator. Dana Reed says the sealed plastic creates a micro-climate that holds some needed humidity around the apples. Without the bags, the refrigerator's drying tendencies would probably make the fruit wither and wrinkle.

A friend joins me in the Gold Rush Apple Storage Experiment (GRASE). We'll compare field notes. Maybe I will also remember to report the outcome.