Sunday, October 21, 2007

Looking for Apples In the East Bay?

If apples are your thing, head to the Jack London Square Farmers' Market and find Joe Stabile's Hillview Farms stand. Tell them whether you're looking for a tart or sweet apple, a cooking apple or out of hand apple, and then take their advice. They grow 200 varieties, many of the heirloom or antique, and I've been blown away by the 6 I've tried. I say this as a life-long citrus fan.

As a child, my lunchtime fruit was almost always some type of orange. Oranges were not necessarily a choice, I went shopping with my mother infrequently once school started. But, I had a preference for them over apples - the other school yard fruit option. It's worth pointing out that we're talking about conventional, grocery store fruit here. Purchased at the nearest Ralph's, available year round and with very little positive variation in taste.

During college I began to like Fuji Apples. They were the first apple I encountered that was not a red delicious, yellow delicious, granny smith, or pippin. Over the last couple of years, I've been exposed to a lot more apple varieties. I picked up my first Arkansas Black at Berkeley Bowl, Sun Downer and Pink Lady too. I'm always happy to see Crimson Gold when they start showing up, but I have not looked forward to them.

Last month we wound up at the Jack London Square market by accident. There were a lot of prepared food stands, some farmers that we shopped from at the Grand Lake market, and then there was the Hill View farms apple stand.

These apples were immediately recognizable as things that grew in a real place with weather, and most of them had names I'd never seen before. He had Thomas Jefferson's apple of choice the Esopus Spitenzberg, red-fleshed apples like the Hidden Rose and Pink Pearl. Last week I grabbed some Jonathans and Winesaps. Less exotic than the red-fleshed Hidden Rose, but more complex and delicious than any apple I'd ever eaten.

So, all things being equal, given the choice between an apple and an orange - I'll go with the orange. But my conversion to a seasonal produce shopper means there are at least two months where that's a choice I don't have to make.

Photo credit: Len Vaughn-Lahman / Mercury News

1 comment:

penny said...

i think you should take one of my apples to these folks at the market and see if they can identify it. allison doesn't know what they are either and i'm dying to know. i like everything in my life to be clear and identifiable!