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October 17, 2018  |  

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Apples, Rose Orchards on the Branford/North Branford line Photo courtesy of Rose Orchards

Apples, Rose Orchards on the Branford/North Branford line (Photo courtesy of Rose Orchards )

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Apples, Bishop’s Orchards in Guilford Photo courtesy of Bishop’s Orchards

Apples, Bishop’s Orchards in Guilford (Photo courtesy of Bishop’s Orchards )

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Apples, Rose Orchards on the Branford/North Branford line Photo courtesy of Rose Orchards

Apples, Rose Orchards on the Branford/North Branford line (Photo courtesy of Rose Orchards )

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Applesauce made from Macoun and Honeycrisp apples, apple cider, vanilla, maple syrup, and lots of cinnamon Photo by Pem McNerney/The Source

Applesauce made from Macoun and Honeycrisp apples, apple cider, vanilla, maple syrup, and lots of cinnamon (Photo by Pem McNerney/The Source | Buy This Photo)

How Do Connecticut’s Farmers Love Apples?

Published Oct 10, 2018 • Last Updated 12:03 pm, October 09, 2018

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How is this season’s apple growing season going?

If you ask Sarah Bishop DellaVentura, the chief operations officer at Bishop’s Orchards in Guilford, she’ll be candid.

“We have a love-hate relationship with Mother Nature,” she says. “Every year it’s something different. Really so much of it is in the hands of Mother nature. Whether things are early or late, when the buds swell, when they get pollinated, whether they get hit hard with frost that kills off the buds. Dry weather can play a huge part in the size and flavor of the apple. Rain is needed as well as sun, so that the apples are not too dry and mealy, and so that they develop that juicy bite when you bite into it.”

There is such a thing as too much rain, when it comes to apples, and that’s been a bit of a problem this year for southern Connecticut apples. Some varieties have experienced an outbreak of sooty blotch and flyspeck, also known as summer apple disease, which is caused in part by moist weather. Other varieties, such as the Honeycrisps, are sometimes splitting after all the wet weather.

“It’s been a tough season when it comes to the terrific amount of rain we’ve had,” says Winston Scott, of Scotts’ Connecticut Valley Orchard in Deep River, and Scotts’ Farm & Greenhouse in Essex.

Still, as much as they hate the Connecticut weather sometimes, these farmers sure do love they apples they are able to grow in Connecticut.

And they have for a long time. Bishop’s in Guilford was started in 1871, and DellaVentura is a sixth-generation Bishop. At Scotts’, with a history extending back to the 1880s, Winston Scott is fourth generation, and has members of the sixth generation, his grandchildren, involved in the farm where he has worked for 38 years. At Rose Orchards Farm on the Branford/North Branford line, the 12th generation of the family is working at the farm, which the family has farmed since the 1600s. Rose’s apple orchard was wiped out in the hurricane of ‘38, and was re-established in the early 1970s.

Bethany Rose says Rose’s farm grows about 12 varieties. Her favorite is pretty much whichever apple she is eating at the time. She likes to eat them just plain, and with chicken and spinach, sautéed in olive oil, until the chicken is cooked through. She favors the Nature’s Promise chicken, which comes as individually wrapped breasts, sold at her local Stop & Shop.

Macouns, Honeycrisps Among Favorites

“It’s a quick easy lunch,” she says. “I cut the chicken up into little pieces and it comes out really good. Chicken, spinach, apples. Five minutes later you have lunch. You just slightly change the flavor according to what apple you use.”

At Rose’s, Macouns and Honeycrisps are among the most popular. The farm offers pick-your-own every day, weather allowing, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 33 Branford Road, North Branford. Call first at 203-488-7996.

When it comes to Macouns and Honeycrisps, the same is true at Scotts’, where about 40 percent of the apples they sell are Macouns.

“And, Honeycrisps. Everybody loves them,” says Scott. “And they are the most miserable thing to grow. Every possible problem you can have with an apple, you have with Honeycrisps. They are always spotted. They are not particularly attractive. And then they develop all these different problems. But people love them. So we grow them.”

Scotts’ grows about 25 varieties of apples, down from about 36 at one point.

“They come and go,” Scott says.

Some are grown because they are popular with customers. Others are intended as experiments, to see how they fare in the Connecticut soil and climate, and on the shelves. It can take several years for a variety to establish itself to the point where a farmer can ensure it’s viable. Some varieties are phased out, and others are phased in over the course of time. One apple that did not make the cut at Scotts’ is the Granny Smith.

“I didn’t care for it. It came in too late,” Scott says. “Apples that come in in November are not a good fit.

He says one of his favorites is the Spigold. “We have a few trees with those,” he says. “They are a pretty fantastic apple. They can be ugly, they get spots easily, but they are very high quality.”

Some for Eating, Some for Baking

He says the Spigolds, a cross between a Northern Spy and a Golden Delicious, are pretty big apples.

“For some people, they are too big,” he says. “You don’t want to give a one-pound apple to your kid.”

At Bishop’s, where they grow about 25 varieties, DellaVentura says they are trying out a new variety called Crimson Crisp, an attractive, medium-sized, crisp apple.

“It’s a hybrid apple. It’s sweet and it has a very bright, vibrant red color, almost like a pinky red. It’s even brighter than a Gala apple.”

As for her favorites, she says it’s a tossup between a Macoun or Honeycrisp for eating. But she doesn’t bake with either one of those.

“When I bake, it’s always a mix. A Mutsu is one of my go-tos, and Cortlands,” she says.

Bishop’s offers pick-your-own apples most days, weather allowing from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call first at 203-458-PICK. Bishop’s has orchards in Guilford, and in Northford.

At Scotts’, they recently tried out a pie made from Ginger Gold apples and Scott says it was fantastic.

“I was really surprised. I never even thought of making an apple pie out of them,” he says.

Other than that pie, he says he might make a pie with a mix of apples, tossed with a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg, and sometimes allspice.

“I like making a pie out of a half a dozen varieties, or maybe even seven or eight,” he says. “I always throw a McInstosh in there, because it has great flavor and cooks down to nothing. Then, some of the firmer ones, maybe Golden Delicious, then Empire, Cortland, and maybe a Spigold.”

Scotts’ offers pick your own at their Deep River Farm. Call first at 860-526-9633 to check on hours and availability.

Visit the Life & Style section at zip06.com for some great apple recipes, searching for the headline on this article.

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