So, my editor called me up on Wednesday and told me they needed the apple column by Friday this week. I said that’s ridiculous, I don’t get my apples until Saturday. He said fine and hung up.
On Saturday then, I got an email from him saying that they were hiring some woman from Ohio to take my place for the remainder of the fall. I replied with one question: “Does she know what a Cornish Gilliflower tastes like?”
He replied an hour later with this: “No, she doesn’t know what a Cornish Gilliflower tastes like. She said she’s never heard of a Cornish Gilliflower. But, she does know what a Chenango Strawberry tastes like. Do you?”
I wrote back: “Of course I know what a Chenango Strawberry tastes like, you idiot.” (I had nothing to lose since I’d pretty much already been fired.) I contemplated sending him my list of picks for the week and enumerating all of the reasons he should stick with me over the woman from Ohio, not the least of which was the fact that I make references to canonical British Literature, which almost certainly appeals to the British readers of Apple Enthusiast (70% of its readership is British). But I decided to simply hit send and see what it got me.
He replied within a half an hour. “Okay,” he said. “You’ve got the job back. But this week’s column better be good. Take care.”
So, without further ado about nothing:
I’ve heard that Shakespeare references an obscure apple variety or two in several of his plays. Or at least, they’re obscure to us these days. Ever heard of leather coats and gilliflowers? Yeah, well, neither have I. But in As You Like It and The Winter’s Tale, among others, there they are.
I suppose if I were writing a sonnet about the Cornish Gilliflower, which I had the pleasure of tasting this week, I’d rhyme it with sour. Of course, I’d prefer to rhyme it with tart, but I wouldn’t know where to start. Ha.
In all seriousness, though, I think it makes sense to start this week’s picks with the Cornish Gilliflower since it’s my favorite for this last September haul. But as I venture farther and farther toward the sour side of the apple stand, I find I’m running out of adjectives. The Lemon Apple and the Cornish Gilliflower are both a little sour, but in different ways than the Pink Pearl or the Orange Pippin or the Calville Blanc d’Hiver.
Let me try to differentiate a little. The Lemon Apple (a new one this week) is more like the classic sour apple. For me, that’s pleasant. It’s why I like Sour Patch Kids at movies. I don’t like the fact that they stick in your teeth, but I love the sour punch you get right when you put them in your mouth and they start to dissolve.
So I’ll go ahead and say the Lemon Apple is the closest thing I’ve had to a real life equivalent of the Sour Apple candy flavor you find in various permutations. It’s quite citrus-y, too, and its flesh is even slightly yellow. So the name really makes sense.
The Cornish Gilliflower is named because it’s supposed to have a slight scent of cloves, which in French is something like gillifle. I don’t know. I didn’t get a clove scent from it, but I did get a very pleasant tart apple taste when I bit into it. Have you ever had an apple cider that makes you pucker? The Cornish Gilliflower is really the closest I’ve come to having an actual apple that tastes like apple cider. It’s quality.
The two other winners for the week were macintosh derivatives. The Jonamac and the Macoun are both superb apples. The Jonamac is quite sugary; the Macoun is basically what a macintosh should be and can be. It’s the macintosh living up to its potential. But both apples have shapes and textures quite similar to actual macs, which, by the way, are still not quite perfect — a little too stubborn, still (stubborn is a descriptor I just made up and it simply means that the texture is hard and a little resistant, like the apple doesn’t want you to bite into it yet).
If sweet’s your thing, the Chenango Strawberry is toward the end of its harvest, but they’re a nice, sweet, mild apple. Nice fragrance; some say it’s rose-like. They’re also an oddly shaped apple, kind of like a football cut in half — and then while you’re at it, cut off the very tip, too.
The losers for the week were the Blenheim Orange (probably the prettiest apple at the stand, but with a taste a lot like a Golden delicious. I just can’t forgive the Deliciouses yet. They have some nice children, but I simply cannot trust the parents.) and the Cano Red (which I may be spelling wrong. The woman at the apple stand didn’t have her apple signs up yet. That’s how early I get there!).
I’ll give both of the losers another chance, but the Blenheim is just not the apple for me, I suspect, and the Cano Red is just not an eating apple. It might be good for baking, but that’s a different column.
Hell, let’s be honest. That’s a different columnist.
Until next week . . .