One of my fall traditions with my mom is to visit Roger's Orchard in Southington for apples. She's too old to pick apples, but it's still fun walking around the farm stand looking at the different heirloom varieties.
Heirloom apples have become very popular with the resurgence of cider making. Cideries have sprouted up all over the state and the flavors depend on various apple varieties.
Many of the old heirloom varieties, that aren't commercially grown as much anymore, are favorites for making cider. Varieties such as Northern Spy, Cox Orange Pippin, and Winesap make sweet ciders. For a tarter taste try, MacIntosh and Golden Russett. Of course, most ciders, sweet or hard, are a mix of different varieties. Some even include herbs, other fruits and other alcohols. And, some of these varieties are good for making pies, too.
Heirloom apples may not be the easiest to grow. Some lack the vigor and disease resistance of modern varieties. But if you’re willing to accept less than perfect apples and perhaps inconsistent production each year, heirloom apples are worth a try. Or, the alternative is to grow some modern disease resistant, productive varieties such as Gold Rush and Empire.
When growing apples, ideally plant on a North or East facing slope to avoid last frosts. Choose a site with well-drained soil. This fall, cover crop the area with winter rye and hairy vetch to build up the organic matter and help reduce weeds. In spring, till it in with added compost and plant trees at their proper spacing. You should have tasty heirloom apples in a few years.
Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about fall roses. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.