Unlike shiny, symmetrical mass-market varietals, heirloom apples are often mottled, lumpy, and specialized. A pie apple might taste lousy raw; a jam apple might not work for cider. But the black sheep of the apple family are making a comeback. Some Maine growers kept heirloom trees over the years, harvesting small quantities of apples with names like Chenango Strawberry, Hubbardston Nonesuch, and Esopus Spitzenburg, and have now added more as demand grows through local markets and CSAs. A few years ago, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association started a living catalog of heirlooms at its Maine Heritage Orchard. Now, the orchard hosts hundreds of species, and its staff scours the state for others growing in uncultivated enclaves. Visitors can taste the fruits of their labors at MOFGA’s Great Maine Apple Day on October 14.
Common Ground Education Center, 294 Crosby Brook Rd., Unity. 207-568-4142.