Northern spy

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(HOST) Apple picking is nearly over for another year, and commentator Edith Hunter has been enjoying the last of the bounty.

(HUNTER) The Northern Spy

…And there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.

quoting Robert Frost

Recently I picked a Northern Spy apple that was 3 1/2″ x 4″. It was a handsome specimen of this hardy variety, red, with some areas of yellow. This is the tree that we planted in memory of Aunt Mary in 1975.

Of the two sisters, Mary and Margaret, maiden ladies in the terminology of the past, Mary was the stern one. They were my husband’s aunts and lived here before us. Mary was in charge of outdoor things, and Margaret, the gentle one, oversaw the kitchen and household matters.

When Margaret died in 1969, we planted a yellow transparent apple tree in her memory. It seemed to fit her kinder, more accepting personality.

When Aunt Mary died, the Northern Spy seemed the fitting variety to plant. This winter-keeping apple, firm, unbending, is ready from now through November. Under the right conditions, it may keep well into spring. “The flesh is very juicy, crisp and most excellent for either dessert or culinary uses.”

So says the two volume “The Apples of New York”, a book my husband gave me soon after we moved here to help me sort the apple varieties on this place. The Rev. James Converse, who lived here two hundred years ago, was described as an early pomologist, and I like to think that some of the trees here now are related to the trees he planted.

From this book I learned that the Northern Spy variety originated in East Bloomfield, New York. It was planted with seedling trees brought from Salisbury, Connecticut, about the year 1800. In 1852 the Americn Pomological Society listed it as a variety worthy of general cultivation.

The tree itself is described as having “vigorous branches: long, moderately stout, curved.” This description immediately brings to mind a picture of son Graham on his riding mower, leaning back almost ninety degrees, to avoid those “stout, curved” branches. This year the apples are nearly perfect, and we have the best crop we have ever had.

Usually, I just let the apples drop and I pick up what is on the ground. The overnight visiting deer and I share the crop. But this year I decided not to be so generous and I have gotten out the long-handled apple picker to get the remaining crop.

That’s how I gathered in that amazing specimen, 3 1/2″ x 4″.

Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center.

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