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Last Chance Foods: Apples

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween weekend’s pumpkins and parades signal the end of apple picking in the New York area. 

A few orchards are open to the public through early November (Masker orchards in Warwick, for instance, is open until Nov. 8), but for the most part, this is the last weekend to pick your own.

WNYC’s Amy Eddings spoke with Kristamarie Pratt of Wilkens Farm in Westchester about how to avoid biting into a mealy apple, and which varieties are popular now. Pratt, who is 24, is the fourth generation in her family to help run the farm. She has a master’s degree from Cornell in biomedicial engineering, but she continues to help maintain the 180-acre fruit and fir farm, and she anticipates eventually returning to farm life full-time.

In terms of food, there are very few things more disappointing than biting into a mushy apple. Personally, Pratt refuses to even entertain the possibility, and she explains that keeping apples in the refrigerator will maintain their crispness. In a humidity-controlled environment, the fruit can keep for as long as six months.

In particular, many varieties do well in cold storage, says Pratt. When picked in late August, Gravenstein apples are tart and sour. But throw them in cold storage for a while, and now, at the end of October, the apples are sweet and still crisp.

Edding’s favorite, the honeycrisp, is especially popular right now, somewhat to farmers’ dismay, since the apple can be difficult to grow. The challenge lies in cultivating the apple to look like the flawless store-bought type. “We’re trying,” Pratt says hopefully of Wilkens’ eight honeycrisp trees.

Pratt has a favorite apple-based desert recipe that uses whichever apples are currently in season.

. . .

Apple Caramel Crunch Recipe
Serves 8

  • 8-10 apples (peeled, cored and sliced or cut in pieces)
  • 1¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1¼ cup Quaker oats
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1¼ stick butter or margarine (softened)
  • ½ cup apple juice
  • 9″ x 9″ glass baking pan

1. Preheat oven to 375º.
2. Put half of the apples in a greased pan.
3. In a bowl, incorporate melted butter into dry ingredients.
4. Crumble half of the flour mixture over the apples.
5. Cover with remaining apples and remaining flour mixture.
6. Pour juice over the top.
7. Bake for 35 minutes.
8. Cool for at least one hour.
9. Serve plain or a la mode.

While Wilkens Farm is “picked clean” for the year, there’s still a chance to sample fresh-pressed cider. Thompsons’ Cider Mill in Croton-on-Hudson is open until Nov. 29.


Give us your take: Which variety of apple is the best? And what are your favorite seasonal apple recipes?

Next week, Last Chance Foods focuses on celery — when it’s harvested and ways to prepare the often maligned vegetable.

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About Last Chance Foods

Last Chance Foods covers produce that’s about to go out of season, gives you a heads up on what’s still available at the farmers market and tells you how to keep it fresh through the winter.

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