Adam AusterAdam Auster

Their names are like poetry: Blushing Golden, Celestia, Flower of Kent, Scarlet Crofton. For those of us who only know from McIintosh and Red Delicious, there is a big world of apples waiting out there.

Among our many-faceted residents

Your guide is Arlington resident Adam Auster. In 2008, he decided he wanted to start a blog to understand the medium better but wasn’t sure what he would blog about. He was working in a building on Water Street at the time, and one day ventured over to the farmers’ market, on Russell Common. 

“I thought I could go and see what’s there in terms of apples and do a little review,” he said. “I thought I’d do it for a year and learn about blogging. It was so much fun that I kept it up.”

A dozen years later, he is searching out different varieties, tasting and reviewing apples, reading about apple history and lore, engaging in discussions and debates with his readers and enjoying himself. “It’s been surprisingly rewarding,” he said. “ It’s a labor of love, and it keeps on giving.”

He insists he still is not an expert. He says modestly that he doesn’t know much about apples and points out that, even after all this time, his blog, called “Adam’s Apples” carries the tagline: “an amateur explores the pomaceous fruit.”

More than 300 varieties

Monument to Baldwin in Wilmington. / Stu Clark photo
Monument to Baldwin apples in Wilmington. / Stu Clark photo

Still, he has now tasted and written about more than 300 varieties and remains an enthusiast, searching out new apples and entering into discussions with other apple fans about crunch, sweetness, color and juiciness. Readers are not shy about expressing opinions. 

The blog attracts aficionados, who respond to his reviews, which are written with grace and style. Here he refers to an apple from his childhood that most people know, the Red Delicious. It is, he writes, “large, ribbed, impossibly elongated, and a beautiful glossy red with deep purplish streaks, freckled attractively.” The taste, he notes, “Well, this is striking -- there really isn’t any.”

A reader responds: “I personally hate them. Mealy dry texture, no flavor, bitter thick skin.” But another reader, who came across some red delicious at an orchard writes, “I have tried the best Red Delicious apples to date. An apple that I once deplored has me singing its praises.”

Sometimes people send apples to Auster, asking him to review a particular apple or one they’ve grown in their home orchard. “It turns out there is a surprisingly social dimension to this,” he said. “There can be 30 posts from people who are passionate about apples and want to say what they like and they want to know more. Some readers are regular contributors. I think the comments are the best part of the blog.”

Met an English fan 

Auster has met several other apple fans in person. One is Richard Borrie, a database programmer in England who has managed a website called Orange Pippin since 2005. It is, said Auster, arguably the premiere English-language website today about apples. The two spent a pleasant afternoon at an orchard, of course -- in this case Tower Hill in Boylston, which boasts 238 heirloom apple trees representing 119 pre-20th-century varieties.

And there is history and stories about apples. A frequent bicycle rider, Auster rode to Wilmington, believed to be the home of the original Baldwin apple tree, and found a seven-foot stone monument to the apple with a giant stone apple on top. This leads him to explain the story of the Baldwin, one of many he happily tells.

It seems it was named for Col. Loammi Baldwin, a Revolutionary War hero who became the chief engineer of the Middlesex Canal and is known as the Father of American Civil Engineering. The Baldwin apple was immensely popular. “The way people feel about Honeycrisp today has nothing on the Baldwin,”Auster said. “It’s a pretty nice apple, and I look for it every fall.”

Baldwin's icy fall 

But the apple had its downfall. In February 1934, the weather was extremely cold, as nighttime temperatures plummeted to 22 degrees below zero. “It killed off most of the Baldwin trees and was really kind of a disaster,” said Auster. “After that, farmers said they were not going to plant that kind of apple again. Instead, they settled on a cold, hardy variety from Ontario called McIntosh. That’s why we have so many McIntosh from New England; it’s the quintessential New England apple.”

Auster finds many varieties in local orchards and said there are still plenty of apples to be had at orchards and a few farmers' markets that go through the fall and winter. While the Arlington Farmers' Market is closed, the Davis Square Farmers Market runs through Nov. 25. For a list of other markets, some of which are open during the winter, click here >>  

There are some 2,000 varieties of apples, though Auster has heard of a seven-volume set of printed books that describes 17,000 varieties. “I haven’t seen it, and I don’t assume you can find all of those today. The truth is a lot of those apples weren’t that great, which is why they’ve fallen out of use.”

Still, there are plenty more for Auster to taste and to review. On yet another bicycle ride, Auster brought along a Blue Pearmain, an apple described by Henry David Thoreau, who wrote about filling his pockets with the apples and eating first from one side and then the other, in order to keep his balance. For Auster, the Blue Pearmain is practically like a meal, better than a power bar for his bike ride, as he wrote in his blog.

Aside from making sure to keep apples cold, Auster has one other message: “I don’t want to be an apple snob; I like to get different kinds of apples and just this morning ate an apple called topaz, a very sharp, kind of tart apple with a great crunch. Variety is the spice of life. Take a break from Macouns and McIntosh and try something different.”

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This news feature by YourArlington co-publisher Marjorie Howard was published Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020.