Every fall, Angel and I await the return of The Grapes. Their name is always capitalized because they’re good enough to merit it. Officially, they’re a variety called Reliance, but that doesn’t quite cover how great they are. They’re not just any juicy red grapes, they’re bursting with the tangy grape-y flavor of Concords, though seedless and not quite as tannic. (I also love Concords, both the seedless and seeded varieties.) We first came across The Grapes at farm stands in upstate New York a few years ago, and ever since, we’ve hunted them down in the city greenmarkets.
One of my new favorite apple varieties is the Spitzenburg, and I’m in good company because apparently it was Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple. I’m not quite sure where that bit of trivia comes from, unless there’s a piece of vellum somewhere listing Teenbeat-style likes and dislikes of the hunky 3rd president. Anyway, the Spitzenburg is firm and juicy, with light cider and lemon notes. I always choose apples that still have leaves attached. It gives them so much more character, don’t you think? This particular apple was doubly attractive because in addition to its two perky leaves, it also has three dried flower buds. It was the only blossom among its four branchmates to survive into applehood.
It’s a well-known fact that I am partial to purple vegetables. But really, I could take or leave any of the other purple vegetables (potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, onions, kale) – as long as I could still have their paler siblings, of course. These purple carrots are the ones I really love. It just makes me so happy to slice one open and see its bright orange heart and little orange veins poking through the purple layer. One of my long-held food theories is that colors affect taste (really, if you ate a spinach leaf or a raspberry blindfolded, you’d know what color it was). I think these have a slight bittersweet edge and a hint of fruit flavor. They can keep their color if cooked carefully, but more often than not, they just dye the rest of the food they touch.
The dusky apple in the foreground is an experimental hybrid called NY 428. (Behind it is a Honeycrisp, the indie darling of the apple world). According to its label at the greenmarket, the NY 428 has excellent flavor but does not last long in storage, so it never got a real name. It does indeed have good flavor; it’s fruity, tart, and slightly vinuous. I don’t remember its parentage, but it has some of the qualities of Winesap and Macoun apples. It would make a killer pie, I think, and I’m hoping to test it soon.