The Real New York Apple

November 16, 2009 at 4:41 am 2 comments


© Margarida Correia. Newtown Pippin apples arrived at the Union Square farmers market from Locust Grove Fruit Farm in Milton, N.Y., but they originated in the 1700s on a farm in Maspeth, Queens.

It took a little time, but I found what might soon be New York’s official apple.  Scrunched in the corner of a farm stand at the Union Square Greenmarket – amid hundreds of Honeycrisps, Jonagolds, McCouns and other celebrity apples – was a solitary crate of Newtown Pippins.  The little-known green-yellow apples were much scrappier than the others at the stand.  They had more spots, more bruises.  But that’s to be expected from an apple that’s fighting its way back into its hometown.

All the apples at the stand came from Locust Grove Fruit Farm in Milton, N.Y., but only one — the Newtown Pippin — got its start in Maspeth, Queens.   That’s right.  The Newtown Pippin apple originated on a farm on the banks of Newtown Creek in western Queens in the 1700s.  The apple became a popular commercial variety throughout the country, cultivated and praised by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Now there’s a campaign to reintroduce the apple tree in New York City.  More than 100 saplings have been planted in parks, community gardens, urban farms and other places throughout New York City this year.  New York City Councilman James Gennaro even introduced a resolution in June to declare the Newtown Pippin the official apple of the Big Apple.

“Our primary goal is to restore and celebrate the Newtown Pippin, our city’s heirloom apple,” state the founders of the Newtown Pippin Project on their Web site.

The saplings, which are expected to bear fruit by 2011, were donated by New York dry cleaning service Green Apple Cleaners in partnership with Slow Food NYC, the New York City Parks Department, Earth Day New York, and Cummins Nursery, a family-run tree nursery in the Finger Lakes district of western New York.

As with any real fighter, the Newtown Pippin has thick skin.  It’s a bit tart, like a Granny Smith, and watery, like a Jonagold.  It varies in size, shape, and even color.  The new apple adds variety to the New York apple market, and that for me means more choices when I’m looking to bite into something to match my mood or food I’ve eaten.


Entry filed under: Farmers Market, Local Food Production. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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