It used to be that the word “apple” always meant a big, red apple (perhaps it was a Red Delicious you gave your teacher). Now there are literally thousands of apple varieties grown throughout the world, and at least 200 of those are grown commercially in the U.S.
Here at Wolff’s Apple House, you’ll find many apple varieties throughout the season, which starts in the summer and lasts well into fall and early winter.
One of the orchards we carry apples from is Weaver’s Orchard in Morgantown, just over in Berks County. The farm founders were careful when choosing land, and that’s why apples grown on this farm are special, says Weaver’s Orchard owner and president, Ed Weaver. His grandparents started the farm in 1932 once they found the perfect spot: an elevated area with well-draining soil.
“When it’s a higher elevation, you don’t have as much risk of frost when the cold air settles into low areas in the spring,” he said. “I feel a lot of the apples grown in this area have a better flavor [than the northwest] — some of that has to do with the climate and with the soils, which can really influence the flavors of apples.”
Beyond keeping an eye on weather patterns, Weaver is also making educated guesses when it comes to what kinds of apples consumers are going to want to eat. It takes about six to seven years before new trees can be expected to produce a good crop of apples.
So, how does he decide what to grow?
Weaver often uses varieties created by the Midwest Apple Improvement Association to give his customer’s something new and exciting to try. The Association (MAIA) is an organization of private breeders that develop apples specifically for the climate and conditions of the Midwest. But anyone can grow their apples by becoming a member and paying an annual membership, plus royalties and trademark fees for trees.
One of the newer popular varieties Weaver grows from the MAIA is the EverCrisp, a cross between HoneyCrisp and Fuji that ripens mid-to-late October, and is typically available in our market.
“I think EverCrisp has really taken a lot of market share from HoneyCrisp,” Weaver said. “But there’s a good place for both, because HoneyCrisp starts to ripen in August.” (Premier HoneyCrisp have just arrived in our market!)
With apples, you’ll often find that the ones available in July, like Lodi and Earligold, are more tart and better for baking and cooking. Those apples aren’t on the shelves for long.
“It does seem to have something to do with needing more days to develop the sugars within an apple,” Weaver said. The apples harvested in mid-August like HoneyCrisp, Sansa and Dandee Red are sweeter – and all those varieties are available in our market now! Plus, you can also find Ginger Gold and Summer Rambo apples from Cherry Hill Orchards in Lancaster in our market right now.
Every apple sold represents a 30 year relationship between Weaver’s and the Wolff family. “We’ve gotten to know the Wolff’s personally and they’ve been great to work with,” Weaver said. “We appreciate that they see the value of informing customers about where their produce came from.”
Weaver’s Orchard grows more than 30 apple varieties throughout the season. For a description of what some of them taste like, visit https://www.weaversorchard.com/pick-your-own/apples/.