Interesting Book from Timber Press
Apples of North America: 192 Exceptional Varieties for Gardeners, Growers, and Cooks
When I was growing up, you could expect to find about four apple varieties in the supermarket: Red Delicious (revoltingly sawdusty), Yellow Delicious (occasionally acceptable), Rome Beauty (inevitably past their peak and tasting like a wad of cotton), and McIntosh (best of the lot). When the bright green Granny Smiths started showing up in the 1960s, their novelty made us giddy with excitement.
But I've noticed an encouraging trend in recent years: odd-looking apples with strange names and heady aromas turning up among the usual suspects. We are, it seems, in the midst of an heirloom apple renaissance — proof, if anyone needed it, that things in general don't always get worse.
But this new abundance brings with it a set of challenges: which apples should I try? Which ones are best for eating, for baking, for cider, for drying, for storage? And, assuming I'd like to try growing my own (there being nothing more beautiful on earth than an apple orchard in bloom), how to do I plant, prune, and care for the trees?
The answers to all these questions are in Apples of North America: 192 Exceptional Varieties for Gardeners, Growers, and Cooks , by Tom Burford. Tom is a fifth-generation apple grower (his nickname is "Professor Apple"), and it's no exaggeration to say that his book distills many lifetimes' worth of precious wisdom. The 192 profiles — each with its own photo — are pithy, evocative, and packed with useful information, a boon to both the novice and the experienced grower.
You may even want to try some of the varieties for their names alone: Brushy Mountain Limbertwig, Hoople's Antique Gold, Westfield Seek-No-Further, Winter Sweet Paradise.
I would give quite a lot to be able to say to dinner guests, "That pie? Oh, it's Magnum Bonum with a touch of Yellow Bellflower."