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FAQ

Posted 10/13/2011 11:30am by Ben Wenk.

So I'm mixing my Alton Brown references with "The Tick", and no, I don't expect anyone to keep up with this nonsense.  I'm just be preparing you the reader for my own level of acute, scientific detail I've come to love from Alton Brown as the blog moves along.

On to our question!  This one is a very common question, most recently posed via our twitter account by New York-based food blogger NutmegNanny via our good friend Michelle at eatniks:

"@NutmegNanny Can you store apples in the fridge?"


bulk bins full of freshly harvested apples 25 bu wooden bins and 23 bu plasticNot only can you store apples in your refrigerator, it is my recommendation that you do!  Unlike other edibles - onions, potatoes, eggplant, and tomatoes come to mind, that will endure internal cellular damage and flavor alteration when stored at refrigerator temps, apples thrive and endure in your chilly frigidaire (as do peaches, but that's another blog for another time).

While I endorse refrigeration as the preferred method of apple preservation, it does come with a caveat or two.  As the aforementioned Alton Brown frequently reminds his audience, refrigerators are often victims of cross contamination and "flavor blending" and apples are no different.  The best spot for your apples is in the crisper with other veggies and fruits such as greens or carrots, geographically separated from proteins, dairy etc.  Apples are not spoiled by moist environments the way other fruit and veg might be so no extra effort is required to remove your fruits from moisture.  Truthfully, a little moisture will help keep your apples fresh as dry atmospheric conditions in your fridge can cause moisture to be pulled from the fruit - you'll discover this in the form of wrinkled apple skin after prolonged fridge time.  Cut apples are not to be reinstated back into your fridge - seems obvious, but worth mentioning.  

apples - stored much better in modern fridges, than in 1940's mounds under corn stalksHow long is too long?  It's the perfect follow up question, so let's have a look.  A good answer is two weeks but it's not a "catch all" answer.  Trutfully, so many environmental and cultural factors go in to the longevity (or lack thereof) in apples, that it's hard to pin down in a neat and tidy way.  Each apple variety (and there are over 4,000) has its own quirks in regards to storage life.  Fuji, for example, have a history of success in long term storage - maintaining crispness for months in your refrigerator.  Some heirloom or heritage apples, Smokehouse for example, while delicious, do not keep well.  The amount of moisture and rainfall during the growing season and the distribution of rainfall over time plays a huge factor in certain apple varieties keeping better in some years than others.  Jonagold, one of my favorites, is a notoriously inconsistent keeper.  Some years, they are great keepers, others not so much.  Honeycrisp (everyone's favorite) is so finicky a keeper that the way we store ours is just about the only thing our farm values as a "trade secret" that you can't get out of me.  Suffice it to say we go to great lengths to store Honeycrisp differently to preserve their awesome eating qualities.  As chronicled in an earlier blog, apples stored in controlled atmosphere can maintain crispness for nearly a year without any sort of bizarre witchcraft (thanks to land grant ag research, of course).  And while "storage apples" are representative of the fine work we do on this farm and I'll happily put our good name on them, I think we all agree - the closer to harvest the better.  As it is with apples, so should it be with all of our eating.


Historically "Good Keepers"

Fuji
Arkansas Black
York Imperial
Cameo
Golden Delicious
Rome Beauty


Historically "Inconsistent Keepers"

Gala
Jonagold
Macintosh
Smokehouse
Jonathan
Red Delicious


see also,

Ask a Grower I, Roots and Scions - Apple Tree Anatomy

Ask a Grower II, Granny Smith Apple Seeds - Apple Tree Propagation

Ask a Grower III, Clingstone vs. Freestone Peaches

Ask a Grower IV, The Cider Blog - What's Cider, What's Juice?

Ask a Grower VI, Grafting - Part Historic, Part Horticultural Wizardry

Posted 8/18/2011 12:58pm by Ben Wenk.

From the most voracious tomato-vores, to the round-red only myopic heirloom neophytes - the following is designed for tomato eaters of every description so that you might pick out just the right 'mater for just the right particular occasion!  

Red BrandywineBrandywine (both pink and red) - "The Beginner's Heirloom"

Never tried the whole heirloom thing before?  Here's a good jumping off point.  Not nearly as misshapen and ugly as many, this tomato offers bold tomato flavor, adds beautiful color, but eats like a bolder, stronger-flavored version of many grocery store red slicers (ehhh, not my cup of joe).  Snacking, salads, and sandwiches - any of your favorite tomato applications would be a great match for a Brandywine tomato, though sauces born of these fruits are sometimes sweeter than some prefer. So, in summary, if you're looking to dip your toes in the chilly pool of heirloom tomatoes, this is a fine place to start.

Cherokee Purple - "The Best"Cherokee Purple

This is the one everyone's gotta have.  The one I think I over-plant every year, only to run short on fruit in the height of season.  Our best sellers, our most unique flavor, and our most frequently requested tomato, 'Cherokee Purple's origins can be traced back to the Native American tribe of the same name.  The color of this tomato looks more brown or black to some than dark purple.  It's flavor is (somehow) smokey and intensely sweet with plenty of acidified balance.  This tomato is approved for all audiences and should be consumed immediately.  There is no wrong preparation for this tomato - you name it, use one.  Not to be missed.

zebra tomatoesGreen Zebra - "Salt Shaker Snacker"

An essential part of any heirloom tomato garden, in my modest opinion, the 'Green Zebra' is one of the most unique and best tasting tomatoes out there.  Most notably, if you are a tomato eater who is inclined to snack on a tasty 'mater in one hand with a shaker of salt in the other, many have found this tomato has the flavor of a salted tomato without the additional salt added!  It is a bold tomato best for salads and snacks with a good hit of acid, adding counterpoint to the tomato's sweetness.  If you've become a big fan of these, the next one to try is...

FlammeJaun Flamme - "Zebra's French Cousin"

Bright, bright orange tomatoes of the same size of Green Zebra.  These 'saladette' sized tomatoes, to use an industry term, are perfect size to cut in half and throw into your garden, caprese, or tomato salad.  Very bold flavored tomatoes that compliment the Green Zebra nicely, perhaps with a little more 'spunk', we'll say, than it's not-easy-to-be green counterparts.  These are another tomato that we get asked for by name (usually, "when do you have those 'French ones'") and, along with Green Zebra, are as pleasant a tomato as can be found for a tasty tomato snack!

Pineapple TomatoesPineapple (and Kellogg's Breakfast) - "Sweet, Bacon-loving Tomato"

Pineapple are probably the most visually appealing vegetable on our farm... anywhere.  They're just goregous (so says I).  They are bright lemon yellow with red sunburst streaks running from calyx (bottom) to stem.  Cut them open and they're even prettier - displaying a tie-dye swirl of yellow-orange-red colors that will stun and delight eaters of all ages.  These fruit-inspired tomatoes, along with their light orange companion tomatoes, Kellogg's Breakfast, are sweet, sub-acid tomatoes.  Similarly to the way white peaches are sub-acid and taste simply sweet, these tomatoes have lots of sugars and very little acid.  For this reason, I really like these tomatoes for your summer BLT sandwiches because the sweet tomato flavor dances lovingly in time with a smokey, salty bacon.  These are also a great tomato option if you do have difficulty with acidic foods.

Arkansas TravelerArkansas Traveler (not pictured) - "The Underdog Pseudo-Heirloom"

Developed by the Univeristy of Arkansas in the 1940's, these are the most unassuming tomato on our stand.  It's very easy to walk past these, but those who have taken them home have been back for more the next week.  Though not a true heirloom, they are non-hybrid seeds that crank off what I'd call "true heirloom flavor"!  If you were to close your eyes and think about what a tomato tastes like, you'd come up with something very similar to how these tomatoes taste!  They are uniformly round, uniformly pink, somewhat small, and have the most uniform stem pull out there for all you backyard tomato growers.  This one will impress your friends.  I'll tell you what else will impress your friends - a plate full of Arkansas Traveler  tomatoes, sliced, dressed with good extra virgin olive oil and cracked black pepper.  Snacking, salads, and sandwiches - these are small enough, you're less likely to cut one and have half a tomato in the fridge for a day or two - you'll use one at a time.  

Pomodoro, Italian Piriform or 'pear-shaped' tomato (not pictured)- "Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy"

Here's one that's a little meaty-er, a little bolder and more acidic - a beefsteak-y kind of tomato that can stand the heat in a hot kitchen!  Also a fine option for sandwiches, etc - these also are great for roasting and sauce applications.  A great way to extract more flavor out of these Italian tomatoes is just to add a little heat - right from the grill or a hot roasting pan.  With seeds ordered from Italy, these will give a chicken cacciatore some real authentic Italian kick!  Use in any recipe that calls for tomatoes to be cooked.

San MarzanoSan Marzano - "You Can Do It"

Everyone sees these tomatoes in cans, sees them on their favorite cooking program in sauces, but so many people have never used them as whole tomatoes.  Don't neglect this opportunity to elevate your pasta dishes from good homestyle to true restaurant quality by choosing the tomatoes they prefer in fine dining!  Very hollow in the middle, these tomatoes are also born of seed ordered directly from Italy, making their resultant sauces authentically, kiss your mama delicious.  They blend into instant paste for fresh sauce applications and they cook down into a truly tomato-ey "gravy" for your pasta and sandwiches.  Get authentic - get the real San Marzano!

Posted 9/29/2010 3:59pm by Ben Wenk.

Three Springs farmers market shopper and devoted cider enthusiast Erin writes:

"Hi, guys!  We are drinking your delicious cider and having an animated conversation about what IS the difference between apple cider and apple juice (and we wondered), what's your opinion on this great debate?"

The question is a great one - and timely, since we were able to roll out a very popular Fuji Apple Juice for our customers this past spring.  While the question was pretty clear (like the consistency of, say, apple juice), the answer is a little more murky and mysterious - a quality it shares with apple cider.  We're gonna chew on this simple difference and spend a little time on how each is made in the hopes of providing some delicious distinction between the two!

'07 Headhouse cider displayOn the surface, the two "apple-y" beverages are not very dissimilar.  Both are pasteurized and list as their ingredients only "the juice of apples".  As you can see, the difference between cider and juice is pretty minimal.  The main difference is the apples used.  For the purposes our discussion, I'll explain the difference in our cider and our juice.  Our juice, typical of many juices, is a one variety product.  We use only Fuji Apples in our juice.  They are very sweet and make a palatable juice on their own.  The Fuji apple juice is heated in excess of 200 degrees Fahrenheit so it can be shelf-stable bottled without the addition of any preservatives.  This also effectively kills whatever bacteria and impurities the product could have contained.  The resultant product is much lighter in color and consistency.  We like the sweetness of the juice because we know kids love sweet beverages and we figure parents can dig it if they can serve their children a sweet beverage that comes from a local, sustainably raised farm and contains no added sugars!  It's common for grocery store apple juices to be filtered to remove any hints and traces of apple sediment from the apple skins.  Though they might seem visually unappeeling... er unappealing (can't believe I almost went there), the majority of an apple's nutrition is found in the skin, thus we leave it right where it is.  Caveat Emptor: grocery store juices also commonly contain preservatives, sugar ("corn sugar" and otherwise), and apple juice concentrate - concentrate bottlers can import from Turkey, China, etc. without labeling as such.

Cider, on the other hand, is best enjoyed when many apple varieties are present.  As a matter of fact, the sheer variety of apple flavors (in addition to Jonathan and other semi-tart base apples) is the not-so-well kept secret to our cider's success.  It's cloudy, complex, tart and sweet, and contains all that valuable sediment.  Our cider is also UV pasteurized, or "cold" pasteurized.  This is vital to flavor preservation, in my opinion.  This specialized UV has been proven by Cornell University to be equally effective in removing harmful bacteria as heat pasteurization.  Not only is flavor preserved, but this product actively ferments, for all the homebrew/homewine enthusiasts out there which also means all the phytochemicals beneficial to the digestive system are also present!

So in summary, there's not a lot of difference between the two beverages.  However, when they're done right, you should be able to tell easily.  Juices are clearer in color and consistency - a lighter, monochromatic beverage.  Ciders are bold, complex, dark, and more rich in flavor.  By definition, they are nearly the same.  In execution, they are worlds apart!

Stay tuned to this blog for fun, informative videos on this topic - debuting in the coming weeks!

 

further "Ask A Grower" readings:

 


Posted 7/8/2010 1:53pm by Ben Wenk.

Among the more commonly asked questions at our market stands gets at the heart of an age-old debate.

Ok, so I'm exaggerating a little.  Regardless, people wanna know which peaches are sweeter: yellow fleshed peaches or white fleshed peaches?

rising star ripening 2009Peaches come in many shapes and size.  The two most distinguishing features are yellow fleshed or white fleshed.  Peaches can also be clingstone or freestone, but we've got that debate all wrapped up in this entry (link, "Ask A Grower III").  For the purposes of being thorough, I'll add that a few new peach varieties are listed as yellow fleshed and sub acid.  This not withstanding, the main difference between a yellow peach and a white peach is the amount of acid in that peach.

Yellow-fleshed peaches have a rosy red cheek over a soft yellow background color.  These are your "standard" peach varieties - that peach flavor you grew up with.  They are very juicy, very sweet, and have a good acidic, peachy "bite".  If you were using your peaches paired with something sweet like cream, ice cream and they like, you'd definitely go for these peaches.  Yellow peaches are often preferred for baking pies, cobblers, and other similar deserts.

White peaches are commonly a darker, redder cheeked fruit whose background color is a soft, creamy white.  These too are sweet, juicy treats.  The white peaches, contrary to the yellow peaches, will not have that "bite" - that tangy, acidic counterpoint to the sweetness of the peach juices.  Conversely, if you are mixing peaches with a more acidic yogurt - plain yogurt, or a mildly acidic vanilla, you may find you prefer white peaches in these instances.

these donut peaches are white donut peaches!So stop skirting the question, guy!  Which are sweeter?  Well, in the interests of full disclosure, I've always been a "yellow peach guy".  That's the side of the debate I fall on.  White peaches, by virtue of their lack of "bite", will seem sweeter to many.  To me, they're a terrific mix-in after a few weeks of munching my favorite yellow peaches.  And they are terrific if you are pairing them with a little acid.  If you were measuring total sweetness by total sugars, both kinds of peaches would be similar.  The best answer is that the sweetness of a peach is determined more by where it's grown, when it was picked, where it was on the tree, and which variety it came from than white or yellow.  If you think the lack of acid makes them taste sweeter, you're probably right.  If you think yellow peaches are just as sweet as white peaches, but with a little acidic "kick", then you're probably right too!  Try both and choose for yourself!

There's a frequently vague answer to a frequently asked question!

wenksville, pa

Posted 7/1/2010 11:43am by Ben Wenk.

logoPeaches are on everyone's mind as we delve into the first pickings of the season.  Curiosity with these fuzzy summer treats yielded this question, via our Twitter account:

"Is there a way for me to determine if a peach is freestone or cling just by looking at it?" - asks Kelly "Miss Peach" G. of Washington DC (@kgdc1)

Great question from a true peach enthusiast!  The short answer is no, there is no sound way other than to know the variety and know its tendency.  Let's examine things a little closer.

The difference between clingstone peaches and freestone peaches is little more than what you would think.  For clingstone peach varieties, the flesh of the peach will cling to the stone (or pit), making it more difficult to remove.  Freestone peaches separate easily from the pit, making it easier to pull out once the fruit is sliced in half.  Some peach varieties, as we'll discuss later, advertise themselves as "semi-cling".  As much as I'd like to tell you, our valued customers and random web watchers, that "this peach is semi-cling, not clingstone", the truth of the matter is so very few semi-cling peaches ever separate from the pit that you might as well not even make the distinction.'Rising Star' peaches

At the time of this writing, at the start of the 2010 peach season, our earliest ripening peach, our 'Baby Juble' peaches are clingstone.  We have several earlier varieties planted who will also be cling.  'Rising Star' and 'Sentry' are next, both reportedly "semi-clingstone" and you remember what that means.  'Red Star' you will get a few more freestone peaches than other "semi-clings" but our first true freestone peach is 'John Boy'.  From that point forward, all of our peaches are freestone.  'White Lady' is our first freestone white peach.  We grow a mid-season clingstone called "Baby Gold #5" to make our canned peaches.  If you ever had a notion to can some for yourself (to deploy some good rural verbiage), you can special request some Baby Gold #5's from us!

So which is better?  Well, everyone likes freestone better, mostly because they like to pull out the pit.  Truthfully, there's nothing about a freestone peach that tastes better than a clingstone.  If one peach tastes better than another, it's because the variety is good, not necessarily because it fell off the pit.  'Rising Star' and 'Baby Gold #5' are two of my favorite peaches for flavor and they are clings, but I understand the preference folks have for freestone. 

So to wrap things up, no, you cannot tell a clingstone from a freestone merely by a peach's appearance.  You'd need to "Ask a Grower" to learn about the peaches he or she brought to market!  Thanks for the question, enjoy the peaches, and keep those questions coming!

 

-Farmer Ben

 

Posted 9/8/2009 6:57am by Ben Wenk.

 

Since our write up in Relish Magazine, we have been inundated by web correspondence with folks hoping to get some of our freshness shipped out to them to all parts of our country.  I've been trying to respond to everyone's emails, but I just wanted to get ahead of the rush.

At present, we are not set up to ship fruit.  To some extent, we can work with folks who can meet us here at the farm.  Going forward, after reading all the emails from folks around the US where apples are not grown, shipping is something we will have to discuss.  In the offseason, we do a lot of work planning our next move - whether that be markets, new blocks of trees, etc. and I'd be willing to wager our family will have to take a hard look at the benefits of providing this service to folks.

So I just wanted to comment publicly that yes, we hear you!  Shipping is going to be a consideration going forward!

My question to you is, what would you like shipped to you?  Apples?  Pears?  Peaches?  Gift baskets?  What quantity would you like to order if you could?  This is information we'll need to consider when we meet after apple season.

Thanks for everyone's interest in our farm - its been an exciting week!

-Ben

 

update:

I wanted to include the following resources that might be helpful in getting fruit shipped to you this year:

All About Apples

Local Harvest

wenksville, pa

Posted 7/15/2009 3:38pm by Ben Wenk.

Choosing the Right Peach At Market


logoWe're often asked how to choose good peaches at our farmers markets, so I thought I'd whip up an easy beginner's guide. Just remember, if all else fails, ask one of the experts helping at our stand that day! Before we address the task head on, let's address a few rules up front. N.B. This guide also applies to choosing nectarines, plums, apricots, and stone fruit in general.


General Rule #1 - Out of respect for our family who grew the fruit, our skilled crew who harvested the fruit in the heat of summer without bruising it, and the customers who will shop after you, please be gentle! As you'll see, a delicate squeeze is important in choosing good peaches, but tree ripened peaches are to be handled with the same caution as eggs.


General Rule #2 - Plan ahead! As you'll see, knowing the quantity of peaches you'd like and not only "how" but "when" you'll use them will go a long way to insure you'll enjoy the fruit we've worked so hard to grow.


Rising Star Peaches '09 cropAlrighty, let's choose some peaches! First things first, do you prefer white or yellow peaches? This always a point of contention - the factions are often fiercely divided. White peaches are "sub acid", meaning they will lack some of that peachy "bite". It's often believed that white peaches are sweeter while science tells us otherwise - the lack of acid makes the sugars stand out while the amount of sugar is often identical for yellow and white peaches. Yellow peaches are your traditional peach flavor, the white peaches taste like those same yellow peaches dipped in the sugar bowl. White peaches have a red background color while yellow peaches have a yellow background and a red blush. They should be clearly marked on our display to tell the difference - try 'em both and you can decided which is best for you!


When choosing peaches, ask yourself "how many do I want" and "do I want them now or later (or both)"?  All of our peaches are picked ripe. Firm fruit is not "green" fruit or unmatured. Peaches must be picked "firm ripe" just to survive the short trip from our orchard to your farmers market. Our goal is to provide some peaches that are "finger ripe" (a little soft) and "firm ripe" in every crate so you can pick three peaches to eat today and a few that will ripen on your counter during the week. Very gently, hold a peach between your thumb and middle finger and apply just a tiny bit of pressure. If you can feel the flesh move, it's "figner ripe", eat today or tomorrow. Flesh still firm? Don't squeeze it any longer, first of all. Second, remember that it is "firm ripe", not "green" and it will come to life after as few as 2 days on the counter. If you know how many peaches you and your friends and family can eat in a week, plan accordingly by choosing a few "finger ripe" peaches for today and tomorrow and as many "firm ripe" as you believe you can eat between then and the next market when more fresh peaches come to town. Making a pie/cobbler/pudding etc? If you've got a head full of steam and are making it as soon as you get back, find a few finger ripe peaches. Many, my mother included, actually prefer firmer fruit for such confections so plan accordingly. Also remember, we do price in bulk so ask about the price for a half peck or a half bushel.


Keeping/Ripening Your Peaches


Sentry peaches, '09 cropPeaches are best kept at room temperature but are also not harmed by refrigeration. To make your peaches last all week, eat the softest first, place firm ones in the bottom of the fridge, and rotate "a day's worth of peaches" from the fridge to the counter each day you eat peaches. This way, tomorrow's fruit will ripen as you eat today, and the rest will be waiting for you in the refrigerator. Though it varies with peach varieties and weather conditions, peaches commonly last one week or longer in a refrigerator.

Can't Wait Any Longer? Fruit ripens in the presence of a gas called ethylene, found naturally in the fruit. A cool trick to quickly ripen your "firm ripe" peaches should you find yourself in need is to cut a piece of a high ethylene fruit; an apple or banana, and place it in a plastic bag with the peaches you wish to ripen, tie the bag shut at the top and place on the counter or in the fridge (depending on how dire the peach emergency is - don't panic, just place bag on counter). It won't take long at all using this method.

Tags: FAQ, produce