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News and blog

Keep up to date with the latest news on the farm and at your market!
Posted 3/21/2011 12:44pm by Ben Wenk.

everything old...The year 2010 was one for the books!  It had its ups and downs and tested our mettle in a lot of ways, but we're all the better for it.  There was plenty doing on the farm, where a new building project, drought conditions, lightning strikes, and stink bugs kept us manically occupied.  Market wise, we tried new market endeavors at Silver Spring, H&HS building, Crossroads, Greensgrow Farms, and, briefly, The Piazza at Schmidts (was that all?).  In other news, our apples were eaten by the President of the United States of America and we became our local industry's first Food Alliance certified fruit farm.  Relive all this and more in our Blog Highlights 2010, farm photos, and press clippings from 2010.  We'll also update you on our offseason and have a peek ahead into what to expect in 2011.  Enjoy!


The Year in Blog!

The previous year in review... is new again!

Crunchberry and Schnozberry Planting Season

Random 3Springs YouTube sightings!

Growing Greener: Lower Toxicity Materials

FAQ: Clingstone vs. Freestone peaches

We Get Zapped By Lightning

FAQ: Are White Peaches Sweeter?

The Drought Breaks, Hear The People Singing!

Oddball Apple & Tomato Anomolies

Food Alliance Certified

The History of the much-malligned Red Delicious <check out a commenter from Spain!>

Barack Obama: Leader of the Free World, Eater of our Fruit

Ask A Grower: What's a cider, what's a juice?

2010 Baltimore Orioles Apple Lineup

2010 NL East Champion Philadelphia Phillies Apple Lineup

Three Springs' 1st PASA Field Day

IPM Video Blog


The Year in Pictures



Press Clippings


Offseason review: Nov. '10 - April '11


We take offseason education very seriously around here, as this story suggests.  This year, I wanted to spend some time quantifying that fact.  Below is a listing of all the leadership meetings and educations meetings we attended this offseason between Thanksgiving and the first Silver Spring Market.

  • Haygrove High Tunnels Mtg, Dec (Lancaster)
  • Future Harvest CASA, Reisterstown (presenter)
  • PA Farm Show (54 man hours - Harrisburg)
  • 3 Vendors Meetings for Farmers Markets
  • FarmCredit Ag Business Class - Webinar, 3 meetings
  • State Horticultural Assoc. of PA - 5 meetings combined
  • Mid-Atlantic Fruit & Vegetable Convention (Hershey - 3 days, presenter)
  • Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (State College, 2 days, presenter)
  • Adams County Fruit Growers Association Ann'l Meeting
  • County Ag Summit
  • half day meeting with our tree fruit extension educators (stink bug preparedness)
  • Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Board (2 mtgs)
  • Wholesale Marketing Seminar (Syria, VA)


We spend a lot of time fixing equipment as well, in addition to long term business planning (including planting plans) and getting our signs ready for market season - all those details.  There's all kinds of training and permits to achieve before markets start as well.  We do have time for leisure as well including events like Fair Food Philly's "Brewer's Plate" and the occasional music performance in the area.  I like to play a little music too - I crammed over 20 performances into this little offseason window and visited some out of town friends.


Looking Ahead to 2011

A formal announcement of our market schedule for 2011 is forthcoming, but I'm willing to get the details out to those folks brave enough to keep reading this far down!  We were doing too much last year, so there are a few changes.  Here's the preliminary plan:

  • FRESHFarm's Silver Spring Market - back starting April 2nd (at the Panera location) and staying every week 'till Christmas
  • Headhouse Farmers Market - back and better than ever!  Market starts May 1.
  • Kenilworth Farmers Market - back at a new, larger area of the same parking lot!  Come "down the hill" from Stebbins to shop with us starting May 3rd!
  • Greenbelt Farmers Market - back in our corner stand again in 2011!  Opening week is May 8th!
  • FRESHFarm's Health & Human Services Market - back with new times!  Join us every Wednesday from 11am to 2pm over your lunch break under our new, shady tent!  Market starts May 18th!


We made the decision not to return to Crossroads Farmers Market and Greensgrow Farmers Market in 2011.  We like those markets a lot and we especially like the people operating them who are top notch and true, geniune local food advocates.  It was a hard decision for us to make, but we felt we were over-extended and needing to cut back on our markets for this year.  PLEASE, if you were a customer there, please continue to patronize these markets because they are terrific and run by some pretty special people.  There are a couple other options we are considering for markets in 2011, but what you see could be what you get for us this year.


And with that, we're only 12 days away from the first Silver Spring market of 2011!  It's about that time, folks!

Posted 1/13/2011 2:01pm by Ben Wenk.

I've never been known as one who has a propensity for stirring the pot or being a malcontent.  However, when things I'm passionate about are sullied and bastardized by folks with no real credibility in the realm of the things I care about...


The author, seen here trying to "confuse" Mayor Davis of Greenbelt, MD with "local" "Pennsylvania" produce!  Very sneaky!This story really starts two years ago when I was trying to find a good mid-week market for our farm.  We'd made a lot of great new friends in Greenbelt at our Sunday market there and many of them expressed an interest in buying our products during the week.  With this in mind, I searched for and found a market that both suited our needs (nearby to Greenbelt, middle of the week) and showed an interest in having us as a vendor.  While this market had another fruit vendor, the specialty vegetables and the wide range of tree fruit we offer was going to fill a significant void, we were told.  It seemed like a great fit and I was told to expect confirmation of our spot once the board met and approved us.


Just a few weeks later, I get an email from the manager of this market apologizing profusely, explaining that the board ruled that we could not enter the market because our farm was in Pennsylvania.  At this time, there was already a vendor from Pennsylvania attending this market - a vendor whose farm was three times the distance from market as ours.  What's more, a few of the Maryland growers were traveling twice as far to that market as I was.  No matter.  Local is defined in whatever way best suits those who are defining it and I'd better look somewhere else for a farmers market.  Frustrating as this was, this was a private market and they were free to create whatever nonsensical "rules" they'd like, even at the expense of their own market, in this case.  This market continues to have vendors from other states - we have not be asked back.


When I was in college, I spoke to several grocery store produce managers who told me local produce is defined as anything that get to the store on a truck in one day or less.  Pressing further, these managers couldn't tell me if one day meant one day's travel, one 24 hour period, or 24 "truck hours" (as truckers cannot drive 24 hours straight legally).  Their definition had to maintain plausible deniability and be elastic enough to suit their needs.  The conversation ended... abruptly. 


"Woody", another shyster selling PA Honeycrisp as local in Greenbelt, MD (gasp)But fear not, locavores!  The Maryland Department of Agriculture is being proactive, issuing new regulations to define local.  Admittedly, at the time, I had a feeling that my State Department of Agriculture missed a real opportunity to step up and provide a great model other states could follow.  All the same, it was a breath of fresh air that this selective, self-applied definition of local was going to be really challenged, by my estimation, for the first time!


And, as has happened so many times as a young adult in the business of local agriculture, my faith and anticipation was quickly proven to be poorly guided. 


Two years removed from the market fiasco and I'm still trying to market our products to folks in Maryland who are clamoring for them.  After having missed the event last year, I acted quickly to insure I'd attend the 3rd Annual Maryland Buyer/Grower Meeting after having a positive experience at the Innaugural Event.  Today, I was informed that I would not be able to attend the event this year based solely on the fact that my farm is in Pennsylvania.  When pressed for an explanation of this policy change, I was told by Mark Powell, Chief of Marketing (email) that the buyers at this meeting were there to buy locally from Maryland farmers and my inclusion might "confuse" them.  That is to say, the Ag Department believes that Maryland is more local than Pennsylvania.  If my fruit travels 70 miles and an Eastern Shore grower travels 120, then I'm trying to confuse you - tricking you into buying something that isn't local by traveling over state lines. 


For me, local should be defined by the consumer.  If you're reading this and you want to by your food locally, you get to decide!  What's local to you doesn't have to be local for your neighbor.  If you've tried products from 50 miles away and the ones from 100 miles away are better, you're free to make that choice.  We do not need to start playing the more-local-than-thou game, it's going to make things ugly for everyone.  In a perfect world, every person purchasing local farm products gets to assign the value they see fit without a journalist-turned-ag marketer placed between you and I to prevent it from happening.  At the end of the day, if you want a local product and you think 70 miles is closer to your home than 120 miles, I think you should be able to make your mind up for yourself whether the government thinks that's confusing or not!


And if you're looking for an organization built on local food facilitation, not obstruction, learn more about Future Harvest CASA.


-Farmer Ben

map not to scale (obviously, duh)

Posted 1/3/2011 9:15am by Ben Wenk.

PA Farm Show 2011

Happy New Year, fruit lovers!  I'd mentioned to our email subscribers that we can be found volunteering at the PA Farm Show each year.  If you're unfamiliar with this event, it's one of the largest of its kind.  It's a great chance to learn a lot about agriculture and, perhaps more famously, a terrific place to eat delicious food!  On display will be a wide diversity of animals to check out - plenty of different dairy cows and livestock plus what seems like one hundred different breeds of poultry and fowl - always my favorite fascination since my first trip as a little ag kid.  Antique farm equipment, tons of events including very popular rodeo competitions, informative exhibitions from local FFA students and merchants from all PA ag sectors - there's a great "Farm Show Dectective" program for children.  Anyone can learn something new at the farm show - I learn something new every year.  Of course, the Food Court is the star of the show with booths staffed with volunteers from many of the PA ag commodities (PA apple dumplings, PA fresh cut fries, PA trout sandwiches, PA thick milkshakes, PA lamb stew & beef sandwiches) and it's all prepared on site!  The farm show is free to enter, though parking is $10.  All those funds go to the PA Dept. of Agriculture which has taken hard and disproportionatey large budget cuts every year.  Food court purchases support the commodity boards, that is to say all the profit from our delicious apple dumplings funds vital research in the apple industry - research that benefits growers on the whole east coast, not only in Pennsylvania.  If you think you can make time to attend, I know you won't be disappointed.  Plus... you can chat it up with us at the following dates and times:


Monday 1/10/11 - Ben is helping at the Apple Exhibition in the Main Hall from sometime right after a delicious Food Court lunch until close (8pm)


Wednesday 1/12/11 - The whole crew:  brothers Dave & John, Ben, and possibly (hopefully) a few other familar faces will be pouring cider, warming dumplings and making apple & peach sundaes at the Apple Booth inside the Food Court from 3-9pm


The Farm Show is held annually at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA - a 2 1/2 hr drive from Washington, DC, a 1 1/2 hour drive from Towson, MD, and less than two hours away from sunny Philadelphia, PA.


You're certain to learn at least a little bit, over-eat a little bit, and lend a big hand to local agriculture.

Three Springs Fruit Farm







Posted 11/11/2010 3:35pm by Ben Wenk.

Three Springs Fruit FarmRevived for the sake of posterity, not to mentionGo Phils! a little nostalgia, this apple lineup was the second one we created after the original lineup, the 2007 lineup (lost to the world) was such a hit.  Little did we know at the time that the 2008 Phils would go on to be "World Champions of Baseball!" (rest in peace, HK).  So take a nostalgic look back at the apple version of the 2008 World Series Champion Phillies!


Apple/Pear Varieties!

  • Honeycrisp - Ryan Howard, 1b - So his average is down a little bit, the man collected 48 HRs and an eye-popping 146 RBI and played well down the stretch.  That makes him number one on our apple buffet!
  • Jonagold - Chase Utley, 2b - Has to be a close second in terms of importance to the Phils success this year - great season all the way around driving in runs and collecting hits in bunches - Jonagold, also second most popular eating apple here at Three Springs
  •  Jonathan - Shane Victorino, of - The Flyin' Hawaiian - perhaps the most underrated member of the '08 Phils, just as Jonathan ranks as the most underrated apple at Three Springs.  A Jonathan apple as a snack is almost, but not quite as clutch as that Grand Slam last week!  Woo-hoo!
  •   Gold Delicious - Jamie Moyer, sp - Ya know, Golds have been around for ever.  You probably figure, "hey, I know Golds - it's nothing special".  But ya know what, people have been saying the same thing about Jamie Moyer for nearly 10 years and still nobody roughs him up!
  •  Smokehouse - Brad Lidge, closer - The man throws smoke and, despite a little bit of excitement from time to time (like a zesty, tart apple), he was perfect in save opportunities in the regular season!
  •  Grimes Golden - Jayson Werth, of - Finally living up to the billing that made him a high draft choice of my Baltimore Orioles (grumble, grumble), Werth transformed himself from platoon duties in '07 to appearing in 134 games this season and came up with a bunch of clutch hits along the way!  His likeness to Grimes Golden is based solely on the fact that my O's didn't hold onto him, making me a little sour (read: "tart").
  •  Gala - Pat Burrell, lf - Pat, I believe, is the longest-tenured Phillies player just as Gala is the apple we've been bringing to market the longest.  It might make both the player and the apple easy to overlook, but biting into a Gala is still as exciting as a 3-run homerun to break open a close game, just like game 4 this past Sunday!
  •  Bosc Pears - Jimmy Rollins, ss - After a roller coaster regular season, last year's MVP is leading the Phils in batting this postseason, tearing up Brewers pitching for a .375 clip thus far.  Sweet way to start up an offense if you ask me - just like a Bosc pear is a sweet pregame snack!  (yes, I'm reaching on some of these, but I just wanna pay homage to the Phils!)
  •  Yellow Bartlett Pears - Cole Hamels, sp - Sure, let the sportscasters talk up how tough Sabathia is - there was no sweeter pitching performance in the playoffs than Cole Hamels, Game 1.  Relive that sweet performance on the mound with a sweet, yellow Bartlett pear (excuse me for that, the cheesiest entry yet)

Apples new for this week (Phillies new for this year)

  •   Stayman - Geoff Jenkins, of - A guy who's been around awhile (Staymen, an older variety), but is new to the Phils.  A left handed slugger who can come off the bench and swat one out of the park!  Staymen are a big hit with late season apple eaters with a preference for crisp, juicy, and a mild tart flavor!  (you're asked to provide your own rimshots on these)
  •   Mutsu/Crispin - So Taguchi, of - Mutsu are from Japan... So is from Japan.  Mutsu grow to be very very large... So... looks like he stopped growing in middle school, but he's more than meets the eye!  He's a heck of a ballplayer with postseason experience!  Mutsu look green and tart but are much sweeter than you expect, with a history of being a great eating apple!
  •   Paradise - Pedro Feliz, 3b - Not a whole lot of juice in that bat this year, but he flashed some sweet leather!  You'll be interested to learn that this unique apple has a killer sweetness but is a little less juicy than most!
  •  Granny Smith - Matt Stairs, of - A grizzled veteran from a foreign land who arrives late and puts some more pop on your bench!  Stairs hails from Canada and came to Philly in a late season trade.  Only Jamie Moyer is older than Matt Stairs.  So while Matt's wife may or may not be old enough to be a Granny, Granny Smith apples arrive late in the season and will provide a real punch of tartness right off the tree and come to us from the foreign land of Australia!
  •   Canned Peaches! - Carlos Ruiz, c - Rugged and durable, Carlos Ruiz calls a good game and throws out would be base-stealers.  All of our fresh peaches have been sold or thrown out except the ones we put in these rugged, durable cans earlier in the year for when we'd "run out"!  "Good call", eh?!
  •    Fresh Apple Cider - Scott Eyre, rp - Eyre deserves some recognition for posting a phenomial 1.17 WHIP down the stretch after the Phils acquired him from Chicago.  Good thing the Cubs were "so good" they didn't need him, right?!  Hahaha!  Ok, got that cheap shot in there.  Eyre has been really good... our cider continues to be really, really good!


2009 Phillies Lineup

2010 Phillies Lineup


2010 Orioles Lineup

Posted 11/11/2010 2:59pm by Ben Wenk.

Three Springs Fruit FarmFolks, we really do care about providing the tastiest, healthiest, local product around.  In this selection from our YouTube Channel, we go in depth about what distinguishes us from conventionally raised tree fruit.  Topics covered include partnering with the folks at the Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Center, Pheromone Mating Disruption, scouting with pheromone traps, and our basic philosophy regarding our growing methods.

for further reading:

or Three Springs Growing Practices

Posted 10/28/2010 3:57pm by Ben Wenk.

Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable AgricultureThree Springs Fruit FarmPASA & Three Springs Fruit Farm team up for a Farm Tour and Q&A session about Food Alliance Certification!


Click to register for our Nov. 10th Farm Tour!



We get asked all the time "can we come out to the farm"?  "Can we pick your own at your farm"?  First of all, we're very flattered and we appreciate your interest.  We're still new at the farmers market game and we're not trying to bite off more than we can chew.  However, it did occur to me that it might be nice to invite all of our awesome customers out for a yearly tour - that folks would appreciate seeing exactly where their food comes from.  Already having that notion in my head, when we were honored with the opportunity to host a PASA Field Day on our farm I thought it would be a great chance to invite everyone out, see how things went and see if it's something folks would be into.  In the the case of this tour, your $25 registration fee will support one of the landmark Local & Sustainable Food Advocacy groups on the whole East Coast, PASA.  They are the voice of so many small, family-owned farms in the Mid-Atlantic and they host a terrific annual conference that I've attended regularly since starting our farmers market venture.  I hope you'll consider joining us on this tour.  It's catered by some great local food purveyors in our backyard, PLUS... by attending, you'll get an awesome, behind the scenes glimpse into the new and exciting crops you can expect to see at farmers markets in the future, such as the mysterious cruchberries and schnozberries of blogs past!  Please comment or email with any questions about this fun day in rural Adams County!

Posted 10/7/2010 3:46pm by Ben Wenk.

Three Springs Fruit Farm

Phils fan "Midge", an Eck/Wenk family peta






Alrighty, Phils fans!  Playoffs are in full swing again this year and we're back with another winning apple lineup!  As some of you already know, we've been doing farmers markets in Philly for four years and, not coincidentally, the Fightins have won the NL East every year (I'm definitely not omitting Chase Utley again this year)!  Furthermore, I've likened the Phillies players to our ripe apple varieties each year, leading, by in large, to terrific postseason performances like what we witnessed from Doc Halladay last night.  Afterall, I was brainstorming this lineup last night when I had to stop and watch history be made!  Bodes well, folks.  We've got high Apple Pie in the sky hopes!

- Roy "Doc" Halladay, SP  He's the best!  What else can you say?  He won 21 games, first 20 game winner since Steve Carlton.  Honeycrisp is the perfect eating apple, "Doc" threw a perfect game!  The National League is certainly wishing that an apple a day could keep "Doc" away (we don't sell to the competition).  side note: he's driving in a run as I type this!

Jonagold - Roy Oswalt, SP - The Phillies are set up for big things based on their "Bermuda Triangle" of starting pitching (H-2,O).  Our "Big Three" (which is really four) includes Honeycrisp, Jonagold, and Gala (and Fuji, more on this later).  And since Roy was the last piece of the Triangle (as Jonagold is the last of these varieties to ripen), it's easy to see the similarity between this Texas righty and this... sweet/tart... crunchy piece of fruit... am I right?

Gala - Cole Hamels, SP - Cole was the first of the Triangle to arrive on the scene, in early August!  No, wait... those were the Gala.  Hamels has been with the Phillies since being a first round pick of the club in the 2002 draft.  He's had a bounce back season in 2010, has a really sweet flavor, and is the perfect size for kids lunchboxes!  Oh... switch that... err... I think you follow.

Fuji - Chase Utley, 2B - The man was an unstoppable force in last years postseason and this fruit grower is looking forward to more of the same from this slick-hitting second baseman.  In light of his unforgivable and errant initial exclusion in this lineup last year, Chase is taking his rightful place at the top of our apple pecking order.  Also, be sure to cut up a sweet Fuji apple to balance the tangy salad dressings or sharp cheeses in your postseason snacking.

Red Delicious
- Jayson Werth, OF - Jayson Werth's got a great look about him, with the bushy beard and the long hair.  Red Delicious looks good in a fruit bowl beside a banana!  ... sweet!

Golden Delicious - Carlos "Chooch" Ruiz, C - Phils fans, hear me out.  You know how you've exhausted yourself trying to explain how important Chooch is to the Phils to fans of other teams?  This is how I feel about folks who tell me Golds are mushy!  Most Underrated Phillie and Most Undeerrated Apple are a perfect pairing... kind of like Golds with Peanut Butter when the Phils are up four runs in the fourth (as I write this lineup Wednesday night).

Empire - Shane "The Flyin' Hawaiian" Victorino, OF - More proof that good things come in small packages, this diminuative switch hitter's 18 home runs was good for third on a team loaded with (albeit injured, in some cases this year) power hitters.  Empire apples, also generally smaller, are thin-skinned and tasty - a little more sweet than tart.

Ida Red - Wilson Valdez, IF - Worthy of attention, this journeyman filled in admirably, providing steady defense at many infield positions while many of the Phillies infield regulars missed time to various injuries.  Ida Reds fill pies well, provide firm, steady texture to many baking applications and fills many positions for apple fans who bake, enjoy a tart eating apples, or need a good cider base!

Nittany - Ryan Howard, 1B - When Ryan turns on that inside fastball, his creamy-smooth swing gets Phillies fans all charged up.  The creamy sweet-tart flavor of the Nittany apple is a real homerun for folks who love good eating apples (rimshot).

Cameo - Raul Ibanez, LF - The man who made Phillies fans forget completely about Pat Burrell is getting primed for the postseason.  Despite more moderate numbers in most power statistics, Ibanez hit for a slightly better average and got on base more frequently this year compared to last.  It's easy to let his torrid 2009 campaign make light of his key contributions to this year's club.  Cameo have super tart-sweet flavor and share a name with a funky 80's band... they can't all fit together nicely, folks!

Granny Smith
- Brad "Lights Out" Lidge, CL - He's back!  In addition to moonlighting as a local food advocate (cheers, Brad, Lindsay and Food Trust folks), he converted an eye-popping 27 of 32 save situations and put himself in contention for comeback player of the year, though I'm sure Brad would tell you he has his mind of some other hardware.  All he's done is show up at the end of games and kick the door shut.  By comparision, Granny Smiths show up at the end of the apple harvest season and, despite their very docile monicker, kick in with a booming tart flavor.

Rome Beauty - Ben Francisco, OF - Cliff Lee might have moved on, but he wasn't the only man to come over in that fateful trade from Cleveland.  Francisco, besides having the best praenomen on the roster (pip, pip) adds to a deep bench that can make or break a team's postseason bid.  He's also perfect in steals this season, swiping eight bags without being caught stealing.  If you're needing a sturdy apple to add to your playoff pie, we give Rome Beauty high marks.  We just ask that you pay for them as opposed to stealing them.  Just because Ben Francisco doesn't get caught doesn't mean you won't and besides, we round down to the quarter every time!

Mutsu - Placido Polanco, IF - Placido Polanco might have the largest head in the history of Major League baseball!  Look at the size of that gourd!  It's like a watermelon on a toothpick!  But seriously, the former Phil came back to play everyday third base and didn't disappoint.  Feel better, P-squared.  By the way, the largest Mutsu apples are the size of a toddler's cranium... nothing grows to the size of Polanco's noggin.  I swear pop-outs get stuck in its orbit.

Bosc Pears - Jimmy Rollins, SS - The former NL MVP missed a lot of time to injury and probably isn't 100% yet but is one of the most important players on which the Phillies rely.  He provides gold glove caliber defense up the middle, gets on base and sets the table for the big eaters in the lineup, all while providing a lot of the inspiration in the clubhouse.  Despite his sweet, smooth athleticism, he plays with a lot of grit.  Similarly, despite their gritty texture, the Bosc Pears are the sweetest fruit at Three Springs... its the only pear we have this time of year.  Here's hopin' Jimmy & Chase turn a "pear" every chance they get this postseason!  (just a reminder that cheesy goes with pears just as well as with apples)

see also:

2009 Phillies Lineup

2008 Phillies Lineup (revived soon)


2010 Orioles Lineup

Also, most of you know about Brad and Lindsay Lidge's Campaign with the Food Trust for Healthy Eating but if you didn't, here's some info:


Posted 10/7/2010 3:09pm by Ben Wenk.

Three Springs Fruit Farm

go o's!


In 2007, after several weeks of updating our farmers market customers with descriptions of apple varieties, I was struck with a nasty bout of writers block.  I had to come up with a new way to describe these apples - a way my customers could appreciate.  It was our first year of markets - all of them in Philadelphia where the hometown Phillies had just won the NL East after a legendary choke job by the Mets.  With Phillies Phever in full swing, I described the apples by comparing them to Phillies players.  It was a big hit (so to speak)!  The Phils fought admirably in the playoffs before falling to the Rockies that season.  However, emboldened by my 2008 Phillies Apple Lineup, the Fightin's went on to win the World Series.  They made a return trip last year after another Apple Lineup.  You'll recall how well Chase Utley played in October last year - no doubt miffed he wasn't included that season's lineup.

I've had a lot of fun with this over the years.  Fast forward to this season, and the last few months of the Orioles season were more fun to watch than any in years!  Buck Showalter got the team turned around and playing "The Oriole Way".  So in homage to the revived Baltimore Orioles AND since it's brought so much luck to Philadelphia's Phillies, I give you the inaugural Baltimore Orioles Apple Lineup.

Honeycrisp - Buck Showalter, "skipper" - Our tree fruit ripened early this year, thanks to a warm spring and elevated soil temperatures brought on by a long snow pack.  The Orioles, however, ripened late - thanks to the guidance of skipper Buck Showalter!  Sure, there were key guys who got healthy when he showed up, but you can't say that for the starting pitchers who were, all the sudden, going 7 innings strong after he took over.  Likewise, the only reason a lot of people show up for farmers markets in cold weather are crispy, sweet, tangy, Honeycrisp apples.

Jonagold - Luke Scott, DH/OF - Luke Scott was the MVP of the club this year and carried them single-handedly at times with an incredibly hot bat.  Fortunately for all O's fans, the streaky slumps he's known for were fewer and farther between this year.  Good thing Jonagolds aren't inconsistent!  They have a flavor that ranks with Honeycrisp and a bold, syrupy flesh.

Gala - Brian Roberts, 2B - I'm sure Brian would rather forget this year, one marred by injuries and rehab.  That being said, when he returned, he largely looked like the same player we've become accustomed to... a short leadoff hitter with speed who makes things happen on offense.  You won't be offended by the small, sweet morsels in the Gala crates at market.  They too are going fast!

Fuji - Nick Markakis, RF - One of the best defensive RF in the game, Nick had a steady year at the dish despite his power numbers suffering a bit.  We're glad his contract was extended so we can enjoy above average play in right for years to come.  Similarly, Fuji are not only sweet and crunchy for snacks and salads, they're known as GREAT keepers - lasting for months in refrigeration!

- Adam Jones, CF - It was another up and down year for Adam Jones who showed flashes of brilliance at the plate yet is still not quite putting it altogether.  He's a little up and a little down, but he's growing!  Nittany are a little sweet and a little tart.  They're done growing... that's why we picked them!

Red Delicious
- Matt Weiters, C - Weiters looks really good in the batting cage.  We've been told for years now about how he's going to be a feared, middle of the lineup bat.  So far, we've been a little disappointed.  Red Delicious have always been a good-looking apple.  Some people have told us that they're really good... there's still plenty of time for Matt to make a real 'Honeycrisp' oughtta himself, no need to go tart on him yet, O's fans.

Golden Delicious - Cesar Izturis, SS - Cesar is an under-appreciated member of the O's because he doesn't bring much flair.  His offensive game is very average and he isn't a "web gem" highlight reel defensive star.  What's underappreciated is he makes all the plays he should.  All the best teams are built around strong defense up the middle... well, except maybe the Yankees (Jeter isn't 26 any more).  Golden Delicious apples are also under-appreciated and dismissed as mushy.  They don't make many "favorite apple" lists, but they are sweet, they are tangy, they have great texture and they've got a syrupy, winey quality when they are fresh!

Granny Smith
- Jake Arrietta, SP - Jake has a great fastball and above average breaking stuff, but he's still a little green.  Granny Smith have great texture and are above average for baking stuff... and they are very very green.

- Brian Matusz, SP - Just a perfect example of the impact of Buck Showalter.  All the sudden, the young lefty was pitching with confidence late into ballgames.  Just what we like to see!  In our Empire, we like to see a bi-colored skin with pretty white flesh when you bite in - I mean REALLY white!  The flavor is a little more sweet than tart.  If they call the Yankees The Evil Empire, I want to be sure to point out that all these apples have in common with the #*&$ Yankees is the state of origin.

Ida Red
- Jeremy Guthrie, SP - Jeremy ended the year with a good run of starts.  Had a few bumps along the way, but overall another very decent year for the righty who set a career mark for wins.  He can really bring the heat when he needs to.  Add heat to an Ida Red and you'll be remarkably surprised how well the apple maintains good texture and how the flavors brighten a little bit.

Rome Beauty - Felix Pie, OF - The ressurection project that is Felix Pie.  Depending on who you ask, it might be over - he might be a bona fide big leaguer!  He sure looked like one in longer stretches than ever before, and that's a terrific sign.  He always had all the physical ability in the world.  Oh wait, I should explain how Felix "Pie" is like this apple... are you really going to make me connect the dots for you?

Bosc Pears - Kevin Millwood, SP - It all went pear-shaped for Kevin Millwood in 2010.

- Ty Wigginton, IF - Ty made a cameo appearance in the 2010 All Star game, as the O's representative.  Actually, the way he was hitting back then, if that goofball manager of the Yanks wouldn't have pinch hit that piece of garbage Nick Swisher and let Ty hit, we might have won the thing... anyhow.  He lost his All Star form in the second half.  Cameo lose a little of their tartness in storage and are a teriffic eating apple fresh or in the spring!

Mutsu - Koji Uehara, CL - I don't know if he's clumsy or just has bad luck, but I'm glad this Japanese import got healthy in time to contribute because he really attacks hitters coming in out of the bullpen late in games.  Mutsu are another Japanese import - a late ripener with good tangy zing, attacks the palate!

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.

Ned Flanders, cider enthusiastCider, 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 9/22/2010 2:43pm by Ben Wenk.

Three Springs Fruit FarmAs many folks heard, President Barack Obama was a surprise visitor of the Reading Terminal Market this past Monday. As was also reported by a few outlets, the President purchased some apples to go along with his token cheesesteaks, apples some reported he undervalued.  We're here to set the record straight, commend the fine folks at Fairfood Farmstand for making the sale, and to confirm that these apples were our tasty, Gala apples!

So the quick synopsis of the story is that the President stopped by the Reading Terminal Market to grab a Carmen's cheesesteak to go (wiz with! good call, Prez).  It was while he was waiting for his steaks that the Fairfood Farmstand's own Federico Santoyo calls out to Pres. Obama, "How about getting something local and healthy for after your cheesesteak?"  As you can see, Fed is the star of this story, we did absolutely nothing.  Bold move on his part - it paid off!  President Obama ventured over to Fair Food and picked out four Gala apples (yes, our Gala apples) so that "Michelle would feel like I'm eating healthy", according to one CNN account.  As I kind of expected, the notion Obama didn't pay enough to buy the apples was falsely reported.  Federico was attempting to offer the Leader of the Free World something of an Executive discount - put in the same position, I don't think I'd feel right charging The President full rate either!  As seen on Fairfood's Facebook page:

evidence, people!Look at that pearl of investigative journalism!  So anyhow, cheers to the folks at the Fairfood Farmstand - they really do have a terrific operation there, it's your centrally located "Farmers Market Away From Farmers Market".  While I'm at it, a big "thank you" to all of the like-minded stands with a passion for local wares who carry our products in Philadelphia!  For the weekends you're out of town and find yourself needing that mid-week Fruit Fix, here's a partial list of where our delicious fruit can be found!

Public Domain Obama images are tough to find


edit:  proof I should leave this to the professionals, Bob's Market Report reports the Secret Security had recently cased Reading Terminal, indicating it was no "spur of the moment" stop.  Also, I can't believe I left out the President grabbing some Bassett's mint chocolate chip on the way out!  Another fine choice!

edit II: Poll: 1 in 5 Americans Believe Obama Is A Cactus