Honeycrisp may be the apple of the moment, but the apple of my eye is the GoldRush, a late-maturing variety that isn’t ready to pick until the end of October. Bright yellow, lightly speckled, with a deep rose—almost russet—blush, GoldRush is one gorgeous apple. Its ivory-colored flesh is firm and dense—so dense that when I tried using an apple corer to slice one it broke the plastic frame of the thing. When you bite into a GoldRush you get a mouthful of juice and a burst of spicy, sweet-tart flavor, plus an acidic kick. A gold rush, if you will. There’s a winey intensity to it that I’ve tasted in no other apple.
I would like to say that GoldRush’s provenance is romantic, that it sprang from a seed that was once upon a time scattered along the Ohio Valley by Johnny Appleseed himself. But in spite of its alluring heirloom looks and evocative name, the GoldRush is a product of modern day horticulture, a creation of the cooperative breeding program of Purdue University, Rutgers University, and the University of Illinois. Here’s how the program’s web site describes the apple’s origins:
“The original seedling was planted in May 1973 in the HE block on the Purdue Horticulture Research Farm, West Lafayette, Ind., where its position was row 4, tree 16 (HER4T 16) and had the designation PRI 27506 in our breeding records. The seedling is derived from a cross made in 1972 at Urbana, Ill., of ‘Golden Delicious’ as the seed parent with Co-op 17 (PRI 1689-110) as the pollen parent.” (Co-op 17 was itself an experimental apple, derived from no fewer than eight varieties, including (but not limited to) Rome Beauty, Golden Delicious, and Melrose.)
Soooo romantic. But then, Honeycrisp is also a product of a breeding program (University of Minnesota), as are many other tasty apples, including Pink Lady, an Australian cultivar; and Fuji, which was developed in Japan. In fact, it’s hard to find an apple in the wild that is good enough to eat. The fruit has been cultivated since Roman times, and most apples, whether developed in a university breeding program or grown in someone’s backyard, are propagated by grafting rather than from seed.
I have yet to see GoldRush in a supermarket produce bin, so look for it at farmers’ markets. My local source is Twin Springs Fruit Farm, which has stands at numerous farmers’ markets in Maryland, D.C., and northern Virginia. Aubrey from Twin Springs says it will be another couple of weeks before the apple is available, so be sure keep an eye out for it.
In addition to being a great munching apple, GoldRush is an excellent apple to pair with cheese, particularly cow’s milk cheeses, from buttery brie types to crumbly aged cheddars. It’s also a good pie apple, especially when combined with other apples for a variety of textures and flavors, and it is delicious mixed with pears in this Harvest Crostata.
Do you have a favorite apple? Tell me about it.
More on apples: I came across this appreciation of the wild apple by Henry David Thoreau, from the November 1862 issue of The Atlantic. It’s quite lengthy, obviously written at a time when we had longer attention spans! But it’s a wonderful essay and glimpse back at foraging in an earlier time. It is also prescient. Towards the end of the essay, Thoreau writes, “The era of the Wild Apple will soon be past…Since the temperance reform and the general introduction of grafted fruit, no native apple-trees, such as I see everywhere in deserted pastures, and where the woods have grown up around them, are set out. I fear that he who walks over these fields a century hence will not know the pleasure of knocking off wild apples. Ah, poor man, there are many pleasures which he will not know!”