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Dolgo crab apples, ready to pick.

The tail of summer brings the orchard’s first harvest. While a rush of apple varieties ripen in fall, summer has just a handful. I grow two important examples.

First come the Dolgo crab apples. The Dolgo originated in Russia, grown from seed at the Imperial Botanical Gardens in St Petersburg, in 1897. The tree appeared in the United States in 1917. How reassuring that in the rotten heart of World War I, someone focused on apples. In spring, the Dolgos bloom profusely, small pink splashes brightening the fields and, importantly, providing reliable pollen for the entire orchard. When ripe in mid-August, the apples range from the size of large cherries to small plums, often somewhat elongated. They have a dusky glow, seen below.

A bin of Dolgo crab apples.

The Dolgo is crisp and juicy, with full apple flavor, much more tart than sweet. I find the first two or three Dolgos delicious, eaten in a few bites, and then the tartness overwhelms. Their prime use is to be pressed and mixed into cider, especially hard cider, and I will pursue this in years ahead. For now, they have been cooked into spiced crab apples, using an old Adirondack recipe, with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and brown sugar, then canned for winter. They make a delicious garnish for pork and turkey.

Spiced crab apples, ready for shipment to kitchens world-wide.

Williams’ Pride is the second summer harvest, picked at the turn of August to September. Unlike most of the apples I’ve planted, Williams’ Pride is not an heirloom. The tree is uncommon but relatively modern, developed in the 1970s at Purdue University, part of a project to breed disease-resistant apples. It grew from a cross of many older varieties, including Jonathan, Melba, Red Rome, Rome Beauty, Wealthy, and Mollie’s Delicious, together with several unnamed cultivars. The result is a vigorous tree, hardy against pernicious fungal pests, yielding beautiful fruit. The apples are medium in size and, when ripe, a striking plum-purple. This is shown below; note the healthy foliage and branches, reflecting disease resistance.

Williams’ Pride is the season’s first great eating apple: crisp, juicy, and sweet, often tasting slightly floral or perfumed. I’ve eaten one for dessert each night for two weeks. It exhibits a property called “staining,” in which pigment from the skin spills into the flesh. This is seen on the cheese board, below.

Williams’ Pride apple and gouda cheese.

My largest summer crop is inedible, a harvest not of apples but electrons. The orchard power plant is pictured below, a 4.4 kilowatt solar array that began operation in February 2017. The sixteen panels generate one hundred percent of my home and orchard demand. The bumper season runs May through September, electrons boiling off the roof and into the power grid, banking credit for the dark winter. Whenever I cook a meal, take a bath, watch tv, or stay up reading apple catalogs, the meter runs on the sun.

Philo Farm Electric Co.

The entire orchard is a work of conservation. Saving heirloom apples is tremendous, but the solar plant is the most important thing I’ve done. Every one of us needs to cut carbon now. And while the roof soaks in sunlight, look below to find an apple hound enjoying the shade.

Hound at rest.

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