Discovery

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Posts Tagged ‘apple’

Fresh and fruity goodness from WSU’s Tukey Orchard

A couple of days into fall—even though it feels like summer here in Pullman—and I’m craving some fruit. So I jump at the chance to head out past the bears and the golf course to Tukey Orchard and grab some fresh apples.

Apple samples at WSU's Tukey Orchard

Apple samples at WSU's Tukey Orchard

About ten varieties await me when I arrive at the warehouse on the edge of the orchard. I’m not an apple connoisseur, so I chop off samples and do a taste test. Some are sweet and crispy, others frankly a little soft for me. I end up with a bag of Berry and a bag of Tydeman’s, two toothsome varieties I’d probably never find in the grocery store, especially at 85 cents a pound.

Of course, Tukey is not all about my enjoyment of sweet fresh apples. Tree fruit research and education has long been part of Washington State University. Those efforts will be advanced even further by the largest gift in the University’s history. Apple and pear growers throughout the state agreed to make a historic investment of $27 million over the next eight years to support tree fruit research and extension.

While not all tasty Tukey produce is organic, they have several organic acres as part of WSU’s organic farm. That makes it even more appropriate to indulge, because last week was Washington Organic Week. The Tilth Producers of Washington organized the celebration with events ranging from organic chocolate tastings in Seattle to “Forks Up For Farmers” meals supporting local farms.

Apples on sale at Tukey Orchard

Apples on sale at Tukey Orchard

According to the state Department of Agriculture, Washington is second only to California in the U.S. for production of organic food and leads the country in producing organic apples, pears, cherries, sweet corn, green peas, snap beans, and onions.

More fruit sales are on the way at Tukey this fall. Next up for me: pears. The orchard has 83 varieties of apples, 11 varieties of pears, cherries and more, so I’ll be trying them out for a while. And Tukey will continue to help develop our state’s signature fruits.

As Vancouver newspaper The Columbian pointed out in an editorial praising the new tree fruit grant, “If you enjoy eating apples and pears—and as a Washingtonian, you’re obligated to—then you can rest assured about the future of those crops in the state.”

WSU's Tukey Orchard, late September 2011.

WSU's Tukey Orchard, late September 2011.

A good apple (cider)

Every year hard apple cider consultant Peter Mitchell treks from Britain to Mount Vernon teach a course in cider making to serious hobbyists and business owners. Last week 19 students from around the United States and Canada met with him at the Washington State University Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center to learn everything from the history of cider production to fruit selection and fermentation.

Examining the color of a cider

Examining the color of a cider

I skipped the orchard management and yeast handling instructions, but on the last day nosed in on the sensory evaluation training. The students met at the picturesque La Conner Flats farm to sample ciders and even share some of their own homemade efforts. Under the green and white striped awning of the patio Mitchell stood in front of a table populated with bottles – tall and short, from cider businesses just five miles away and as distant as Spain and France.

To lay a tasting groundwork, Mitchell began with two simple samples that were made from apples grown at the WSU research station. The first was cider made from galas, which he called dessert apples. The sample filled our glasses with a bright yellow. He held it up and asked the students to describe the color. “Clear,” said one lady. “Light caramel,” said another. “I would very much describe this as straw,” he said peering down into his own glass. A few wrote that in their notebooks. Then he told them to look at the liquid. Is it thick, did it shine? Yes, and a little.

“Keep it still and see what you can pick up,” he said, “Then give it a good swirl.” The swirl brought up a “hint of cantelope,” and “citrusy.” It’s not complex, he noted, it’s more winey.  “And that’s about it. Not a lot. Don’t go looking for something that isn’t there.”

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