WEALTHY IS A MIDWESTERN HEIRLOOM with New England roots. In 1853, Peter Gideon moved to Minnesota and began experimenting with apple growing, planting thousands of trees. Most died within a few years, and none bore much fruit.
In 1861, Gideon sent the family’s last eight dollars to apple grower Albert Emerson in Bangor, Maine, and received a bushel of apple seeds in exchange. One of these seeds, crossed with a Siberian crab apple, produced the apple that Gideon later named after his wife, Wealthy (Hull) Gideon. A century ago, Wealthy was one of the nation’s five most popular apples.
Wealthy has white flesh that is sometimes stained red, and it is crisp, fragrant, and very juicy, with a sprightly tart flavor. It is considered an excellent dessert and multi-purpose apple. Like most heirlooms, Wealthys are not available at all orchards. If you are lucky enough to find them, try them in our favorite recipe for New England Apple Cake.
New England Apple Cake
3 Wealthy or other New England apples, unpeeled, cored, and chopped
¾ c sugar
¾ c canola oil
3 c flour, half whole wheat, half white
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
½ t nutmeg
2 t vanilla
¾ c applesauce
1 c pecans or walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Beat sugar and oil with a whisk or electric mixer. Add eggs and beat well. Combine and mix in dry ingredients. Stir in vanilla, applesauce, apples, and nuts. Pour into baking dish. Bake 60-70 minutes. Cake should be golden brown and firm.
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NEW ENGLAND’S THIRD ANNUAL APPLE DAY to celebrate the kick-off of the 2011 fresh harvest will be held Wednesday, September 7, in all of the New England states except Connecticut, which will hold its Apple Day Friday, September 2. The Commissioners of Agriculture in each of the New England states will be visiting orchards on Apple Day to meet with growers, learn about the new crop, and bite into a fresh apple straight from the tree.
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INITIAL REPORTS suggest that the New England apple crop suffered some damage from Tropical Storm Irene, but it was less severe than predicted. As this is written Monday night, we still have not heard from growers in Vermont, which may have been the hardest hit of the New England states. But central and eastern New England seem to have fared relatively well, with only modest losses.
There was greater damage in southern New England, and both Connecticut and Rhode Island may have lost as much as 10 percent to 15 percent of the crop. But the worst-case scenario was averted, thankfully, and there will still be plenty of apples on the trees for picking this fall. Most of the region’s pick-your-own orchards will be open Labor Day weekend, but call ahead to make sure that your local orchard was not impacted by the storm.