The Duchess is Waiting

Sansa apples, Tougas Family Farm, Northborough, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell)

THERE ARE TWO TYPES of early season apples: heirlooms that were once valued for extending the season, and newer varieties that give apple lovers some great early choices. Many are now available in New England orchards.

The main difference between the two types is storage ability. Early heirlooms like Lodi, Red Astrachan, and Yellow Transparent, some of which were already being harvested in late July, give apple lovers their first great taste of the season. But they have a shelf life of only a few weeks.

Click on the apple’s or orchard’s name to learn more about it!

The heirloom Gravenstein at Tougas Family Farm, Northborough, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell)

NEWER EARLY VARIETIES last longer — not as long as most late-season varieties, but much better than the heirlooms, firm and crisp well into September. These include Akane, Ginger Gold, Honeycrisp, Marshall McIntosh, Paula Red, Pristine, Sansa, Williams’ Pride, and Zestar!.

Duchess of Oldenburg apples at Scott Farm Orchard, Dummerston, Vermont. (Russell Steven Powell)

The heirloom Gravenstein, which dates back to the 1600s, is also among this group, remaining flavorful and firm for several weeks.

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ONE OF THE EARLY heirlooms being harvested now is Duchess of Oldenburg, a stunning apple with beautiful, yellow-and-red striped skin. Its flesh is yellowish, firm, crisp, and juicy. A highly aromatic apple, it has excellent culinary qualities. It does not keep especially well.

Also known as Charlamowsky, Duchess of Oldenburg, was one of four Russian apples (including Red Astrachan) imported to the United States by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society from the London Horticultural Society in 1835.

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           ‘A Day of Apples and Art’

Saturday, September 4 at Sholan Farms

Paula Red apples, available now at orchards like Tougas Family Farm, Northborough, Massachusetts, taste similar to McIntosh. (Russell Steven Powell)

“A Day of Apples and Art” at Sholan Farms in Leominster, Massachusetts, will officially launch the 2021 New England apple harvest. Sponsored by New England Apple Association, the daylong celebration of locally grown fruit will be Saturday, September 4, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.

While a few early apples are already being harvested at some orchards, more than a dozen varieties will be available by September, many of them new to the public. 

Russell Steven Powell, author of America’s AppleApples of New England, and a seasonal apple blog at, will display, describe, and sample as many as 15 early season varieties.

Mark Richardson, horticulturist at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts, will talk about heirloom apples and Tower Hill’s expanded preservation orchard, one of the largest of its kind in the nation, with more than 100 pre-1900 varieties of apples.

Chef Paul Correnty, author of The Art of Cidermaking, will give a talk about the history of cider in New England.

Artist Jan Ruby will lead a painting workshop for children. A lifelong art educator, she currently teaches classes at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton, Mass.

Throughout the day, visitors will be able to meet with and observe “plein air” painters as they tour the orchard.

In addition to plenty of apples and fresh cider, local food trucks will be on hand, and there will be live music.

The “Day of Apples and Art” is the first in a series of proposed “traveling museum” events planned around New England to showcase New England-grown apples and orchards and their rich history. The events are part of a feasibility study for a New England Museum of Apples and Cider that would promote locally grown apples and ciders year-round.

For more information, write to 

Zestar! apples are now available at orchards like Sholan Farms, Leominster, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell)
A good crop of McIntosh apples is ripening at Clearview Farm, Sterling, Massachusetts, and other New England orchards. They should be ready for picking around Labor Day in many locations. (Russell Steven Powell)