first generation apple farmers
Kordick Family Farm is a mother-daughter operation that was founded in 2009, when we planted our first 850 apple trees in Stokes County, NC. We primarily grow heirloom and regional apple varieties, with several grafted from local sources (you won’t find any HoneyCrisp apples on this farm). We are continually experimenting in our efforts to be as holistic as possible in practice.
At a time when most commercial orchards are moving towards high-density dwarf variety plantings of trees, our semi-dwarf trees…
…are huge by current standards, the kind of tall, sprawling trees that used to be the norm in American orchards. Growing to about 20 feet high and spaced about 16 feet apart, they require ladders to pick the fruit, but aesthetically, we just like big apple trees that you can climb in, as well as the idea that they will be here long after we’re gone. And practically-speaking, our large trees are much more hardy and self-reliant than dwarf varieties, which is always a plus in a two-person operation.
In recent years, we have expanded our apple orchard to include about 1,800 trees total, representing about 175 different apple varieties. We also have a small pear orchard and handfuls of other fruits, including peaches, plums, figs, che fruit, and blackberries, planted on the farm. In coming years, we will be expanding our pear planting, and are always interested in adding more tree fruits (some familiar, and some quite exotic) into the mix.
The first members of our family to emigrate from Russia to the United States came in the early 1900’s by way of Ellis Island. They settled in a Northeastern mill town and eventually started a small dairy and subsistence farm. Some of the fruit trees they planted still stand on the old homestead, and while…
…the first Kordicks in this country became proud Americans, they also left behind an appreciation for certain Old World customs and folklore that our family continues to enjoy today.
Every culture seems to have a bogeyman of sorts that is held over the heads of misbehaving children, and in Russia and several other Eastern European countries, children were raised to beware lest Baba Yaga, a rugged forest witch, seize them and gobble them up. Baba Yaga features in many famous Russian stories, often as a fearsome antagonist, yet she is also frequently portrayed as simply a wise old woman (or women, as she also may be depicted as three sisters) of the woods who serves as a guide to the heroes and heroines of folklore.
Baba Yaga's Apples of Eternal Youth story
Like many apple growers of the last century, we have deliberately branded our apples with an eye-catching logo and artwork. 20th Century fruit crate labels are now collectibles, sought after for the evocative art that was meant to catch consumers’ eyes on city streets and entice them to gravitate towards one grower’s fruits over another’s.
There is a Baba Yaga fairy tale about a quest for golden apples that bring eternal youth to those that possess them, and it was this story that inspired us to stylize our…
…apples as “Baba Yaga’s Apples of Eternal Youth,” and to come up with our own version of the story, as well as revive the old fruit crate label tradition.
We worked with Greensboro-based artist Liz McKinnon (www.heartshinestudios.com) to design a watercolor illustration of Baba Yaga with the famed apples, not in Old World Russia, but in our neck of the North Carolina foothills. As the crow flies, Kordick Family Farm is about 15 minutes north of Pilot Mountain, and we have a postcard view of the knob from the center of our property. To our west lie the Blue Ridge Mountains, while the Sauratown range borders us to the east. The Dan River is mere minutes away to the south of the farm.
Our Apple Cider Syrup
It takes a long time for large apple trees to start bearing fruit, period. And if you’re trying to grow apples in the Southeast, it takes an even longer time to hit upon the right mix of practices to produce fruit of consistently high quality. This means we’ve had a lot of time to think about what we want to do with our apples, and smaller quantities of fruit to play around with. In this manner, we created our flagship product: Baba Yaga’s Apple Cider Syrup.
Much like hard cider, apple cider syrup was …
…an American staple in past centuries, a stable, homegrown sweetener that had endless uses. However, with the advent of alternative sweeteners and more diverse crop varieties, cider syrup all but disappeared from the pantry.
When we became interested in re-introducing cider syrup, we sought out the local Southern experts: sorghum syrup producers. A very generous, close-knit community, our new friends taught us the sorghum syrup-making process and helped us adapt it to cider syrup.
Starting with 100% apple juice (cider), we boil enormous pans over a wood fire for hours until it is reduced to about a 1/10 of the original volume. At this point, the sugars have concentrated to form a thickened syrup that is wonderfully fragrant and tangy in apple flavor, and is ready for . . . almost anything.
Really. It is actually easier and infinitely quicker to list the things that cider syrup wouldn’t be good on (Fish. Well, most fish. It’s actually wonderful on salmon!). The most obvious, and hard-to-beat, application is to pour cider syrup over pancakes, biscuits, and other breakfast pastries. Perhaps the most unexpected use, however, is to make a braise or sauce for savory items like pork roast or sweet potato gratin/casserole. It even pairs well with salads in the form of a vinaigrette. Try drizzling it over ice cream or yogurt, spoon it on top of oatmeal, add it to popcorn . . . Beverage-wise, you can make an instant cup of hot cider by adding about 4 Tbsp (or to taste) cider syrup to a cup of hot water. Add a shot of brandy or rum to your cup, or add cider syrup to any number of cocktails and mixed drinks. Finally, cider syrup can be used in baking, much like maple syrup.
Apple cider syrup is a staple that never should have left the American kitchen.
Our GROWING PRACTICES
Like many unconventional farmers, we have struggled to find a term that describes our growing practices, while also communicating in a single word our management philosophy to consumers. ‘Natural’ and ‘sustainable’ mean nothing without context. ‘Low-spray’ can be used by growers who spray conventional chemicals, but at their lowest possible application rates. Most of the materials we apply happen to be approved by OMRI (the Organic Materials Review Institute), however, use of the term ‘organic’ implies certification, which we are not. We are beyond organic at this point in our growing careers, and have finally settled on the term, ‘holistic,’ in the sense championed by Michael Phillips (http://www.groworganicapples.com).
Over the years we have found the most widely available commercial formulations of organic chemicals tend to have one thing in common: it’s not so much that they work well against pests and disease and truly promote good crop health; more so, it’s that they do no harm. Low efficacy coupled with premium price tags just doesn’t cut it on our farm, and after losing apple crop after apple crop in spite of our diligent lockstep organic program, we decided we needed to find a better way to grow. We think we’ve found it. To large extent, we have stopped thinking like conventional and conventional organic growers, who are mostly concerned with preempting pest and disease pressure with preventative chemical sprays, as well as responding with curative formulations once pest and disease pressure is in evidence.
Instead, we focus on cultivating trees, and indeed, an orchard environment, of such optimal overall health that it is not as sensitive to a disease or pest outbreak, not unlike a person who eats healthy, doesn’t try to sterilize everything in sight, but maintains good hygiene, and thus is much less likely to be laid up by the latest bug going around. To that end, we nurture the root zone environment with inputs like hay and wood chips to promote a healthy fungal ecosystem that gives tree roots access to all manner of good nutrition. We also regularly apply beneficial microbes, along with fatty oils for them to feed on, to promote canopy colonization by species that work symbiotically with the tree, again to the end of excellent nutritive uptake, while also taking up space that might otherwise be “infected” by “bad” bacterial species that cause disease. And as we transition to this new way of growing, we do spray the occasional broad spectrum knockdown like copper or PerCarb, though not anywhere near as often as we did in the past, and for different purpose. Using the aforementioned chemicals as an example, when we come in and sanitize the fungal and bacterial populations with a tree spray, we don’t leave it that way and then try to maintain a sterile environment with regular subsequent sprays. What we want is to start with a clean slate for an application of beneficial microbes and to nurture this population for as long as possible. It’s all about using your tools wisely, and as it gets harder and harder to grow fruit period, we need an effective grower’s toolbox.
This is not our great-grandparents’ farmstead orchard. In the early and mid 20th Century, they simply did not have the disease and pest pressures that have spread with globalization. Also, people back then did not put quite so high a premium on fresh fruit appearance. Nowadays there are so many potential and wide-ranging issues to worry about it makes our heads spin. Unsurprisingly, the West Coast of the United States is a much more ideal environment for growing apples in general, and organic apples in particular. Plum curculio, one of the hardest pests for organic East Coast growers to control, doesn’t occur in the western half of North America, and until recently, fireblight, a devastating bacterial disease on the East Coast, wasn’t an issue either. Throwing in the endemic fungal disease smorgasbord of the humid South makes it especially tricky, to say the least, for apple growers in the Southeast who are trying to maintain a remotely organic orchard.
A lot goes into orchard management. As mentioned above, we mulch with hay whenever possible for weed suppression and cultivation of a healthy root zone. We utilize untreated trap crops and sacrifice the fruit to certain pests in the hope that it prevents them from entering the orchard proper and causing damage. We collect fallen apples and diseased prunings for burning so they don’t serve as vectors for future pest and disease development. In short, we do everything we can to reduce the need to spray — indeed, it’s a rare grower who is enthusiastic about spraying anything. Whether you’re spraying conventional or unconventional nutrients, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, or even beneficial bacteria, it’s a time-consuming, fuel-eating, equipment-wearing hassle, and often a very expensive and potentially dangerous one. If a farmer is spraying anything, it’s because he or she truly thinks their crop and livelihood depends on it. Talk to us — most farmers would love a chance to have an honest discussion about growing practices rather than be bound by the are-you-organic-or-not litmus test.
Organic chemicals and materials can be abused as much as conventional ones, can be just as bad for pollinators, and can also accumulate to the detriment of the environment. In addition, decreased efficacy often means increased application. You can go out of your way to avoid synthetic chemicals derived from fossil fuels, but if you have to spend more time on your tractor burning fuel and compacting the soil in order to apply them, is that sustainable? Rather than lecture you on our definition of sustainability, we will keep an updated list on this website of what we spray and why, as well as this discussion of practices, as it evolves, and you can decide for yourself if this meets your definition of sustainability
We maintain mason bee houses in the orchard, as well as honeybees and pastured rabbits. If we wear any safety clothing/masks while spraying, it’s generally to keep from getting soaked and filthy. We don’t spray anything that we consider unsafe to our bees, livestock, or ourselves.
PerCarb: Basically, an OMRI-listed hydrogen peroxide that kills bacteria and fungi. We use this in the early spring as a broad knock-down to help create a blank slate for our subsequent beneficial bacteria applications.
Nordox WP: an OMRI-listed slow-release copper formulation that kills bacteria and fungi, and also helps prevent frost molecules from forming. Applied once in the spring pre-bloom to give us some protection when the trees are most vulnerable to infections and frost damage.
AgriPhage: an OMRI-listed bacteriophage that is specific to the bacterium responsible for fireblight. After several years of steadily increasing fireblight pressure in the orchard, we are very excited to try out AgriPhage pre-bloom and during bloom in 2021.
Core Holistic Spray: a rotating cocktail applied ten or more times a growing season for nutrition and disease/pest prevention, including some or all of the following — Ahimsa pure neem oil (OMRI-listed)*, Ahimsa karanja oil (OMRI-listed), EM-1 beneficial microbes (OMRI-listed, and brewed on-farm from a mother culture), SeaCrop sea minerals (OMRI-listed), AEA Micropak trace minerals (OMRI-listed), Charley’s Soap (a locally-made, environmentally-friendly soap that we use to help emulsify the brew components)
AEA Holocal: OMRI-listed supplemental calcium that is applied to fruit to make it less susceptible to bitter rot and leaf spot (Glomerella species), the latest scourge of Southern apple growers
Silmatrix: OMRI-listed supplemental silicon that helps boost the plant’s cuticle defenses and prevent “bad stuff” from getting in the front door
Xentari Bt: an OMRI-listed, specifically honeybee-friendly, Bt, or Bacillus thuringiensis, that attacks certain insect larvae
Surround WP: “that white stuff all over trees,” an OMRI-listed refined kaolin clay applied several times a season to discourage pests like plum curculio, and also to prevent sunscald on developing fruit
Venerate: an OMRI-listed pesticide derived from heat-killed Burkholderia species that attacks the exoskeletons of our very-hard-to-kill nemesis, plum curculio
Delegate: a synthetic spinetoram similar to the OMRI-listed, and frankly unaffordable at $455/quart, spinosad, Entrust, that we rotate with Venerate to help control plum curculio
Isomate mating disruptors: OMRI-listed dispensers that are hung from tree canopies to release mating pheromones of certain pests to make it harder to find each other and reproduce within the orchard.
NemAttack beneficial nematodes: OMRI-listed Steinernema carpocapsae nematodes are microscopic worms that inhabit the soil and parasitize weavils among other pest insects, and we’re hoping, will help to control the worst weavil in our book, plum curculio. Applied in 2019.
Quantum Light: a supplement to our EM-1 beneficial microbes, which are primarily composed of lactic acid bacteria. Quantum Light contains “the purple guys,” varieties of photosynthetic bacteria, which colonize apple leaves when applied, and help make nutrients available for the trees specifically via photosynthesis.
Lime Sulfur: OMRI-listed, but our least favorite thing in the world to spray! It is very caustic and can cause severe corrosion on equipment and our persons (burns), but it is very useful when severe broad-spectrum disease clean-up is needed in the orchard. Can also be used as to thin blossoms during bloomtime, but of course, it also kills beneficial fungi and bacteria. For that reason, it is often used pre-beneficial biological applications to create a blank slate to start from.
*In 2021, we will switch from using Ahimsa pure neem oil in our core holistic spray to TerraMerra’s TerraNeem, an OMRI-listed 85% neem formulation with significantly higher azadirachtin, the chemical compound found in neem oil that is responsible for its insecticidal properties. After a particularly bad aphid year in 2020, we feel the need to beef up our core holistic spray a notch, while still providing most of the fatty acids that support our EM-1 beneficial bacteria
Got questions or concerns? Check out our contact info further down on this page and drop us a line.
Ah, April, when the early apple trees enter petal fall stage, fruitlets begin to develop . . . and plum curculio (Conotrachelus nenuphar) rears its ugly, little head. Plum curculio may be tiny, usually only a quarter of an inch or less in length, but it causes bigtime damage in Eastern fruit orchards every year. There are many growers who are organic in every way, save the exceptions they make to combat plum curculio. A hard-bodied, extremely tenacious weevil, its modus operandi is to overwinter in the woods surrounding orchards, then move into the orchard proper at petal fall with the goal of laying as many eggs as possible in developing fruits.
The larvae develop inside the fruitlets, causing damage one of two ways: 1) the larvae fully develop, secreting certain chemicals that make the fruitlet drop to the ground, where the grown larvae can penetrate the soil to complete the life cycle, or 2) the larvae may be crushed to death as the young fruitlet grows rapidly, leaving the initial damage from the egg deposit as a gateway for other pests and diseases. Either way, they are a major, major headache that growers have been battling for a century or more. There are neat photographs of early twentieth century growers out with large teams, literally beating the trees to shake the curculio adults onto sheets spread below the trees, to be removed from the orchard for certain destruction.
The key to controlling plum curculio is stopping the population cycle — you want to reduce the number of egg-laying adults that you will have to combat the next year, so most of the time, you’re actually targeting the larvae themselves in a number of ways.
We have planted trap crops of early-fruiting plum and peach trees so we can sacrifice the fruit to the plum curculio and target the larvae before they move into the later-fruiting apples. Sound theory, but it doesn’t always work so well since, in this area, cold springs often preclude peach, and especially plum, fruitset. So most of the plum curculio probably make it past the trap crop in any given year to the orchard proper.
The next line of defense is to apply coats of refined kaolin clay to your trees. The clay particles slough off onto curculios making their way into the trees, getting into all their orifices and irritating them. The idea is to convince them that our apple trees are just not worth the pain and suffering. But in order to be effective, kaolin clay has to be applied in a heavy and consistent enough layer, easier said than done around bloomtime, when growers are busiest and the weather is rainiest (the clay will wash off in rain, so many layers are required).
So historically, many adults do succeed in their raison d’etre, to deposit their eggs under the skin of our new apples. But we still need to target the larvae in order to prevent a larger repeat of this whole cycle the next year. One thing we are experimenting with this year is to apply parasitic nematodes to the soil beneath trees, where they will happily gobble up plum curculio larvae after they penetrate the soil.
We only have a few apple varieties at the petal fall stage right now, but in the last two days, have casually stumbled upon two plum curculio adults in the central orchard. Scary stuff, indicative of a very large population that is up on its game. This year we will also be applying Venerate, an OMRI-approved formulation of heat-killed bacteria, which secrete natural, exoskeleton-targeting toxins that interrupt the plum curculios’ molting process, leading to death. We’ll have to wait out the rain for the next three days, and keep our fingers crossed that we’re not too late.
Spring Work — that means a bigtime push to finish pruning and the chipping of prunings, a marathon of spring holistic sprays leading up to and during bloom, and the advent of mowing. It’s a stressful time of year — all our hopes and dreams of eventual harvest are made or broken during the months of March and April. But what a gorgeous and pleasant time to be an apple grower! Bloom, ho!
This pile of stuff was once an enormous 100 year-old cider press, and soon it will be again . . . when we find the time and space to get it up and running again. Stay tuned. For now, it’s a sight to see, with all its fascinating nuts and bolts (and massive pulleys) on display in the orchard packhouse.
We’re open, and it’s grand! The farm’s old tobacco packhouse has finally begun its new life as our orchard packhouse and store, full of fresh apples, jams, jellies, cider syrup, and more. In the orchard we have potted heirloom apple trees of various sizes for sale. Open this spring by appointment, as well as to the public during our spring open house day (see below).
Can’t make it to our orchard packhouse? Want to purchase some of our products with a credit card? We are pleased to announce that our Etsy store is open for business! We are not currently selling any fresh fruit via Etsy, but you can find many of our other orchard products for sale there. Click this link to visit KordickFamilyFarm on Etsy!
GO FLY A KITE AT OUR APPLE BLOSSOM OPEN HOUSE !
We will be hosting a limited number of events at Kordick Family Farm in 2021, including a spring open house day on April 10th from 11 am – 4 pm! The breeze is always blowing in from the Blue Ridge at KFF, and that means fantastic conditions for kite-flying! Throw in the background of a fragrant blooming orchard, and you’re talking about a really nice way to spend a spring day.
We challenge kids of all ages, adults included, professional kiters and kite enthusiasts to bring your own kites, homemade or storebought, and do some high-flying in the open land surrounding our orchard. Our Apple Blossom King and Queen will be awarding prizes for categories including Most Original Homemade Kite and Prettiest Kite (the official competition will be from 12 pm – 2pm).
When not cruising the skies, or watching others do so, we welcome you to stroll and take in the blooming orchard in all its glory. Feel free to bring picnics! Cameron’s Cookies will be on-site with sweet treats and pink lemonade for sale. Pre-picked bouquets of apple blossoms and potted heirloom apple trees will be for sale in the orchard. The packhouse will be wide open, as well, and stocked with Apple Blossom Jelly, Apple Butter, Apple Cider Syrup, and more.
ADMISSION: No admission fee (PLEASE NOTE, WE CAN ONLY ACCEPT CASH OR CHECK AT KFF!)
Dog-owners, please note, WE DO NOT ALLOW PETS AT KORDICK FAMILY FARM, for the safety and health of the public and your animals, as well as our own.
*The current forecast is for some occasional rain and late afternoon thunderstorms, but we are going ahead with this event, rain, shine, or storm, and keeping our fingers crossed for a decent day overall.
KORDICK FAMILY FARM, HOME TO THE NEWEST WEATHER STATION ON THE BLOCK!
Thanks in large part to an NC AgVentures grant, we installed a RainWise weather station at the orchard in winter 2021. Having such site-specific weather data at our fingertips will help us make better management decisions. And since our information is public, local gardeners and growers can also benefit.
Check out our current weather conditions via our RainWiseNet webpage!
Check out our local pest and disease forecasts via our NEWA (Network for Environmental and Weather Applications) webpage!
In a nice change of pace this year, instead of worrying about apples prematurely bursting into bloom in early March, we are on track for our latest bloom ever! Many varieties have finally broken dormancy, and we anticipate primary bloom by mid-April, almost two weeks later than what we have come to expect. That buys us a bit of breathing room to get more pruning done ahead of bloom, though, as usual, we won’t come anywhere near finishing the job to our satisfaction. As we bounce from block to block of apples, pruning those farthest along first, we’ve been batting around a new tagline: “Kordick Family Farm: Dread the Bloom.”
The new orchard year has long since begun in many respects and we have been working overtime, singlemindedly pruning for months now. But once those first little petals innocently unfurl, emitting their delicate aroma like a siren song to all manner of pestilence and disease, the timing coinciding with the heavenward thrust of the diverse mix of plantlife that makes up our orchard floor (in other words, it’s almost time to start mowing the grass), we really go to work without looking back. It’s hard to believe now, but in another three weeks we will be frantically cutting apple branches to different purpose, as we turn our attention to grafting 500 new trees!
Yet there’s no denying that bloomtime in an orchard is sublimely gratifying to the senses, and something to look forward to, as well. It is quite a pleasure to have such a gorgeous, fragrant setting for a workplace during the four plus weeks of bloom. Pictures and descriptions simply do not do justice to the (seemingly) immaculate celebration and hopeful spring scene that is an orchard in bloom, so we invite you to come see for yourself, as well as go fly a kite, during our Apple Blossom Open House, scheduled for April 10th, the Saturday we are currently anticipating peak bloom.
We can boast of such a long overall bloomtime in our orchard due to the fact that we have so many different varieties coming into bloom at varying times. While the average bloomtime per variety is about two weeks, there is so much overlap between our approximately 175 varieties and their waxing and waning bloom stages, the entire orchard appears to be in bloom for a delightfully long time. But as with most things agriculture, this continuosly fluctuating bloom is a double-edged sword that makes for rather tricky orchard management. Oh, my extension agent just called to inform me that the word I’m looking for, in fact, is nightmare, and that anybody who would try to balance that many varieties on a commercial scale is certifiably insane.
For example, if you are thinning some or all of your apples to ensure the size and quality desirable for commercial production, you cannot target the orchard all at once. The six trees you have of variety A may be at a suitable stage for thinning, but the twelve trees of variety B may not have even opened yet, and in the meantime, while trying for optimal timing across varieties, you have completely missed the thinning boat on your twenty four trees of variety C! Ditto for the timing of our holistic sprays. It may be ideal to apply a component to the trees pre-bloom, say, at greentip, but some of the earliest varieties may be well into bloom, and thus vulnerable to damage (unintentional thinning or russetting of the eventual fruit may be caused). The mind reels with possibilities, too many for the vastly more efficient and simple one-size-fits-all approach typical of most commercial, conventional orchards comprised of only a dozen or so varieties. With all the things that can go wrong, and by some ironic twist of fate, most of which have their roots during, aaaaah, bloomtime, it never ceases to amaze that human beings have managed to pull off apple crops for so long.
However, one good thing about cultivating so many different varieties is that the likelihood of losing your entire crop to a frost or freeze event is highly unlikely, and in any case, a late bloom gains us a cautious reprieve from worrying much about freeze damage this season. While the traditional last frost date for our area is April 15th, we know better than to count on it. Last year, we had two mornings of surprise outlier frost on May 9th and 10th. Luckily, it was very slight in our orchard with no damage to the crop whatsoever, nothing like the storied “Easter Freeze” that all but wiped out North Carolina’s apple crop in 2007, but Southwest Virginia did not fare as well, and as many of you already know, it was a very light or nonexistent fruit year just north, across the state line, in 2020. Of course, a late bloom is no guarantee of safety from a badly timed frost or freeze event, and a degree or two makes all the difference, even after fruitset. The threat of freeze damage is hanging over our heads less than usual, but if you grow fruit or vegetables for a living, you don’t really feel easy about a thing until the harvest is over and done with. Hence, here we go again, and “Kordick Family Farm: Fear the Bloom!”
In tangential local pride news, those of you who attended our “Orchard by Candlelight” event back in winter 2019 may remember Mason Via, who performed acoustic Christmas music for the two nights of our event. Our local paper, ‘The Stokes News,” reports that Mason, performing under the stage name, Mason Picks, auditioned on “American Idol” and has advanced from the first round! You can read the article here. Congratulations to Mason!
Have we got an apple that’s appropriate for the advent of April Fool’s Day. The original purpose of our orchard, largely propagated before the resurgence of hard cider in America, was to grow old English and classic American cider apples for the production of English-style hard ciders. ‘Foxwhelp’ is an esteemed bittersharp English cider apple, and was a no-brainer for inclusion in our original “test” orchard to see how uncommonly grown cider apple varieties would perform when transplanted from their age-old terroirs to the North Carolina Piedmont. In addition to its alluring cider qualities, it’s got that great name (perhaps the original discovery of the tree was marked by sighting a young fox or a den nearby, or as one account describes, perhaps it was so named because the cider emits a musky odor not unlike that associated with a fox den; the imagination loves names like these), and the historical chops of dating back to at least 1664, when it was mentioned by John Evelyn in his seminal work, ‘Pomona,’ which details cider varieties and hard cider-making practices of the time. Thusly, scionwood was obtained; a tree was grafted and planted out, and the anticipation began.
Our ‘Foxwhelp’ tree has grown well over the years, but being that we only have the one, and the fruit comes in amidst the hubbub of the main harvest season, somehow we never managed to sit down to do a taste test and overall assessment of the variety until this past summer. ‘Foxwhelp’ is renowned for its unpalatability as fresh, unfermented fruit. The astringency of its tannic content, which translates wonderfully in a hard cider, condemns it as a dessert fruit. So it was with high expectation of revulsion, but good revulsion, that we put the knife to ‘Foxwhelp’ and took our first tentative bites.
We chewed thoughtfully and swallowed before looking at each other, and then one of us said something along the lines of . . . “Yum.” The other agreed; the fruit was absolutely delicious, not to mention edible, and in particular, we thought its complex flavors lended itself to a cheese plate. We wondered at the range of calibrations among palates, agreed that ‘Foxwhelp’ was apparently as good a dessert apple as it was a cider apple, and thought little more about it until this past month when we were compiling our list of trees to collect scionwood from for grafting in April. ‘Foxwhelp’ came up, and we instantly determined that, not only did we want more of these trees in our orchard, but that others probably would like to buy trees, as well, being that the fruit was so uniquely flavored, and apparently suitable for both cider-making and fresh-eating, contrary to what we had been led to believe.
In scrutinizing prospective grafting numbers, we hit our books and the internet to review varietal characteristics. One way or another, we arrived at the website for a Maine heritage apple orchard, and their “Out on a Limb Apples,” and found ourselves reading an account of a ‘Foxwhelp’ taste taste that exactly mirrored our own! The growers write that, “It is big, juicy, tart, decent fresh-eating and makes a good pie. Ever since we tasted the fruit from our tree here at Super Chilly Farm, we wondered why anyone would call it a cider apple.”
They delved into this mystery and found that, since ‘Foxwhelp’ was imported into the US over 60 years ago, whether by virtue of mislabeled scionwood (such a common and frustrating error for apple grafting enthusiasts) or some other mistake, no one, NO ONE, in the United States of America who propagated a ‘Foxwhelp’ before 2012 possesses an actual English ‘Foxwhelp.’ And furthermore, no one knows just what we are all growing, although one theory goes that perhaps an original graftling died at the graft union and someone lacking a sharp eye subsequently dispersed some sort of rootstock under the name ‘Foxwhelp.’ However, as more attention has been paid to the issue, it has been discovered that within the UK, as well, there is enormous disparity amongst ‘Foxwhelp’ apples, possibly due to a tendency for limbs to mutate and produce sports of fruit with differing characteristics, so much so that identity is now dispersed between the holy grail, ‘Old Foxwhelp,’ and variations such as ‘Improved Bulmer’s Foxwhelp,’ ‘Red Foxwhelp,’ ‘Black Foxwhelp,’ etc. Further muddying of the waters may have occurred precisely because the original ‘Foxwhelp’ was held in such high esteem, and enterprising growers of yesteryear purposefully sought to associate inferior trees with the vaunted name.
The joke is on us, but we find all this to be enormously funny because heirloom apple growers really take this stuff seriously. You just can’t understate the anticipation and hopes and dreams tied up in the grafting of a rare apple, and yes, there is a degree of snobbishness, as well. So we’re a little late to this ‘Foxwhelp’ mystery game, and apparently, almost ten years ago, when more and more American growers began crying ‘Foxwhelp’ foul, steps were taken to import the correct scionwood. Super Chilly Farm and their affiliate, Fedco Trees, has since redubbed their alleged ‘Foxwhelp’ apple ‘Fauxwhelp.’ Hilariously, well, maybe not so much if you’ve bought one in the last couple of decades for the going price of $49.99 plus shipping, many nurseries are still selling bareroot ‘Foxwhelp’ trees that may or may not be some run-of-the-mill mongrel apple.
So you get a BOGO special variety feature this month: ‘Foxwhelp’ and ‘Fauxwhelp.’ We have exactly zero ‘Foxwhelp’ apples in our orchard! Sure would like one, though, and we’ve put the word out that we’re looking for some scionwood from a genuine ‘Foxwhelp.’ We have one single ‘Fauxwhelp’ in our orchard, pictured, unripe, at the beginning of this section, and don’t mind it a bit.
It doesn’t get any simpler than a diamond-style kite made out of paper, framed with drinking straws. If you’re needing to whip up a kite on the fly for your local orchard’s Go Fly a Kite Day, this baby will get the job done, and is a classic and respectable performer, suitable for all ages, and very easy to modify decoratively or performance-wise to taste. Do yourself a favor and don’t stop here! Use your imagination, but also spread your wings and check out the surprising literary and internet resources for making some of the more inventive, elaborate, and delightfully named kites out there: Indian Fighter Kites, Eddy trains, Parafoils, Alert Birdies, Rokkakus, Harpoons, just to name a few! This has been a public service announcement for your local kite society (and you’d be surprised how many of these exist).
What you’ll need to make a diamond kite measuring about 2.5 feet long:
Tissue paper or butcher/freezer paper or newspaper
plastic drinking straws or light wooden dowels or sticks
tape or glue
cardboard toilet paper roll or something else to wrap your line around
Beyond simple availabilty, choose your paper material based upon the level of durability you’re looking for (freezer paper is strongest, while tissue paper is the most delicate, but also the lightest) and how you intend to decorate your eventual kite. Newsprint boasts its own inherent decoration of copy, while tissue paper is popular for its suncatcher qualities, and can be overlaid easily for different effects without adding much weight to your kite. If you would like to use paint or markers to decorate your kite, freezer or butcher paper is an ideal surface.
The detailed instructions to building the diamond kite I selected as a higher quality basic can be found at https://www.marthastewart.com/1112288/how-make-kite, but for an annotated version that straddles many materials:
Using plastic straws or dowels, make a cross (punch hole in one straw and insert the other through, or lash two dowels together). You can connect multiple straws to enlarge your frame.
String your frame to form a diamond shape (punch holes in the ends of your straws and feed string through, or notch your dowels slightly and wrap string).
Cut out your paper in a diamond shape that is about 1 inch larger on all sides than your frame. Place your frame onto your paper and secure it in place with tape, then fold the excess paper over the string on all edges and tape or glue the edges down.
Tie a string to the center of your cross, leaving enough line for flying (can be as short as a couple of feet, as long as hundreds of feet, depending on your ambitions), and wrap it around the toilet paper roll for storage. Add a string tail for drag and stability, and decorate with bows if desired.
Pick a nice, wide-open spot and go fly your kite!
Apple cider syrup is the perfect base for a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. This full-flavored recipe packs just a hint of heat and makes 2 cups of sauce.
1 cup Baba Yaga’s Apple Cider Syrup
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 Tablespoons grated onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
2 teaspoons prepared (not dry) mustard
salt to taste
dash of cayenne pepper
Whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Then you know what to do: baste all over your favorite protein and grill, bake, or broil it up.
(adapted from an Our State Magazine recipe and shared by our friend, Randy)
4 Tablespoons (or to taste) Baba Yaga’s Apple Cider Syrup
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1 large, decent apple, peeled, cored, and cut into cubes
(the original recipe calls for Granny Smith or Honeycrisp apples)
Preheat oven to 400°. In a large mixing bowl, toss Brussels sprouts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes, tossing once during cooking time.
Remove sprouts from oven, then toss them in the cider syrup and add apples. Spread the sprouts and apples back on baking sheet and return to oven for 10 minutes or until tender. Check seasoning; add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Reminiscent of lemon meringue pie!
1 cup Baba Yaga’s Cider Syrup
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons flour
1 standard pie crust
Mix all ingredients together with handbeater or blender until smooth. Pour into crust and bake at 350 degrees about 45 minutes, until set and slightly browned on top.
Makes about 75 pieces of decadent apple candy!
2 cups cream (heavy, whipping, or even coconut)
1 cup light corn syrup
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup Baba Yaga’s Cider Syrup
6 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
spices (1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/8 teaspoon allspice, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg)
Lightly grease an 8 inch by 8 inch baking pan and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on all sides.
In a heavy-bottomed pot, combine cream, corn syrup, sugar, cider syrup, and butter. On high heat, bring to a boil, stirring only until sugar dissolves.
Reduce to medium-high heat and cook without stirring until the temperature reaches 248 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and stir in salt and spices.
Pour into the lined pan and let sit at room temperature for about 18 hours without disturbing.
Remove from pan and cut into desired bite-sizes (about 3/4 inch square). Cut 6 inch squares of parchment paper and wrap each caramel, twisting the ends of the paper to close.
4 medium sweet potatoes
2 medium apples
4 Tbsp. butter or non-dairy substitute
1/3 cup Baba Yaga’s Apple Cider Syrup
1/2 tsp. salt
Place sheet of aluminum foil on bottom oven rack. Position second oven rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Wash sweet potatoes and make a small slit on one side of each potato. Place potatoes directly on middle oven rack, slit side up. Bake 45-60 minutes or until soft. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
While potatoes are baking, core, peel and slice apples 1/4 inch thick. Saute apple slices in 2 Tbsp. butter or substitute until tender. Set aside.
Peel cooked sweet potatoes and place in bowl. Mash together with remaining 2 Tbsp. butter or substitute, apple cider syrup, and salt. Stir in cooked apples.
Place sweet potato-apple mixture in ovenproof baking dish and cover with lid or foil. Bake 25-30 minutes.
8 cups of plain popped corn, unsalted
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup Baba Yaga’s Apple Cider Syrup
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. salt
Prepare a large, rimmed baking sheet by lightly oiling or lining with parchment paper. Set aside.
Place popped corn in large glass or ceramic bowl (not plastic). Bowl should be large enough so popcorn can be stirred easily without spilling over. Set aside.
Combine sugar, cider syrup, oil, and salt in small saucepan. Mix well.
Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until a candy thermometer registers 290 degrees F, about 6-8 minutes.
Remove from heat and pour over the popcorn. Quickly stir popcorn with spatula to coat evenly.
Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and spread coated popcorn to cool.
When cold, break into small pieces and store in airtight container.
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp. minced shallot
1/4 cup Baba Yaga’s Apple Cider Syrup
2 Tbsp. finely chopped peeled apple
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
Serve over salad greens with sliced red onion and thin wedges of apples, or your favorite salad.
Forget about molasses — apple cider syrup adds outstanding flavor to our favorite picnic food. This recipe will make about 6-8 servings as a side dish.
1 lb. dried beans (California pea, Navy, Great Northern)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup Baba Yaga’s Apple Cider Syrup
4 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 medium onion, cut in half from top to bottom
1 large, firm apple, peeled, cored, and diced into small pieces
Soak the beans overnight in enough water to cover them by 2 inches. The next day, drain them and place in a pot with the baking soda plus enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, skimming any foam off as needed. Remove 1 cup of cooking water and set aside. Drain and rinse the beans, then place in a bean pot or slow cooker with onion halves.
Combine the syrup, sugar, mustard, ginger, salt and pepper. Gradually stir in the reserved cooking water. Pour over the beans and onions. Bake, covered, at 300 degrees in the bean pot, for 6-7 hours, or until done, stirring occasionally. A slow cooker will take about 6 hours, still covered and stirring occasionally. Add the diced apple during the last hour of cooking. If saucier beans are desired, add small amounts of water as needed.
Our orchard is located at 1259 Joyce Acres Road in Westfield, NC 27053.
Directions from Pilot Mountain:
Traveling on US-52 North, take the exit 134 for Pilot Mountain, NC-268. Enter roundabout and exit to the first right onto S. Key St./NC-268. Take a left at the CVS stoplight to continue on NC-268. Turn right on Old Westfield Road. After about 6.5 miles Old Westfield Road dead-ends into NC-89. Take a right onto NC-89 at the stoplight. Go 3 miles, then take a left onto Frans Road. After a mile, take a left at the stop sign to continue on Frans Road. Take the first right onto Christian Road. Take the first right onto Joyce Acres Road and travel 1 mile to reach 1259.
Directions from Francisco:
Traveling west on NC-89, take a right onto Asbury Road. At the stop sign, take a left to continue on Asbury Road. After about a half a mile, take a left onto Joyce Acres Road, and travel about a half a mile to reach 1259.