Taste History Today: Jefferson’s Favorite Apple

Photo by Brandon Miller

The premiere issue of Edible Queens has a feature on the Newtown Pippin apple, a heritage breed with it’s origin in the New York area. From the U.S. Apple Association:

“Also known as Albemarle Pippin, a favorite variety of Thomas Jefferson. Discovered on Long Island in 1759, this apple is one of the oldest original U.S. varieties, helping to launch the U.S. fruit export industry. Newtown Pippin is a distinctive green, often with yellow highlights. Its aromatic, tangy flesh makes the Newtown great for use in pies and applesauce. Primarilly a processing variety, most U.S. supplies are used commercially. Newtown Pippin is typically available from September through December.”

Jefferson dubbed the Newtown “The Prince of Apples” and grew them on his Monticello estate. The Newtown is making a comeback in the New York area thanks to Erik Baard, a Long Island City–based environmentalist.

“Since 2006, Baard has spearheaded a local movement to plant Newtown Pippin saplings across the city and state. “I’m trying to remind New Yorkers of our agricultural heritage one tree at a time,” explains Baard, the borough’s own Johnny Appleseed.

The Newtown Pippin—a pippin is an apple grown spontaneously from seed—first took root in the Newtown section of Queens, now Elmhurst, in the 1700s, and was almost universally lauded as one of the best-tasting apples ever grown. (Edible Queens)”

You can get your hands on Newtown Pippins in New York at the Red Jacket Orchard stand at the Union Square Greenmarket on Mondays. They sell other heirloom breeds including Baldwin, Staymen Winesap, 20 oz pippin and Northern Spy.

I’m going to be featuring the Newtown Pippin at the Old Stone House event this Sunday: stop by to see the apples for yourself and for a taste of apple-rosewater tart.