2016 has been wild: for all those who will read this I sure that assertion is true for different reasons. For reasons personal, climatological, meteoroligical, political, and otherwise, I don’t think any of us will ever forget about this season. Now that the growing season is surely over here in Western Massachusetts, with 4 inches of snow falling on frozen solid ground this morning, we are about to enter Winter, the new year, and pruning season in the pomosphere.
This year, apple trees in my region faced the most intense mid-season conditions in recent memory. The alternate bearing pattern (on and off years) of unmanaged or wild apple trees was very pronounced this year, with very few wild apple trees bearing in much of lower New England, with the exception of some crabapples. Also, the 3 month-long drought during Spring and Summer’s hottest months caused many trees that did bear to abandon the exercise of ripening, and drop fruit early. For these reasons it took quite a bit more effort to locate bearing wild apple trees this year.
The apples I foraged, due to the lack of rainfall, were generally smaller and more intensely flavored that they are in normal seasons. That intense flavor is reflective of the work of foraging this year: each tree bearing fruit was such a diamond in the rough, such a boon since they were all so few and far between, that the explosions of flavor waiting beneath the fruit’s skin compensates for the extra effort it took to find such trees.
All told, the season’s forage for Gnarly Pippins totaled approximately 60 bushels. Not bad for nickel & diming apples here and there on roadsides, often far from familiar ground. Of those 60 bushels, about 30 went for cider, and it’s all bubblin’ away in the cellar now. The more intensely flavored apples promise a finer apple cider, more flavorful and higher in alcohol naturally. Stay tuned in 2017 for events that will I will be serving cider at. Bottling will commence beginning in May ’17.
This year, the first edition of The Wild Apple Foragers’ Guide came out. Only 30 copies were made, originally printed in mid-November. About a month after the release, there are only 4 copies that remain. A reprint is inevitable in January: with updated cover art& design, and extra goodies in the back to make the foraging experience richer (i.e. worksheets for logging wild apple tree finds, among other things.) Thank you to all who bought or received copies, your enthusiasm and support makes this all happen. The last 4 copies are going on sale- 25% off for them holy days gifts. Turn one of your beloved kinsfolk into an apple foraging master for $15 + free shipping.
In 2017, I will be leading workshops in the Spring and Fall on pruning & grafting apple trees, and guided foraging trips in the Fall. The calendar of these workshops will appear in the first month of the new year, but the story with these workshops goes something like this:
Winter/Spring Pruning Workshops: These will take place in Amherst & Shelburne MA, where we will learn as team how to care for both abandoned, overgrown apple trees, as well as necessary pruning for apple trees that are in pretty good shape.
Spring Grafting Workshops: Learn how to graft apple trees, both bench grafting (young trees of a single desired variety), and topworking (changing the variety of an existing tree). Topworking workshops will take place in cultivated orchard plantings, as well as in public spaces where we will practice “guerrilla grafting” as a team of badass gnarly pippins, changing the variety of inedible landscape trees to delicious edible apple and pear varieties.
Guided Foraging Trips: Come the harvest season, I will lead guided foraging trips for groups of 3, where we will do a 2 day, 1 night camping/foraging trip to areas that are rich in wild apple resources. In addition to foraging and hauling a killer harvest around, we will enjoy a wild apple + hard cider themed feast by partnering with farms and cideries local to the area we’re foraging in. Camping or overnight in a nice locale with a second day of harvesting. Each participant will be sent with an equal share of the harvest, probably 10-15 bushels of wild apples that are the fruits of our collective labor.
Wild Apple Cidermaking Workshops: With the apple harvested gathered on the foraging trips, I will lead workshops on pressing and fermenting phenomenal hard cider made from the truest cider apples around. This will include lessons on choosing blends of fruit, pressing, and initiating fermentation.
This represents a pretty full calendar of workshops & events, so I sincerely hope that all of you can join for some of those come the New Year.
All photos copyright Matt Kaminsky 2016
Wild Apple Photo Gallery – All photos available as high quality mounted prints with handmade applewood print holders.
The photos in this slideshow represent some of the most memorable moments of the 2016 apple foraging season — a very challenging year for trees and fruit explorers alike. They have all been printed on 11×16 matte photo paper and mounted on black composite photo board for a clean and seamless finish. A handmade photo holder made to hold the photo upright on any flat surface are included with the purchase of any print. 30% off for the holidays from original gallery pricing. $40/ea. + shipping…or barter! Just note which image you’d like in the “Notes for Seller” window in the purchase screen.
The Wild Apple Foragers’ Guide – The last 4 copies of the wild apple field guide are on sale to try and move through the inventory before the holiday comes. 25% off – $15/ea. + free shipping…or barter!
A closing story on Gnarly Pippins Merch
Yesterday, at a market event that I staffed for Carr’s Ciderhouse of Hadley, MA, a neighboring vendor caught a glimpse of the back of my vest, emblazoned with a Gnarly Pippins backpatch He stopped me to mention that he thought it was hilarious and offered his interpretation on it. He thought that it was my personal take on the expression “bad apple.” I thought it was awesome that somebody offered a comment on it at all, since most often, people are totally bewildered as to the meaning of the patch.