Ah, the apple. It is sauce, it is cider, it is applejack or calvados, it is apple pancakes, apple fritter, pomace for pigs and pie for the rest of us -- what we are as American as.
It is also a fruit whose acquaintance we have barely made. There are between 14,000 and 16,000 varieties of apples, but less than a dozen show up regularly on our supermarket shelves.
Where are the apples of yesteryear -- the Snow Apple, the Gravenstein, the Sheepnose, The Cox Orange Pippin? In the "antique apple" section of the catalogue put out by J.E. Miller Nurseries of Canandaigua, N.Y., that's where.
The reason they wound up there is partly economic and partly changing tastes. The Northern Spy lost out as a commercial apple because it takes 12 to 15 years for a tree to bear a full crop, compared to about 8 for other varieties. Others went down with the taste of the times, as when a few years ago, the popularity of the Delicious led growers to plant heavily of that variety.
Nevertheless, we may be better off than the rest of the country. Fred Burrows of the International Apply Institute says that Safeway carries more varieties of apples than any other chain in the country. Beginning this month, shoppers should find Red Delicious, a dessert apple, and Golden Delicious and McIntosh, which are good for baking, cooking or eating. Two more all-arounders turn up in October, Stayman and Winesap, plus Rome Beauty for cooking and baking. Though not always available at supermarkets, roadside stands may have York Imperial and Cortland, plus what some people claim is the best pie apple, the Smokehouse.
Since fall weather calls for a crispy apple, gather friends, pack a picnic lunch and spend the day at pick-your-own orchard. And then home to roast pork with baked apples, and just-picked-apple pie. A list of some pick-your-own orchards follow:
REGER ORCHARD, Mount Jackson, Va. (703-896-7423), 3 miles west of Timberville, Va., on Rt. 881. From I-81, use exit 67. Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Oct. 31; Varieties: Grimes, Red and Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Stayman, Winesap, York and Rome.
R.S. GRAVES Bros., Syria, Va. (708-923-4638). Rt. 29 south of Culpeper 7 miles. Right on 609 to 231. Right on 231 for 1 mile to 670. Left on 670 for 4 miles. Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
MOUNTAIN GREEN ORCHARDS, Washington, Va. (703-675-3219). From Warrenton, take 211 west 22 miles to Washington, Va. Turn on "211 Business" to Exxon station. Right past "The Inn at Little Washington." At next corner turn left on Rt. 622 (Blue Ridge Ave.) 1.3 miles. 9 a.m. to dark daily. Varieties: Red and Golden Delicious, Stayman, York, Mutsu.
HARMONY HOLLOW ORCHARD, Front Royal, Va. (703-635-8942) From the intersection of 55 and 522 at Front Royal, go 2 miles south on 522. Right on Rt. 604 2 miles. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and on Columbus and Veterans' Day. Varieties: Red and Golden Delicious, Stayman, York, Jonathan and Rome.
STRIBLING ORCHARD, Markham, Va. (703-364-2092 or 364-2894). Rt. 55 to Markham. Rt. 688 south 1/4 mile to orchard. 7 a.m. to dark daily. Varieties: Red and Golden Delicious, Stayman, York, Rome and McIntosh.
HARTLAND ORCHARD, Markham, Va. (703-364-2316). Rt. 66 to Markham exit. Follow signs to orchard. Hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Varieties: Red and Golden Delicious, Stayman, York and Rome.
JAMES RICHARD ORCHARD, Middletown, Va. (703-869-1455). 4 miles west of Stephens City on Rt. 631. Left on 628 (Middle Road) 1 mile. Hours, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.Varieties: Grimes, Red and Golden Delicious, Stayman, York.
RINKER ORCHARDS, INC., Stephens City, Va. (703-869-1499. Take Rt. 11 or I-81, exit 78, to traffic light in Stephens City. Go west on Rt. 631 approximately 2 1/2 miles. Hours, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Varieties: Grimes, Ida Red, Red and Golden Delicious, Stayman and some York.
R & T PACKING COMPANY, Winchester, Va. (703-869-1357). From Rt. 11 turn west on Rt. 628. Go 6 miles to orchard near Relief Church. Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Varieties: Red and Golden Delicious, Stayman, York, Rome.
FRUIT HILL ORCHARD, INC., (Oak Grove Orchard) Winchester, Va. (703-662-2483 or 662-2938). Take Rt. 50 west of Winchester approximately 2 1/2 miles. Left on Rt. 654 1 block. Left on Rt. 803 1 block. Right on 654 (Wood Chuck Lane). Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends. Varieties: Red and Golden Delicious, Stayman, York and Rome.
"PUNKIN RIDGE" ORCHARD, Winchester, Va. (703-662-3121). Take I-81 6 miles north of Winchester to exit 83. West on Rt. 672 3/4 mile. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weenends through Oct. 8. Varieties: Grimes, Red and Golden Delicious, Stayman, York and some Winesap.
HIGH HILL ORCHARDS, Round Hill, Va. (703-338-7997) or, toll-free from D.C., (471-1448). 35 miles west of Tyson's Corner on Rt. 7. Hours, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends. Varieties: Red and Golden Delicious, Jonathan.
SEWELL'S ORCHARD, East Columbia, Md. (301-730-5500). Rt 29 to Columbia area. Rt. 175 east to 2nd stoplight, turn right onto Tamar Drive. Take next right, Old Montgomery Road, to the first left, Oakland Mills Road and continue to orchard. Hours 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Varieties: Red and Golden Delicious, McIntosh, Stayman, Jonathan and, at the stand only some smokehouse. For pickers, 20-pound minimum.