When you see apples at summer farmers markets, like these at Crossroads Farmers Market in Takoma Park, Md., do you buy, or shy away? (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

It might be just my imagination, but those crates of apples at summer farmers markets are looking lonely. We’re too busy boxing up berries and pacing around the peaches to put some Granny Smiths in a pie. Besides, the apples must be close to a year old, harvested in early fall.

David Kuhn set me straight. He’s the patriarch of Kuhn Orchards, a historic Pennsylvania producer that serves 14 or so markets in the Washington area. His daughter, Sidney, runs the operation.

“The apples you find at the farmers market now are the best ones we picked last year,” he says, without an ounce of hucksterism. That’s because they are varieties that hold especially well, such as Gold Rush, Fuji and Pink Lady. They were sent to cold storage within hours of being picked. (The cold retards the ripening process.) As the orchard’s stock has dwindled, the Kuhns have gotten down near the figurative bottom of the barrel. And what’s there amounts to first-pick quality.

A few heirloom varieties are knocking at the door, seasonally speaking. Lodi and Transparents will be harvested in a few weeks, sometimes referred to as July Fourth apples. Kuhn calls them “cooking apples” for a reason — they are quite tart and perfect for making applesauce. When it’s real hot outside, he says farmers like to chop up those deeply chilled apples and eat them as a slushy snack.


(Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)

(Goran Kosanovic/For The Washington Post)

To my mind, applesauce is underrated as a flexible, year-round side. Any pork that gets barbecued or smoked would benefit from a complement of apples roasted with some thyme, butter, grated ginger and a little sugar. That same concoction would be terrific as a warm topping over freshly churned ice cream. So go to our Recipe Finder and look up our applesauce selection: My fave has long been Roasted Mashed Apple-Pear Sauce, against which no complaints of “it’s like baby food” have ever been lodged. Or you could make Ina Garten’s Raspberry Roasted Applesauce, capitalizing on the berries’ peak season.

If a two-crust pie seems like too much of a project, try a free-form galette. Maybe a cooling relish, akin to that farmer’s apple slush. Or an easy saute from food historian Michael Twitty. So go get those apples.

We’ll start to see new Galas and Honeycrisps in August, Kuhn says.

Top recipes of the week

Readers viewed these most online, and it looks like summer:


(Deb Lindsey /For The Washington Post)

1. Grilled Corn Four Ways. A perennial favorite (I called it last week.)

2. Avocado and Coconut Ice Cream. Egg- and dairy-free, but creamy and rich-tasting nonetheless.

3. Avocado Key Lime Pie. It works.

4. Vegan Burgers, pictured above. The recipe makes a big batch you can keep on hand, from Ann Hodgman and #WeeknightVegetarian.

5. Emilia Burgers. Two quick condiments and Parm in the meat = genius.