By today’s standards, the Newtown Pippin isn’t an elite apple like, say, Honeycrisp or Jazz. These two elite apples were carefully selected for their commercial appeal. Newtown Pippins were likely planted for more obscure reasons. What Honeycrisp and Jazz do not have is a connection with our culture, our history, our collective culinary psyche. And it is for this reason that the Newtown Pippin holds such an iconic place in New York City’s apple history. It is without a doubt the Big Apple’s apple.
The Pippin is a somewhat roundish (tending to oblong), yellowish-green apple that resembles (somewhat) a Granny Smith. The flesh is particularly dense without tremendous crunch or juiciness. But the flavor and aroma are heavenly. Fresh off the tree, the first bite brings a sweet and sour taste with a hint of lemon. The second bite builds on the first and you understand why (perhaps) that first tree was planted on the Gershom Moore estate in the village of Elmhurst, then known as Newtown. The Moore property stood in the vicinity of what is now Broadway and 45th Avenue in Queens County on Long Island. This sweet and tart green apple became so prized by the most cultured citizens of our new republic that Thomas Jefferson declared from France, “They have no apples here to compare with our Newtown pippin.”
A few years ago Red Jacket Orchards planted an orchard to Newtown Pippin. This was done in part to diversify its apple plantings, but also to pay homage to the role apples, especially the Pippin, play to New York apples. In addition to our Pippins, we have some Cox Orange Pippin (another great apple that plays a major role in the history of apples), Baldwin (another big NY apple), Margil, and Lady apple (perhaps one of the oldest apples in production—dating back to the 1500s in France). Because of its commitment to heritage apples and sustainable farming, Red Jacket Orchards is well poised to be NYC’s orchard of choice when it comes to all things fruit.
Heirloom apples offer more than just history for appeal. Because they have not been selected for cosmetic values—many are russetted, small, generally unappealing from a commercial standpoint—they have retained what is great about them: their uniqueness. Each heirloom variety has its own look, flavor, aroma, and texture. And because of this, each variety deserves a looksee. But start with the Newtown Pippin, because there is little about this apple that isn’t New York—except that it doesn’t have pinstripes.