September 28, 2011

A Haven for Fruit Lovers

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The Cornell Orchards store is like a farmers’ market with walls and regular business hours. Open Tuesday through Saturday, this “nature’s candy store” sells  autumnal fruit from Cornell’s Orchards research and teaching program.

The store itself both teaches and satisfies the curious fruit lover. Shoppers can taste samples of different types of fruit to educate their palates. The apple may be New York’s golden child of fall, but I adore pears. So in a recent visit, I conducted my own pear tasting. Among the six varieties for sale, the most delicious surprise was the Seckle, a small, rounded pear that looks like a deeply blushing Bartlett. The first bite of juicy flesh — spicy and not overly sweet — reminded me of the aroma of freshly baked bread, and hinted of orange marmalade. In contrast, the terra cotta hued Red Sensation released a summery perfume that lingered in my mouth long after the bite was over.

The Orchards store offers smatterings of information about each variety. Placards hung above the quarter- and half-pecks tell of the fruit’s genealogy and uses. The Autumn Crisp apple, for example, was developed at Cornell’s Geneva Agricultural Station, where scientists crossed the Golden Delicious with the Monroe. The progeny is an immensely popular rose pink apple, dappled with yellow flecks. It has an airy, snow white flesh that is sweet yet balanced by the flesh’s acidity. The variety is also non-browning and boasts higher levels of Vitamin C than other apples.

Besides apples and pears, the store sells Cornell’s apple cider — which you can sample from a spout of a cafeteria-style dispenser — as well as grapes, grape juice and some non-fruit produce like garlic and potatoes. The store also sells a random collection of typical farmers’ market wares, like locally fermented pickles, beeswax candles and flavored honey sticks. A highlight is the limited edition Cayuga Creamery ice cream pints, in flavors like Cornell Orchards Peach and Blackberry & Cream. Made with Cornell fruit and loads of natural vanilla, a scoop of the creamy treat would complete a crisp or crumble made with a shopping trip’s haul.

The store sells fruit from research and teaching plantings for the Department of Horticulture’s Orchards program, which develops sustainable agricultural practices and fruit varieties for research and community extension purposes. It represents one of the unique and delicious perks of being the only Ivy League with an agricultural school.

Original Author: Daina Ringus