Quarry Hill Orchards

When you have tasted as many apples as I have it becomes harder and harder to find something new. The majority of apple orchards I come across have varieties I have already had. It takes a little more effort to find something new to me. When I was planning a family trip to the beautiful Cuyahoga Valley National Park (outside of Cleveland, Ohio, I spent some time searching for orchards that I might pass along the way. I looked at list upon list of apples until I came across a roster that I could sink my teeth into. I went from breathtaking waterfalls surrounded by a beautiful canvas of autumn leaves to bins of apples tht were just as breathtaking. I arrived at Quarry Hills Orchards in Berlin Heights, Ohio.

Quarry Hill Orchards Apple Bins 2

As I pulled into the parking lot I was greeted by the sights of many bins of apples with simple, yet attractive signage. This to me is a sign that these people care enough to put time into the little things. As I got out of the van, I quickly spotted apples that I had come to try – Hampshire and Suncrisp. I also saw the state apple of Ohio, Melrose, Pink Lady (which I don’t find much in the Midwest), and some Granny Smith with some beautiful red blush on them. Inside the market I found the ever popular Honeycrisp, but sitting right next to it was the Crimson Crisp apple, another on my to-try list. Honeycrisp fans looking for something a little more tart will love the Crimson. In addition to apples they had pears, including Asian pears, squash, cauliflower, etc – your typical fall veggies. The market also contained jams and jellies, popcorn, again the typical market fare. However, they also had a couple of unique things like Boiled Cider, which is cider that has been boiled down to the consistency of syrup, so can be used on pancakes.

Hampshire Apples

Suncrisp Apples

Speaking of cider, they had their top secret blend of apples made into cider. As a true cider fan, I was skeptical when I heard that it was UV pasteurized. I have heard about this process, but may have only had cider that has been treated this way once or twice and it was rather forgetable. Not this time. This cider was the best I have had all season. Great flavor, texture, the acid/sweet balance was in perfect portion. My family loved it just as much as I did.

Quarry Hill Orchards Apple Bins 1

What really made this place as does any great orchard, is the people that run it. Everyone I met was warm and friendly, wanting to chat, and made sure I got to sample their wares. I had a blast just talking aples with Ben Gammie, who returned to the family business just last year after spending some time out west. You could tell that Ben and the staff were enjoying what they are doing – that their passion is there and they are not just going through the motions. I have been to orchards where you can tell their passion is gone and it’s really a sad sight. Quarry Hills orchards is an orchard on the move and I am looking forward to keeping touch and seeing what they have for the future – particularity the EverCrisp apples that they just planted in 2014.

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Pitmaston Pine Apple

At first glance it may seem that I don’t know how to spell pineapple. I am not here today to talk about pineapples, but a variety of apple – the Pitmaston Pine Apple. I love these heirloom varieties with these crazy fun names. I like my apples to have these kinds of names over all the four letter apples now appearing in stores – Gala, Fuji, Kiku, Jazz, Opal, etc. A name means so much more when it has more than marketing behind it.

Pitmaston Pine Apple is a very old variety. It dates back to the 1780s (Trees of Antiquity). The name Pitmaston comes from a nursey called Williams of Pitmaston.

Pitmaston Pine Apple

My Experience with this Apple (Rating Scale 1-10)

Aspect Score
Crispiness 8
Tartness 6
Apple Flavor 7
Sweetness 6
Juiciness 6
Where I Bought Them Tree-Mendus (Eau Claire MI)

Overall Feeling:
First off for the record I do not dedicate any pineapple flavor at all in this apple. I think maybe the name is more for the color. They do have a green-yellow hue like a pineapple does. Despite not living up to the pineapple name the flavor is rather good. This apple is sweet/tart. I am a big fan of the skin on russeted apples, so I enjoy the skin on this one. It’s juicy, but not as much as many of the modern varieties you find in the stores. I would buy these again, no doubt.

These apples are hard to find. They process two characteristics that commercial orchards do not want, small in size, and the russeting of the skin. This is shame, as this apple tastes better than most you will find at the store. Until we as consumers can show that we care more about flavor than size and appearance, these kinds of apples will only be kept alive by passionate apple growers and apple connoisseurs.

Here is a short video that I found on YouTube talking about the apple:

Where to Find Pitmaston Pine Apples
I got mine from Tree Mendus Farm in Eau Claire, Michigan. If you want to plant your own tree you can buy them from Trees of Antiquity.
Other sources include:
Salt Spring Apple Company (Salt Spring Island, BC)
Ela Family Farms (Hotchkiss, CO)
Montgomery Place Orchards (Red Hook, NY)

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Pink Sugar Apples

As early September rolled around my mind turned to apples. I was pumped up to have yet another chance to search out new and interesting apple varieties. So the weekend after Labor Day I headed out for a weekend trip to the west side of Michigan. I was particularly interested in visiting Tree-Mendus Orchards in Eau Claire, Michigan. I have enjoyed their apples and apricots I have purchased from my local Whole Foods Market so I wanted to visit the place myself. I figured thata place that grows over 250 varieties of apples they would have to have something new (or old/heirloom) for me to try. And they did not disappoint in the least.

The first apple I met as I entered their building was the Pink Sugar apple. Pink Sugar is a dull yellow apple with pinkish blush. It is believed to be a cross between a Red Delicious and Golden Delicious. I could not find any more information than that online. My tastebuds would have to do all the research themselves.

My Experience with this Apple on September 30, 2014 (Rating Scale 1-10)

Aspect Score
Crispiness 7
Tartness 0
Apple Flavor 4
Sweetness 10
Juiciness 6
Where I Bought Them Tree-Mendus (Eau Claire MI)

Overall Feeling:
Well, they certainly named this apple right. It is super sweet, mainly due to the complete lack of acid in this apple. It’s like drinking a very mildly flavored sugar water. Without the acidicty that apple falls flat in the flavor department just as eating a slice of bread that has no salt in it. This apple browned incredibly fast, even as I was eating it – you could practicallyly watch the brown cover the apple like special effects in some action movie. The rest of the apples I purchased ended up going into a batch of applesauce to add some sweetness. That is about all this apple is good for, unless you are one that is trying to avoid any acid in your diet. It reminded me a lot of the Sweetie apples that are showing up in stores, much to my chargrin.

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I am lead to believe that when most people are asked to picture a green apple – the Granny Smith appears in the bubble of their mind. This is the green apple that you find in stores from January to December, rain or shine. It is pretty much the only green apple you find in most grocery stores. Does that mean that it is the only green apple out there? You might see a few apples that may look greenish, a not as golden, Golden Delicious or even a Ginger Gold picked more green. America’s supermarkets are basically void of green apples not named Granny. Does America have room for more than one green apple in their produce aisle? As it turns out the Granny Smith is not the only apple with a green skin. I have a few of it’s similar colored cousins. What might be the biggest surprise of all to you is that at least one of them was super sweet. I am talking Gala-sweet here!

Green Dragon Apples

Green Dragon Apples

If there was ever an apple that proved to me that not all green apples are tart, it was the Green Dragon apple. This is an extremely sweet apple with the really sweet name has hardly any tartness to it all. It has a tropical like pear flavor if that makes any sense! Very juicy and refreshing. It is distributed by Frieda’s Produce. It’s one worth seeking out, if not to just trick your friends.

Rhode Island Greening Apples

Rhode Island Greening Apples

Now this apple that dates back to the 1600s, is very much what you would think in a green apple. It’s quite tart. I don’t like eating these out of hand, however I absolutely love them for cooking or baking with. When cooked their flavor really shines, I would reach for these over a Granny anyday. They can be hard to find. I search them out every autumn.

Northwest Greening Apples

Northwest Greening Apples

Another apple with the greening name. This one is not quite as tart as the Rhode Island Greening, so out of hand eating is an option. Reviews I have read of this apple say that it is a good cooking apple.

Shamrock Apples

Shamrock Apples

I have only had these apples once a couple years ago. In my experience this apple was sweet-tart and not all that crisp. Other reviews online seem to say that it is a crisp apple maybe I just got one that was past it’s prime. The apple has a McIntosh-like flavor. It is in fact a cross between a McIntosh and a Golden Delicious.

The interesting thing about this apple is that is was developed as an alternative to Granny Smith in climates where it’s hard to grow Granny Smith. Grannies are a late season apple – they need a long growing season, which isn’t possible in areas like New England.

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Macoun Apple Tree

In my 50 plus apple reviews on this blog, I have spend alot of time looking through different apple databases, orchard listings, other people’s reviews and I have seen certain apples pop up time and again. Varieties that I never had before, but was highly encouraged to seek out. It’s always a great sense of personal success when I discover one of those apples. You can add to my apple that I have tasted list – the Macoun apple.

Macoun Apple Tree

On appearance the Macoun looks a lot like a McIntosh and with good reason – it’s a cross between a McIntosh and a Jersey Black. It is a development of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station – the same group responsible for the Empire apple. The apple is named after a Canadian fruit grower.

Macoun Apple Tree

From what I read online Macouns can be a tricky apple. The flavor is at it’s peak in October, but the apple has a tendency to fall off the tree, so it’s often picked early. The tree also produce good one year and not as good the next. This is why these apples don’t have much of a commercial presences – more of just a cult following.

Macoun Apples Up Close

My Experience with this Apple on September 8, 2014 (Rating Scale 1-10)

Aspect Score
Crispiness 8
Tartness 6
Apple Flavor 4
Sweetness 6
Juiciness 8
Where I Bought Them Tree-Mendus (Eau Claire MI)

Overall Feeling: Like I mentioned above the Macoun is a tricky apple. Picked too early and the flavor is not there. Picked too late and it’s too soft. It’s need to be like Goldilocks would want it – just right. I picked Macoun straight from the tree at Tree-Mendus Orchards in Eau Claire, Michigan. It was the second Monday of the month. The flavor wasn’t anything to write home about then, a sweeter McIntosh. Here I am eating one that has been in my fridge for 3 weeks and now the flavor has really come out. It has lost a little bit of crispiness but not enough to turn me off to it. It has a sweet, McIntosh-like flavor and is really juicy. I didn’t understand 3 weeks ago what the fuss was, but now I do. That’s the thing with apples that people don’t understand – their flavor and texture changes over time, some times for the better. A lot of later season apples are put into cold storage and then released in the winter months. Sometimes apple need a little age, like wine, cheese, or vinegar. It’s all about knowing the apple and tasting it at different times to know when it’s at it’s peak.

Macoun Apple Tree

My daughter holding a Macoun she just picked!

Below you will find my ratings for the Macoun I ate today as I was writing this post.

My Experience with this Apple on September 30, 2014 (Rating Scale 1-10)

Aspect Score
Crispiness 7
Tartness 5
Apple Flavor 8
Sweetness 7
Juiciness 10
Where I Bought Them Tree-Mendus (Eau Claire MI)

Overall Feeling:
As you can, the apple seems juicy now and the flavor is much improved. As I said before it did loss some crispiness and a bit of tartness. I enjoy these 3 week aged Macoun a lot more than the ones I picked off the first in early September.

Where to Find Macoun Apples
The Macoun has a strong following, so I thought I would list some orchards that grow this apple. This is by no means a complete list, just a few places I was able to find online. If there no one listed in your area, let me know I will try to help you find a source.

Connecticut
Belltown Hill Orchards (South Glastonbury, CT)

Michigan
Tree-Mendus (Eau Claire, MI)

New York
Fishkill Farms (Hopewell JCT, NY)

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Hidden Rose Apple

If you are someone that only buys their apples in a supermarket, there is an apple secret out there that you may have missed out on. Apples can be red or pink on the inside. I love surprising people with these kinds of apples. People don’t expect to see the bright color on the inside. My 3 year old daughter was especially surprised, she loves pink! I have talked about a couple other red/pink flesh apples () before. Today I am going to talk about the Hidden Rose apple.

Hidden Rose Apple

According to Specialty Produce, the Hidden Rose was discovered in the early 1960s. It was marketed to the public until the 1980s. It was originally called Newell-Kimzey, but changed to the trademarked name of Hidden Rose. The trademark is held by Dragonberry Produce of Clackamas, Oregon. The Hidden Rose apples they distribute as certified organic. You may also see it going by the name of Airlie Red Flesh, name after it’s city of origin.

Hidden Rose is a perfect name for this apple. Most people would not expect to open it up and see the rose colored flesh. Although as someone who has eaten his share of apples, I can tell from the outside. The apple has a muted yellow color, it’s almost opaque.

Hidden Rose Apple

My Experience with this Apple (Rating Scale 1-10)

Aspect Score
Crispiness 8
Tartness 8
Apple Flavor 7
Sweetness 5
Juiciness 6
Where I Bought Them Tree-Mendus (Eau Claire MI)

Overall Feeling:
Hidden Rose is an apple for those that like to eat a more tart apple. It has just enough sweetness, but by no means is this a sweet apple. It’s crisp and juicy but not extremely juicy. It has a good, sharp flavor. My wife thought that this would make an excellent apple for dipping into peanut butter or your favorite nut butter. Hidden Rose would make a beautiful applesauce however it would be too tart for my taste without adding some sweetness.

Where to Find Hidden Rose apples
Here is a list of a few sources you can get Hidden Rose apples from:
Dragonberry Produce (Clackamas, Oregon)
Tree-Mendus (Eau Claire, Michigan)
Scott Farm (Dummerston, Vermont)
Thomas Paine Farms (Kings Valley, Oregon)
Maple Valley Orchards (Gillet, Wisconsin)
Melissa’s Produce

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Where to Find Northern Spy Apples Michigan

“Spies for Pies” is the cry every fall for pie lovers searching for their favorite pie apple. Around these parts the Northern Spy is seen as the quintessential pie apple. Who needs a Granny Smith, when you have an apple that embodies both the tartness and a great flavor when cooked. I will take a Northern Spy any day.

Northern Spy was believed to have been discovered sometime between 1800-1849 in Rochester, New York. It is popular in my home state of Michigan as well as New York and Ontario, most of the country might not know of it’s existence. The apple has issues that many commercial orchards don’t want to deal with – odd shapes, not bright colors, suspectiable to disease like bitter pit. People’s passion for this apple has keep it alive and well in certain regions of the country.

Where to Find Northern Spy Apples in Michigan
Below you will find a list of orchards and farms that grow Northern Spy apples in Michigan. I will add other areas if there is an interest (leave a comment below if you are interested). Check with each individual farm about availability. Many you will be able to pick your own Northern Spy. Begin looking for Northern Spy in October, usually around the middle of the month. It is one of the later apples to ripen. Be wary of Northern Spy picked in September, they may not have developed their full flavor.

Detroit/Ann Arbor Metro Area
Kapnick Orchards (Britton, MI)
Wasem Fruit Farm (Milan, MI)
Blake Orchards (Armada, MI)
Erwin Orchards (South Lyon, MI)
Plymouth Orchards (Plymouth, MI)
Miller’s Big Red Apple Orchard (Romeo, MI)
Long Family Orchard & Cider Mill (Commerce Township, MI)
Brookwood Fruit Farm (Almont, MI) – besides Northern Spy, this orchard grows Novaspy, this is a Northern Spy cross with hints of vanilla flavor! They also grow the Spigold which is a Northern Spy – Golden Delicious cross that is just as good for pies and very flavorful.

Traverse City Area
King Orchards (Central Lake, MI)
Farmer White’s (Williamsburg, MI)
Altonen Orchards (Williamsburg, MI)

Southwest Michigan
Corey Lake Orchards (Three Rivers, MI)
Schultz Fruitridge Farms (Mattawan, MI)

For peeling Northern Spies for pies, I recommend this peeler from Zyliss

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Chestnut Crab Apples

What is the first thing that comes to mind when I say “crap apple”? Do you think of some tree growing in our yard, your neighbor’s yard, or your favorite park? Do you have childhood memories of deciding that throwing a crab apple at someone was much more fun than actually eating one?

As we grow older our palates become more sophisticated – hopefully, at least mine did. Maybe you have grown to show some appreciate for crap apples. Apple jelly anyone? Just grabbing one and eating then out of hand? Probably not. Are crab apples just not worthy of eating out of hand? Or have you just not found the right crab apple. Let me introduce to you the Chestnut Crab – the apples I am munching on as I write this post.

I have more surprises up my sleeve – the Chestnut Crab was developed by the same people that brought the world the Honeycrisp – the University of Minnesota. It was developed back in 1946. You can buy your very own tree from the famous Stark Bros Nursery.

My Experience with this Apple (Rating Scale 1-10)

Aspect Score
Crispiness 8
Tartness 6
Apple Flavor 8
Sweetness 7
Juiciness 7
Where I Bought Them Tree-Mendus (Eau Claire MI)

Overall Feeling:
Wow, wow, wow, and wow so more. I love this apple. In my opinion – Best Crab apple EVER. Snack size mall, yet so flavorful. It packs the right amount of sweetness in perfect melody with it’s tart side. The flavor is rich and slightly nutty. My wife’s favorite part is the skin. We both think apples that have brown or russetting on them make for the best skin. If I wasn’t having so much fun eating them, I know they would make an excellent apple jelly or butter.

I made the mistake in 2013, of only tasting the Chestnut Crab at Whole Foods and not buying a bag. The moment they were available this year, I made sure to get myself a full bag of them. If you find them as your produce worker for a sample, do not just pass them by. They are a hard to find variety so your best bet is stores that carry more unique and heirloom apples as well as visiting a farmer’s market.

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Strawberry Applesauce

Have you ever purchased applesauce in the store? Did you read the ingredient list? If you did you may have seen sugar or high fructose corn syrup as added ingredients. Have you ever made your own applesauce? Does the recipe call for a 1/4 cup of sugar? Is adding sugar to applesauce really necessary? Can you have sauce that satisfies the sweet tooth without having to dump in additional ingredients? Yes you can! It all comes down to the apples you select. If you pick the right apples or right combinations of apples, the natural sugars in the apple will be enough so that no additional sugar is required.

Below you will find a list of apples that are options for no sugar added applesauce. I have three lists, one of commonly found varieties, one of less commonly found varieties, and the last one is hard to find varieties but if you can find them they are worth the effort. For the sake of this post I am assuming that you are making a smooth, not chunky applesauce. I will save any talk about chunky applesauce for another post.

Honeycrisp Apples on Tree

Common Varieties
The most popular varieties in stores today don’t necesarrily lead to the best applesauce making. Nowadays everyone wants a sweet, juicy, and crisp apple. The trouble with a crisp apple is that they take longer to break down into sauce and if they really juicy the process takes longer as well. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it.

Gala
This is the easiest way to add sweetness to your applesauce. Mix a few Galas in and your good to go.

Fuji
Fuji will add sweetness as well but I think Galas do have a bit more flavor so if both options are available I would stick with Galas.

Honeycrisp
Honeycrisp bring enough sweetness to the party, but their crisp texture isn’t doing you any favors. The more expensive price would also leave me to just enjoy these out of hand.

Red & Golden Delicious
America’s once delicious apples have fallen on hard times in the eyes of apple fans. Toss either Red or Golden Delicious into your sauce is a cheap way to save you on the sugar.

McIntosh
When these are first available they will be more on the tart side, but if you end up with some older Macs that have gone mushy they can be used in applesauce. They do get sweeter with age but I still don’t think they become sweet enough for no sugar added sauce.

Cameo
A later season apple that definitely packs the punch in the sweetness category.

Jazz
An apple gaining popularity depsite it’s inconsistency in flavor. Is on the sweeter side, but if Galas are available they still would be a better option.

Paula Red Apples

Less Common Varieties
These are varieties that either may be common in certain area of the country, available in some stores but not all, or ones that are reality new to the market place. With a bit of searching you should be able to find these. All of these apples are not available year round.

Ginger Gold
An early season apple that is very popular here in Michigan. A bit more tart than a Golden Delicious. Use for sauce when they are a nice yellow color, with no green.

Paula Red
Like the McIntosh, Paulas start out on the tart side. But wait a couple weeks and they will soften and get signficantly sweeter. I made an entire batch of applesauce from just Paula Reds and I didn’t feel the need to add any sugar.

Sweetie (super sweet, no flavor)
This is a new apple that is start to pop up at more and more stores. It is super sweet and lacks any acid whatsoever. I also think it lacks flavor. I can see adding them to a more tart, flavorful apple in a batch of sauce.

Kiku
A Kiku is a sport variety of a Fuji. It’s a natural mutation of a Fuji tree, that I find to taste better than Fujis in most cases.

Pinata
This apple is available around New Year’s Day and into the winter months. It has a tropical like taste and it sweet enough – more on the crisp side.

Opal
Another winter variety gaining in popularity. It’s a yellow apple that is more sweet than tart.

Golden Supreme
A yellow fleshed apple that is available before Golden Delicious.

Zestar!
Zestar! – a University of Minnesota developed apple, like the applecrisp, is available early in the season. It has a brown sugar like flavor that would do wonders in applesauce. They tend to go soft in a couple weeks, so if you have some hanging around your fridge, they would be perfect to toss into your sauce.

Sonya
A super sweet option that I would use in addition to more flavorful apples.

Pacific Rose
Same as Sonya, although slightly better in flavor when you get a good one.

Green Dragon Apples

Hard to Find, But Good Varieties

These apples are hard to extremely hard to find. They are either heirloom varieties or new ones that have limited availability. If you are able to find any of these, they all would make for excellent applesauce with no added sugar!

Pink Sugar
Just discovered this one this month. It’s super sweet, with no acidity whatsoever. I do not enjoy it for out of hand eating. It is guaranteed to sweeten up my next batch of applesauce.

Green Dragon
For super sweet apples, these have more flavor. Would work well mixed with a more tart apple.

Blondee Apples
Had these for the first time in 2013. They are sweet with a floral like flavor that was really refreshing. Ate them up to fast to try them in sauce. Sure they would make for a good addition.

Hudson’s Golden Gem
This is a Russett variety that has a brown skin with a golden color underlying. Sweet and flavorful.

Candy Crisp Apples
A more recent developed variety that is just like it’s name says, sweet as candy, more flavorful than the Sweetie or Pink Sugar I mentioned earlier.

Aurora (Golden Gala) Apples
An offspring of the ever popular Gala, the Aurora has the sweetness you need with middle of the road flavor.

Westfield’s Seek-No-Further Apples
I have only had one bite of this variety, but it was memorable enough to still make the blog. Great sweet flavor.

Pristine Apples
One of the earliest sweet apples around – Pristine is the perfect companion for all the tart apples found at the start of apple season.

Sweet Orin
Sweet with a very mild pear like flavor.

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Diva Apples

This is my third installment in a series of reviews of New Zealand grown apples that I found at Jungle Jim’s in Cincinnati, Ohio. The first two were the Breeze and Royal Joburn varieties. The final one of the series is the Diva apple. I have enjoyed getting to try new apples when we are far removed from apple season here.

The Diva apple was developed in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, which is located on the east coast of the North Island. The climate there is dry and temperate. This area is renowned for it’s vineyards and orchards. The Diva apple is grown there by both conventional and organic means. The sample I purchased was organic. The other apples I mentioned with both conventional. It is available during late spring in the United States.

Diva Apples

The apple is a beautiful red color with light streaks of color and a round shape. The name “DIVA” goes along with the trend of giving apples short, 4 letter names – Jazz, Envy, Kiku, so and so. It’s easier to get the name boldly on the sticker of the fruit if you have a short name. From a marketing perspective it makes sense, although I don’t really love the name Diva.

Diva Apples

My Experience with this Apple (Rating Scale 1-10)

Aspect Score
Crispiness 8
Tartness 4
Apple Flavor 7
Sweetness 8
Juiciness 10
Where I Bought Them Jungle Jim's (Cincinnati OH)

Overall Feeling:
Every new apple that comes out seems to always be about two things – sweet and crisp with flavor being a distant third. I was thinking oh no not another sweet, crunchy, yet flavorless apple. This has some flavor along with a bit of acidity, so it’s more than drinking sugar water – try a Sonya apple if you want that experience. It’s super juicy. One of the juiciest apples I have ever had! Plenty of juice for juicing making.

I only purchased one of these apples to try as they were organic and imported so the price was high ($3.49 per pound).

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