Sunday, November 12, 2023

Northern Spy

One of my neighbors was having an issue sighting in his rifle and asked if I had a few minutes.

I took Mrs ERJ along because we like to spend time together. She was not that interested in the nuts-and-bolts of sighting in a rifle so she took a walk-about.

Away from the shooting line, she found an old orchard and fell in love with one of the apples there. Some of them were still hanging on the tree and they spoke to her...they looked right and felt right in her hand. The skins were tender and the flesh was firm without being hard or tough. The flavor was intense and not-too-sweet. And they were incredibly aromatic.

It took us longer to figure out the problem with the rifle. The screws holding the scope base had worked so loose that the rifle rattled when shaken. The scope had to be removed to access the screws and then the entire sighting-in sequence repeated (i.e., fire at 25 yards. Find the bulls-eye. Repeat at 100 but dial-in for 2" high).

Our neighbor happened to know exactly which variety Mrs ERJ found so enchanting. "Northern Spy" he told us.

Northern Spy was a seedling from an orchard in East Bloomfield, New York. That same orchard, all seedlings, produced several other "named" cultivars including "Melon". The seed source was some cider mill in Connecticut. It was the mother-load of great Malus genetics.

Northern Spy contributed it flavor profile and texture to Honeycrisp, Sweet Sixteen, Keepsake, Spigold and a handful of other apples.

Northern Spy is far from a perfect apple. It is not brilliant red. It bruises easily. It is toward the tart end of the flavor spectrum. From the grower's standpoint it tends to be too vigorous and take far too long to start bearing fruit. Northern Spy and its progeny often suffer from quality issues related to inadequate calcium levels in the fruit.

In spite of all of those drawbacks, on November 11, 2023 a tree with a bunch of Northern Spy still hanging on VERY late in the season knocked Mrs ERJ's socks off.

That is one of the things I love about Mrs ERJ. She can look past the negatives and savor the positives.

I may have to collect some scion and graft it into a few of our trees. Enterprise pollinated by Northern Spy might make some interesting progeny!

Michigan Firearm Season weather-guesses

Excited? Who? Me!


  1. Interesting find, and yes, ALWAYS check the scope rings/bases FIRST... sigh... BTDT

    1. Agreed. No scope will hold repeatable zero when scope is not firmly attached to firearm. Checking that BEFORE you load it into vehicle to go hunting is a priority. Checking this out in the field - too late and hunt is potentially ruined.

  2. A friend in Calhoun County gave us a bag of Arkansas Black. I had never had them before. Good texture, mild flavor, very dark coloring. We use them in a baked oatmeal.

    1. I replaced one of my dying golden delicious trees with an Arkansas Black. I hace a second one being eyed to replace, and am fond of honeycrisps.. maybe a northern spy is the answer?
      Its funny, in reading the detractions from the variety, reminds me of people. Theres a family here in town that exemplifies this. Two uglies getting together can produce the most beautiful offspring!
      Do recessive genes find a mate a become dominant?


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