Bwog loves the farmers market. You love the farmers market. The farmers market loves Columbia. But even such lovefests are not without their seedy mysteries. Resident Pomaceous Fruit Expert Diana Clarke reports.
Stannard Farm sits at the corner of 115th and Broadway, Samascott Orchards on Broadway and 114th, bookending the Columbia Farmers Market. They have the same kinds of apples, the same clientele, the same block, and different prices (Stannard’s apples go for $1.50 a pound, Samascott’s for $1.25 – both at or below Westside prices, it’s worth noting). I enlisted four friends to help me get to the bottom of this madness.
I got the same four kinds of apple from each stand – Macintosh, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and Jonagold – and split them into five pieces each for tasting. For the most part the apples were equally attractive – Stannard’s offerings with the smooth uniformity of those bred for supermarket distribution, the syndicated sitcom of apples; and Samascott’s wonkier, unable to stand on end without tipping, looking like the kind of apples Jo March might have eaten.
This trend pretty much held up through the tasting; while Stannard’s Jonagolds had a smooth, pleasing appearance, they were a bit mealy, and the primary flavor was sweet. Meanwhile one taster described Samascott’s Jonagold as “gloriously better.” Despite the superficial russeting (the rough brown patches that look like fall leaves, highly undesirable in commercial fruit) on the skin, the crisp texture and nuanced tartness won everyone over.
Both farms offered sweet, tasty Golden Delicious apples, but Samascott’s offering was once again more nuanced in flavor, with a crisp tartness undercutting the sugar, and significantly juicier.
The Granny Smith samples were hardly comparable. Stannard’s was perfectly nice, with the smooth, cultivated appearance of grocery store apples, but the big, lumpy Samascott Smith was green like new leaves, green like frogs, green like a storybook apple, and hefty. Its robust flavor matched its size, and forever ruined my taste for ordinary Grannys (Grannies?).
Meanwhile the Macintosh, that most classic of apples, was unimpressive all around. Samascott’s was watery and low on flavor with dull skin, while the sweeter Stannard apple had loose skin and bruises underneath. Let’s please just leave this one to apple sauce.
Anyway, the verdict: while those with a hankering for standardized, domesticated apples might enjoy supporting a local farm, that’s about the only thing Stannard’s got going for it. Meanwhile, if you’d like to save a quarter (I know you haven’t done your laundry recently) and eat apples with actual, distinguishing flavors, Samascott wins, hands down. Also the people at Samascott are really nice! (Full disclosure: when I came to the city for a weekend over the summer, I walked through the Union Square market and the Samascott man recognized me and waved!)
And please, if you’re eating Macs, just stop. You’re missing things.
(P.S. Everyone please go to Samascott and try Golden Russets, the most delicious apples around!)