What's your favorite apple? Many people love Honeycrisp for its sweet crunch — great for eating. Others love Granny Smith's tart flavor for baking, or Gala for its abundance of juice. Me, I have one stalwart favorite for both baking and eating, and I just discovered that it's a truly local piece of fruit for me too.
The Rome apple is bright red and very crunchy, especially when it is just picked. My family lives near a commercial apple orchard, and this is the apple I fell in love with early. I despise mushy apples — even the freshest sweet and tender Golden Delicious apples are frequently too soft for my tastes. The Rome apple is almost unfailingly crisp; it's rarely mealy. The skin is dark red, leaving a pink tinge around the creamy flesh when you bite into one. The skin also often has texture — slightly rough raised white speckles.
The Rome apple is crunchy enough for satisfying eating and not too sweet. (I am not a huge fan of super-sweet apples, personally.) This also makes it a solid apple for baking; the pieces hold their shape well and bake up nicely.
I also discovered at the farmers' market last weekend that the Rome apple is an Ohio original. "This is my favorite!" I told the farmer working the stand, and he was surprised, since the Rome is a more workaday apple, more taken for granted than the glamorous Honeycrisp. "Well that's an Ohio original," he said, "Born and bred. That there's a Johnny Appleseed apple."
I couldn't find confirmation on the Johnny Appleseed tale, but I do know that the Rome was first planted near the banks of the Ohio River in the early 19th century. The township was named Rome, so the apple became known as "Rome Beauty." And a beauty it is, too; with its perfect roundness and ripe red color, it looks like the quintessential apple of picture books.
The Rome apple also keeps well. If you find a peck at the farmers' market, try putting them away somewhere cool for the winter. Here's a little more info on storing apples for the winter.
(Images: Faith Durand)