Sam Van Aken The Four-Hundred-Year-Old Fruit That Built New York

The New Yorker Apr 11, 2022

Sam Van Aken cultivates fruit, binges on fruit, and searches for long-lost fruit, so naturally he has opinions on fruit. His favorite is a lumpy brown apple called the Ashmead’s Kernel. “It looks like somebody taped a potato to the tree,” he said recently, while tending to his nursery, on Governors Island. “But you bite into it and it has this floral bouquet. It’s not like a Gala or a Fuji—industrialized apples.” The Ashmead’s, which used to grow in New York, has three distinct flavors, like a Bordeaux. “I always thought wine tasting was pretentious,” he said. “Now I’m talking about fruit this way.”

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