It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day; the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet…. As Ichabod jogged slowly on his way, his eye…ranged with delight over the treasures of jolly autumn.
–Washington Irving (1783-1859), “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” 1820
The breath of autumn had already passed along the foliage, and a coming death had spread over its hues golden, brown and crimson–a strange gaiety of decay, which, with all its beauty, carries an idea of sadness into one’s heart.
–T.H.E., “The German’s Daughter,” 1840
The days may not be so bright and balmy–yet the quiet and melancholy that linger around them is fraught with glory. Over everything connected with autumn there lingers some golden spell–some unseen influence that penetrates the soul with its mysterious power.
I know a Blue Pearmain tree, growing on the edge of a swamp, almost as good as wild. You would not suppose that there was any fruit left there, on the first survey, but you must look according to system. Those which lie exposed are quite brown and rotten now, or perchance a few still show one blooming cheek here and htere amid the wet leaves…. Nevertheless, with experienced eyes I explore amid the bare alders and the huckleberry bushes and the withered sedge, and in the crevices of the rocks, which are full of leaves, and pry under the fallen and decaying ferns, which, with apple and alder leaves, thickly strew the ground. For I know that they lie concealed, fallen into hollows long since and covered up by the leaves of the tree itself–a proper kind of packing. From these lurking places anywhere within the circumference of the tree I draw forth the fruit, all wet and flossy, maybe nibbled by rabbits and hollowed out by crickets, and perhaps with a leaf or two cemented to it…but still with a rich bloom on it, and at least as ripe and well kept, if not better than those in barrels, more crisp and lively than they.
— Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Wild Fruits, 1862
Blue Pearmain is an old New England favorite dating back to the 1700’s. No one knows where it originated, but ancient trees can still be found in the most rural areas of New England, including central and southern Maine. It is one of those apples with a string of “synonyms” or maybe they’re anagrams: Blue Pearamell, Blue Pearamay, Blue Pomade, Maine Blue Pear, and even, “Painbear Bluemain.” It is thought to be the parent of the New Hampshire variety, Nodhead, and the Maine variety, Rolfe.
Henry David Thoreau spoke enthusiastically about Blue Pearmain in his wonderful essay, Wild Apples, even though he regularly scorned nearly all other “modern” grafted varieties.
Before you bite into a Blue Pearmain, take a moment to look at its incredible blue-purple color and the russet blaze around the stem. If you notice a cloudy haze over the surface of the fruit, no need to worry. That natural waxy “bloom” is typical of all apple skins, as well as many grapes and blueberries, but it is more visible on this variety. The medium to very large fruit is sweet with a bit of a tart background flavor. The flesh is fairly dry, firm, dense and slightly crisp. It is tasty eaten out of hand although the skin is rather tough so you might want to peel it first. We highly recommend it for baking. Blue Pearmain is our favorite for baked apples as its thick skin holds up perfectly. It also makes an excellent pie and a tart, yellow applesauce that cooks up in a couple of minutes although the skins do not dissolve. These apples keep in the root cellar until mid-winter.