Roxbury Russet

“But I suppose I am like a Roxbury russet, – a great deal the better, the longer I can be kept.”

And so, in mid-nineteenth century America, 100 years after the introduction of these uncomely apples (1735), Uncle Venner, a lesser though important figure in Hawthorne’s “House of the Seven Gables,” speaks the metaphoric truth about this fruit as well as his own inner felicitous character. Superficially, each suffers from the derision of disfigurement, yet each exhibits its own rare beauty.

Visiting the small towns of the Hudson River Valley, Kate and I came across a local farmer’s market in Hudson, New York, early Saturday morning. In the lot’s far corner, a box of Roxbury russets, skins webbed and mottled, marked by warts, nestled between crates of McIntosh, Red and Golden Delicious, Winesap and Braeburns. These most aesthetically lamentable of apples are still grown in New England and, as we were advised, their sublime flavor continues to improve over weeks as with fine wines over decades.

As I reflect on this image taken in the soft light of early morning, I think there must be no more glorious fruit.