aLIas: dorcas apple, Grandmother apple, Clothesyard apple
orIGIn: weare, new Hampshire, 1815.
appearanCe: a big, waxy, deep red apple (striped orange
and carmine away from the sun) with a peened surface, Granite
Beauty is round but noticeably truncated on the top and bottom. It’s a bit light for its size, not dense.
fLaVor: sweet and barely tart, with a bizarre curry flavor and
an almost metallic finish.
texture: the slippery slices have a viscous quality. the flesh is
tender, but not mushy.
season: Best in early october; by november, the thrill is gone.
use: eat fresh in october. excellent dried. soft and smooth and
reGIon: new Hampshire; exceedingly rare.
GranIte Beauty is like the Charles Bukowski of the apple
world. It gives the feeling of a dissolute existence brought on by
life too deeply felt. The network of pale scarring across the surface,
as if you were viewing the Badlands from a plane; the strangely
oily skin; the air of noble ruin; Mickey Rourke will play it in the
Part of the reason Granite Beauty looks like it just came o= a
bar fight is the “peening”—shallow depressions all over its surface, as if it was a metal sculpture shaped by a ball-peen hammer.
Everything about the apple is unusual. Many people who taste a
Granite Beauty notice its mysterious spice. New Hampshire resident Ben Watson, author of Cider: Hard and Sweet, characterizes
it as cardamom and curry.
Although the state of New Hampshire claims the Granite
Beauty as its own, Mainers could make a case. The story goes
like this. Around 1815, a woman named Dorcas Neull, who lived
on a Weare farmstead, visited friends in Kittery, Maine. Travel-
ing by horseback, and finding that she needed a riding crop for
the return journey, she reached down and plucked a little apple
seedling from the roadside. When she arrived home, she re-
planted her trusty riding crop and carefully nurtured it. Accord-
ing to Zephaniah Breed, the Weare, New Hampshire, farmer
who introduced the apple to the greater world in 1860, “When
it produced its first fruit it was found to be excellent, and Dor-
cas claimed it as her tree. When nephews and nieces grew up
around her, the apple was called the Aunt Dorcas apple, from the
claim she had upon it. As she grew older and the grandchildren
grew up, it took the name of the Grandmother Apple. In another
part of the town it was called the Clothesyard Apple. Believing
it to be mostly of a distinct name, we call it the Granite Beauty.”
The Granite Beauty became a minor hit in New Hampshire, but
it was always a slow-growing variety — and popular with caterpil-
lars. By the twenty-first century, it was virtually extinct, with Gould
Hill Orchard in Contoocook, New Hampshire, possessing the last
four trees in commercial production. So Ben Watson, who calls
the Granite Beauty “The apple that only I love,” got the Granite
Beauty boarded on the Slow Food Ark of Taste and has distributed
cuttings to a number of commercial and preservation orchards.
With luck, it will no longer be the apple that only Ben loves.
orIGIn: damariscotta Lake, maine, 1790.
appearanCe: Looks like a pointy cat’s head or, sometimes,
a large, brown snow cone. the yellow flesh turns deep brown
fLaVor: unique and complex. extremely floral and minty, like
ice wine or muscat. the initial impression is of strong sweetness,