Cape Gazette
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Calville Blanc d’Hiver is the ultimate gourmet French variety

By Paul Barbano | Feb 04, 2010
Winter means white and often winter means dreaming of the fruits of summer and fall. Thinking back, we may recall apples of our youth or apples of mankind’s youth. There is a winter apple that has been grown for over 500 years, an apple that is not only an excellent storage apple, but an apple that actually tastes better after it is stored for at least a month.

The heirloom apple Calville Blanc d'Hiver translates as “Calville’s white winter,” and these white-fleshed apples are the ultimate gourmet apples of France.

The apples are uniquely shaped medium- to large -ize fruit, with yellow skin blushed with light red. The flesh is tender, sweet and spicy, with an aroma suggestive of bananas.

These lumpy apples were grown for King Louis XIII and to this day are served in fine Parisian restaurants. Calville Blanc d'Hiver (Malus domestica) blooms midseason and is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9.

Like most apples, this dessert apple requires another variety as a pollinator.

The medium to large fruits are oddly shaped, with yellow skin barely blushed with light red. While some find them ugly, Monet painted the Calville Blanc in his still life, "Apples and Grapes." It is a very late-ripening fruit.

This amazing apple has three times the vitamin C of other apples and nearly half as much vitamin C as an orange. Use Calville Blanc d’Hiver apples for fresh eating out of hand, or baked in any cooked apple desert. It also makes a sprightly apple juice and hard cider. This apple is the French choice for tarte aux pommes and unlike its rival, the legendary English Bramley, Calville Blanc holds its shape when cooked.

Trees are usually available in either a semi dwarf tree or as the taller standard-sized tree. Semi-dwarf trees are the best choice as they will grow to a manageable 15 to 20 feet tall so no long ladders are needed for pruning or picking. A semidwarf apple tree will produce up to five bushels of apples a year.

You will need to plant at least two different varieties of apple trees because most are unable to pollinate themselves but need pollen from a different variety to produce apples. Plant your semi-dwarf trees 10 to 14 feet apart in soil with a soil pH of around 6.5. Choose a site with full sun.

Since even heirloom apple varieties are grafted onto hardier rootstock, be sure that the graft union is at least an inch or two above the soil surface. The graft union is a diagonal scar on the apple tree trunk where the Calville Blanc was grafted onto the rootstock.

Calville Blanc d’Hiver apples have been grown in America for hundreds of years and were even grown by U.S. President Thomas Jefferson at Monticello.

The trees are hard to find but worth the effort. You can buy the trees from specialty nurseries such as Vintage Virginia Apples online at vintagevirginiaapples.com, as well as Burnt Ridge Nursery & Orchards (432 Burnt Ridge Rd., Onalaska, WA 98570, by phone at 360-985-2873, online at burntridgenursery.com.)

Winter is the time to request catalogs and place orders for spring planting of trees. Within a few years you will have uniquely delicious apples that can’t be bought at the local market.

Calville Blanc d’Hiver has lasted 500 years not because it’s a lumpy, ugly apple but because it’s an heirloom of timeless value and taste.

Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P.O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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