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Adams Pearmain Apples
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Adams Pearmain apples are small to medium in size, averaging 5 to 6 centimeters in diameter, and have a conical shape with broad shoulders tapering to a narrow base. The matte skin has a pale yellow-green hue, flushed with dark red blush, and is spotted with small grey lenticels. The surface is also covered in patches of russet, generally on the side of the apple without sun exposure, and the russet spots are light brown and slightly rough with a raised, textured feel. Underneath the thin skin, the flesh is ivory to pale yellow, dry, and firm with a crisp, coarse consistency, creating a dense, snap-like quality when consumed. The flesh also encases a medium-sized, fibrous core filled with small black-brown oval seeds. Adams Pearmain apples have high sugar content mixed with acidity, creating a balanced, sweet, and tangy flavor with a rich, aromatic blend of nutty, malty, and citrus-like nuances.
Adams Pearmain apples are available in the late fall through winter.
Adams Pearmain apples, botanically classified as Malus domestica, are an heirloom English variety belonging to the Rosaceae family. The uniquely shaped cultivar was once a favored dessert apple during the Victorian and Edwardian Eras and was valued for its flavor, extended storage capabilities, and late-season arrival. Adams Pearmain apples were never grown commercially, but the variety was popular in home gardens, especially in private orchards of the upper class in the Victorian Era. The firm and crisp apples were also known as Norfolk Pippin apples and Hanging Pearmain apples, a name given for their prolific nature, causing the tree’s long shoots to bend under the weight of the numerous fruits. In the modern-day, Adams Pearmain apples are a rare variety, challenging to find outside of select growers in England. The cultivar is generally sold as a specialty apple and is sometimes still found growing in historical orchards of preserved Victorian homes.
Like other apple varieties, Adams Pearmain apples are a source of vitamin C to strengthen the immune system and potassium to balance fluid levels within the body. The apples also provide fiber to regulate the digestive tract, some vitamin A to maintain healthy organ functioning, and other amounts of manganese, calcium, phosphorus, and copper.
Adams Pearmain apples have an aromatic, sweet-tart flavor well suited for fresh and cooked preparations. The apples can be consumed with or without the skin, depending on preference, and eaten out of hand as a snack or healthy dessert. Adams Pearmain apples can also be sliced and tossed into salads, quartered and displayed on cheese plates, coated in chocolate or caramel, or used as a fresh topping over pancakes, waffles, porridge, cereal, and grain bowls. In addition to fresh preparations, Adams Pearmain apples can be simmered into jams, jellies, and preserves, baked into cakes, pies, tarts, and crumbles, or cooked into dumplings, bread, and sauces. In England, the variety can be used as a variation of the recipe black cap apples, where apples are browned and served with thick cream to develop a pudding-like dessert. Adams Pearmain apples can also be made into apple hedgehog, a popular dessert in the Victorian Era, or gateau de pomme, apple cheese made from apples boiled into a puree and cooled in a decorative mold. The dense, jelly-like dish is traditionally topped with sliced almonds or edible flowers. Beyond fresh and cooked preparations, Adams Pearmain apples are sometimes used as a base apple flavor in craft ciders and juices. Adams Pearmain apples pair well with vanilla, custard, cream, chocolate, spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves, and herbs including parsley, sage, or rosemary. Whole, unwashed Adams Pearmain apples will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator. In professional cold storage or in apple cellars, the cultivar will keep 3 to 5 months.
Adams Pearmain apples were given their “pearmain” moniker from their inverted and tapered, pear-like shape. There are over fifteen varieties of apples that include Pearmain in their names, and in his research, pomologist Robert Hogg traced the pearmain descriptor back to Pyrus magnus, a medieval term meaning “great pear.” During the Victorian Era, Adams Pearmain apples were a dessert apple popularly consumed fresh. At the time, apples were regarded as a luxury fruit and were mainly cultivated among the upper class in their private gardens. Unlike the custom of eating apples with hands in the modern-day, Victorian etiquette required apples to be eaten with specialized cutlery. It was considered unsanitary to touch food with hands during dinner parties, so apples would be slowly sliced with a small fork and silver bladed knife and distributed to plates using utensils.
Adams Pearmain apples are an ancient variety with unknown parentage and date of origin. Experts believe the variety was initially known as Hanging Pearmain apples and may be native to Herefordshire in England, as recorded in pomologist Robert Hogg’s work The Fruit Manual. The first national record of the cultivar occurred in 1826 when Sir Robert Adams acquired Adams Pearmain scion wood and donated it to the London Horticultural Society under the name Norfolk Pearmain. Legend has it that Adams received the wood from a grower in Norfolk, leading him to believe the variety was from the region. Once released to growers throughout England, the variety became a favorite apple in the markets of London as their attractive coloring and shape made for beautiful window displays. The cultivar was also planted in home gardens as the tree was easy to grow and consistently provided large crops. Over time, the apple was renamed Adams Pearmain in honor of Sir Robert Adams. Today Adams Pearmain apples are localized to specialty growers and historical orchards throughout the United Kingdom. The variety was also introduced to growers in Canada and the Eastern United States sometime in the 20th century, but it remained a novel cultivar sought after only by apple enthusiasts.