The Newtown Pippin is truly the Christmas Apple, especially in New York City, by dint of family and fructose.
The same family that gave us the Newtown Pippin also gave us, “‘Twas the night before Christmas…” Many Chelsea gallery hoppers have paused for a snack or quiet chat in the shade of Clement Clark Moore Park. Most quickly realize that the park’s namesake wrote “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” the poem that shaped our modern image of Santa Claus. But few would guess that the Moore family holds the distinction of lending its name to two parks.
In Elmhurst, Queens you’ll find the Moore Homestead Playground. Dotting the surrounding blocks you’ll find institutions bearing the former name of the neighborhood: Newtown High School, First Presbyterian Church of Newtown and the Reformed Church of Newtown, for example. This playground was the family-held farmland where the poet’s ancestor, Gershom Moore, grew the first Newtown Pippin tree.
Sadly, Clement Clark Moore was a slaveholder and abused his talents as a writer to argue for this dehumanizing institution (this despite his youthful skewering of Thomas Jefferson over racial issues).
Fortunately we know from letters that another Queens family, whose estate continues as a park and historic house, loved both Newtown Pippins and human rights. Abolitionist and Constitution framer and signer Rufus King was a true “pippin” in the archaic English meaning of “an admirable person.” While planting Newtown Pippins in the playground has so far proved impossible, we’re proud to have planted one at King Manor Museum in Jamaica, Queens. We provided pollinator apple trees for the Newtown Pippins growing at the Presbyterian church and are closing in on another wonderful nearby planting project. Mum’s the word for now!
As for Newtown Pippin apples themselves, they are great winter apples because they’re so terrible when harvested! How terrible? Each is a starchy, puckering ball of astringent un-fun straight from the tree. But these green-gold apples slowly sweeten in cold storage, converting starch into sugar, so that after Thanksgiving they are in peak flavor. This made Newtown Pippin apples perfect for export on ships that sailed to Europe in early American history and for holiday treats today!
So make sure you grab a Newtown Pippin this season and taste its sophisticated yet festive New York City spirit!