One of the most famous of all American apples, Northern Spy originated in East Bloomfield, NY, about 1800. A bronze plaque marks the site of the original tree of this former commercial giant, still a renowned Maine favorite. It is poorly colored in the shade and mostly covered with pink and light red stripes when grown in the sun.
An all-purpose variety, Northern Spy is well-balanced, crisp and juicy with the ideal apple taste. The large fruit does everything well; it is good fresh eating, makes an excellent pie (be sure to cook it long enough), keeps extremely well in common storage (even if the tender skin bruises), and is popular amongst cider makers. Every year we hear at least a few cooks declare that if the pie “wasn’t made with Spy, it’s not worth eating”.
There has been much speculation as to the origin of the odd name. In addition to Northern Spy there are now several apples with “spy” as part of the name, though the use of the word “spy” should not be confused with the use of other words that regularly show up in apple names such as “pearmain” or “pippin” or “russet”. The use of the word spy in Red Spy, Spigold and Novaspy refer to Northern Spy parentage. In the apple Prairie Spy, the use of “spy” refers to its resemblance to Northern Spy. So where did the Northern Spy name originate Some years ago an article in the North American Fruit Explorers magazine, Pomona, attempted to sort out the name’s origin. We reprint it here in part: