I do not really have a favorite season but just bits and pieces of the year that I prefer. I love the spring when the temperatures get to about 65 degrees F, or in fall when it’s starting to get cold and you can smell the change in the air as winter comes. I like to get out with the family in the fall too, and we decided to try apple picking this year. It’s fun to go berrying or picking, or getting a Christmas tree, with the kids and be out and about.
We looked at apple farms near us and decided to choose one that was relatively close. One of the things that is obvious once you think about it is that, depending on when you go, certain apple varieties may or may not be on offer. One of the first apple farms I found had actually suffered a lot of weather damage last year, and so was not growing any apples this year. The one we decided on was Applewood Orchard & Winery, near Stouffville, Ontario.
It was disappointing. They have a stiff entrance fee – $5 per person, age 3 and up – which reduces any financial or “green” incentive to buying local apples. The experience you get for the entry fee is not substantial enough to justify it. The fee isn’t mentioned either on their Web site or automated phone line – which was otherwise helpful in identifying which varieties of apple were available this weekend for picking – so it’s caveat emptor. We’ll choose a different orchard to try out next year.
On to the fruit, though. We bought a bushel of apples – 19 lbs of Cortland apples and 19 pounds of Honeygold – and the fruit was nice quality and good size. You could see some apples that had some sort of fungus or blight (red circles) but it was insect free. There were lots of windfalls that spoke either to a lot of foot traffic or the recent heavy winds we’ve had.
We’re storing the Cortlands in our cold room – with our home grown potatoes – for use later this fall and winter. The Honeygolds are delicious apples but despite careful handling, nearly all of them had some bruising from being carried in the bag home. I’m not sure why fruit would bruise so easily, although perhaps it’s the end of the Honeygold season and the skin is not as strong. Applewood also offers Honeycrisp – not available at the moment – which is one of our favorite apples.
We’ll definitely hit a local orchard again next year. It’s nice to help local farmers, and avoid the shipping required to get South American or other foreign apples into Ontario where we grow so many nice varieties already. But we’ll give Applewoods – and any other orchards that charge an entry fee – a miss. The cost per apple is about the same as buying a bag of apples in the grocery store, but the entry fee sends the cost too high. I’d rather have no fee and pay a bit more for the apples.