HEAD TO THE APPLE ORCHARD
By golly, fall is burstin’ out all over Shady Pines. You can feel it in the the cooler, crisper air. Not only that, bute the leaves on the trees are turning all sorts of red, orange and yellow.
This is a magical season for our small Southern town. I’m Zulah Talmage, editor of The Shady Pines Gazette newspaper.
‘Bout this time each year you hear folks start talking about goin’ apple picking. The first time I heard this, I thought is seemed like a silly idea.
Why not just go over to Fred’s Corner Grocer and buy some apples if that’s what you want?
Well, more than a few of my neighbors set me straight. They told me they look forward to this activity. It’s a chance to get outside with the family and just have some good ‘ole fashion fun. Besides, while we’re still dealing with this Covid 19 virus, spending time outdoors in a wide open space is a pretty good idea.
So, I asked some folks what they do to get ready for this delicious activity. Here’s what I found out:
DECIDE WHEN AND WHERE TO GO
It’s a good idea to do some reserch. Around here there are several pick your own (“PYO”) apple picking orchards. You probably have some near you, too.
Most people say you should plan to go early in the day. That way you avoid the crowds. Check the weather forecast, too. This time of year it might be tee shirt or sweater weather. If you plan on bringing a pet, be sure to check the orchards policy, some allow them in the orchard on a leash.
Look for what other interesting attractions various orchards have to offer. I’m told many of these locations also have PYO berries and other fruits, hay rides, a gift shop and animals to pet. Oh, and don’t forget to pack a lunch. Some orchards have picnic tables. You can enjoy your food sitting in the cool fall air and maybe sip a glass of hot cider.
SOME PICKING TIPS
Okay. This is where I had to really hunt for advice since I’ve never picked an apple in my life. You’ll know that an apple is ripe when the stem of the apple is easily removed from the spur of the branch. You do this with a gentle twist-and-pull motion.
It’s best to contact a pick your own orchard before you visit. That way they can give you information on which of their trees are ripe for picking. If a tree has a bunch of apples on the ground beneath it, you might want to find another one. Those grounded apples are called, “drops.” It means the apples on that tree are a little past ripe for picking. It’s better when you pick the apples slightly on the tart side because it allows them to stay fresh longer.
I found this video on apple picking that shows you how to do it. APPLE PICKING VIDEO
I guess the old saying of “one rotten apple wrecks the bunch” is true. Everyone tells me you’re not supposed to put any bruised apples in the bag. They rot the fastest and take the others down with them. So when you pick the apples, it’s important to place them in the bag gently. That way they don’t bruise to begin with.
You want to store the fruit in a cool, dry spot. If it was raining when you picked them, dry the apples off. Otherwise don’t wash off the white ‘blush’ on the apple surface until you’re ready to eat them.
If you come home with two bushels of apples, you might be thinking, “now what?” I know I would be clueless. Here’s what I found out while talking to Maggie, owner of Maggie’s Diner. There are a surprising amount of things that can be done with apples, other than just eating and baking them. The wood of an apple tree can be used as a great wood smoking chip for grilling poultry or fish.
Apple essential oil is a fragrant addition to candles, soaps, lotions and more. Apples can be made into apple butter, jam, vinegar and many more foods other than pie. They can be dried out for a Halloween decoration, or dipped in caramel and put on a stick for a classic fall treat. You know, candied apples.
Now, here’s the kicker. Everyone I spoke to told me the beauty of apple picking really lies in tradition. The apple picking tradition is important because these are memories you share together. It inclues everything we’ve discussed. It’s about deciding where to go and whether you go to the same spot each year.
And also, things like what you will do while you’re there.
One guy told me his father used to bring an outdoor stove, and cook dessert with the apples right off the tree. Some families choose to take the same photo of themselves walking in the orchard each year. It’s your tradition so make it your own.
One thing I’ve learned is that apple picking is much more than the search for fruit. And once you get this down pat, it’ll be time to explore another type of orchard – The pumpkin patch!
Happy Apple Picking Y’all.