Apple of My Eye

Ready to pick Red Delicious in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer http://agardenforall.com

Ready to pick Red Delicious (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Located in one of the most bucolic areas of New England lies a farmstead that extends over 260 beautiful acres, some of which is covered with established trees baring choice varieties of sumptuous fruit; primarily apples and pears.  Originally established as a dairy farm, the Averill Farm has been operated by the Averill family since 1746.  Present day, the farm is run by ninth generation Sam Averill, his wife Susan, son Tyson and several full and part-time employees.  The farm is open daily until Thanksgiving, offering lots of local produce as well as their own cider, apple cider donuts (fabulous!), and homemade jams and jellies.  Averill’s farm stand is always a hopping place, and one of the reasons I go there is to partake of a family tradition started when I was very young; apple picking.

Tantalizing row of Spartan Apples in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer http://agardenforall.com

Tantalizing row of Spartan Apples (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

There is nothing quite like the experience of walking amongst rows and rows of trees heavily laden with tantalizing orbs of red and golden yellow.  The branches bow down to you as you stroll along, beckoning you to sample the wares their limbs are holding.  Abundant, prolific, lush, healthy-all words that come to mind as I take in this little spot of paradise, bag in one hand while the other reaches to pluck another tasty piece from a nearby tree.  Like a kid in a candy store, I roam between the orchard trees, many of them with trunks gnarly from time and weather.  For a moment I feel like Dorothy, half expecting a limb to reach out and slap my hand.  Still, I wonder at the miracle of it all, the crisp blue sky, the crunchy, tart fruit, and how they combine to create a most perfect fall morning.

McIntosh Apple in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer http://agardenforall.com

My favorite McIntosh Apple (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

When I think back to my childhood and apple picking with my sisters, one apple comes to mind: McIntosh.  It’s still my favorite eating apple; tart, juicy and crispy.  I love it in apple sauce and my mother makes the best pie in the world with a McIntosh mix. For a sweeter, dryer texture, many prefer Red Delicious, but another popular eating apple is the Macoun, a cross between McIntosh and Jersey Black, possessing all the great attributes of McIntosh without the tartness. Another personal favorite is of Japanese origin, the later season Mutzu (also called Crispin), a sweet, crunchy cross between Golden Delicious and Indo varieties, great for eating or cooking. The Averill Farm proudly grows over one hundred different apple varieties, from heirloom to traditional favorites. In mid-September they have pick your own available with Empire, McIntosh, Honeygold, Redcort (an early Cortland), Cortland, Macoun, Red Delicious, Spartan, Liberty, and Rhode Island Greening.  For apples available for picking later in the season, please visit their website: www.averillfarm.com which is updated weekly.

Grasshopper resting on a Red Delicious in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer http://agardenforall.com

Grasshopper resting on a Red Delicious (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

It’s easy to take the beauty of our awe inspiring New England orchards for granted, but a lot of hard work goes into maintaining an apple orchard so that it produces a bumper crop year after year.  And this work starts in the cold, late winter, when damaged and suckering branches need to be pruned off to promote a healthier tree.  Because some trees are “Pick Your Own”, they also need to be kept from growing too tall for pickers to reach from the ground.  Many trees require fertilizing in the early spring, and once they start to fruit, some need to have the fruit thinned to promote a larger, robust yield.  Some apples are prone to pest damage requiring treatment to protect them.  And all during the growing season the meadow around the trees must be mowed, with hand trimming around the base of each tree to prevent thorn bushes and vines from growing around the trunk.

Blushing beauties in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer http://agardenforall.com

Blushing beauties almost ready to pick (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Many trees in orchards are not conducive to “Pick Your Own”, instead requiring ladders to reach the precious fruit.  This labor intensive task requires one to climb a ladder with an apple bucket (which has straps around your shoulders), pick until your bucket is full (about 3/4 of a bushel, approx 35 lbs.) then carefully climb down and empty your bag into a larger container.  To keep the apples from getting bruised, the bottom of the bucket is padded or cloth, and the fruit is emptied by carefully loosening the ties that hold the bottom in place while standing over the larger bin.  Some people are capable of doing this up and down process all day long, with just a lunch break in between.  I have picked apples this way (though only for half of a day), and although it’s beautiful to be high up in the trees on a warm fall day, I think picking from ground level is a lot more fun.  Not to mention safer, if you have to make a run from hostile bees.

My granddaughter, Aubrey, picking apples at Averill's in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer http://agardenforall.com

My granddaughter, Aubrey, picking apples at Averill’s (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Now decades later, my three year old granddaughter is learning how to pick apples at Averill’s orchard.  So, whether you choose to start a tradition and pick your own, or drive up and grab a few bags fresh off the tree, the end result is the same: you’re partaking of a healthy treat while supporting your local growers.  And that’s a legacy worth passing on~

 

 

 

*Note: To keep your apples fresh as the day you picked them, store in your refrigerator’s produce drawer (orchards have walk-in coolers to keep their fruit fresh through the holidays).

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Comments

  1. I would do anything for a slice of Ann’s apple pie enjoyed in the company of Ann herself and her lovely daughters!

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