Like best friends, your loyal pet dog, or a warm cup of tea, apples are always there for you. Apples are truly one of those things that without fail will always be shining up to you in the produce section of the grocery store. If apples weren’t there for me at my every beck and call I would probably have something to say about it! So that’s why this little piggy gathered some of her best piggy friends and went out to Albion Orchards to find out as much as she could about Ontario apples and find out how the heck apples are available without fail 365 days a year!
Apple of My Eye
Fall in Canada is synonymous to apple picking for a lot of people. Apple orchards are speckled all over Ontario and this little piggy had never ventured out to an orchard before. Albion Orchards is a hot destination for apple pickers, with 24 varieties of apples it’s not much of a surprise! Before hitting the orchard, we were given a few great tips for picking apples.
When picking apples twist the apples in one direction a few times as opposed to pulling the apples off the tree. This is important for two reasons: first, pulling the apples off the tree can damage the branches, preventing new apples from growing on that spot the year after. Second, pulling apples can cause lots of apples to fall from the top of the tree to the ground.
The Big Apple
Bigger isn’t always better. After we had searched hi and low for the biggest apples on each apple tree, Farmer Scott explained that bigger isn’t in fact always better. The larger apples tend not to last as long in storage and bigger apples don’t necessarily taste better than their smaller counterparts.
Bags and little wagon in hand we ventured out to the apple trees. We were surprised that the trees themselves weren’t that tall, with a bit of stretching, a few piggy back rides and a bit of climbing we managed to fill up our bags pretty quickly. We couldn’t resist how gorgeous and delicious the McIntosh apples looked and all immediately grabbed an apple for taste testing purposes. Seriously – Best. Apple. Ever. Period!
How Do Ya Like Them Apples?
Just like growing other fruits and vegetables, apple growing is hard work. Farmer Scott of Albion Orchards told us that new apple trees get planted every year. Apple trees are a lot like people, as they get older they get less productive. This means that younger trees yield more apples then older ones. Though, don’t count the old guys out – trees at Albion Orchards range from 2 to 40 years old and some apple trees can even grow to over 100 years old!
During the winter months apple trees go into hibernation. During this time, branches are cut back to encourage new growth the following year. Just like when we get our hair cut, the trees get a fresh new look, ushering in lots of airflow, sunlight and buds.
Each bud on an apple tree eventually turns into a flower. The flower, with the help of a wonderful worker bee, will turn into an apple. Farmer Scott hires bees to work on the farm in the spring to pollinate all of the flower blossoms. Once the bees have done their job, they get sent packing.
Ripe for the Picking
Fall is apple season – apple trees thrive with lots of sunshine and cool nights. Different varieties of apples have different ripening times. As apples naturally ripen naturally occurring starch is converted into sugar. When we were at the apple orchard McIntosh apples were ripe for picking! Over the next few weeks each and every variety of apple will be coming into season.
Apples All Day, Everyday
Farmer Scott hopes to have all of his apples sold by Christmas time. Though, if he’s not able to sell all of his apples, he’s not worried. Apples can actually last a whole year in storage. In fact, many of the apples that are in stores now are from a whole year ago! Despite being old they still remain tasty! No wonder I’m never without an apple!
Farmer Scott said it right, people don’t come out to the apple orchard to buy apples (we can all do that at the grocery store), people come for the experience. Apple picking is a wonderful little adventure out of the city and one that this little piggy is going to start doing annually. Besides exploring the wonderful shop that’s full of apple goodies, not to mention the wafts of freshly baked apple pie that beg you to walk in, apple orchards like Albion Orchards make me realize how lucky I am to be able to enjoy apples all year round! Click here for a full list of apple orchards that might be near you in Ontario.
Just Eat It – An Apple A Day, Keeps the doctor away
According to my Food Lover’s Companion apples are a great source of fiber and vitamins A and C. They also contain flavonoid quercetin which acts as an antioxidant, and may prevent some cancers, protect the arteries as well as the heart.
Whole apples are better than drinking apple juice because during processing, apples loose 80% of those amazing flavonoid quercetin properties, so really, just eat an apple a day to keep the wrinkles, I mean doctor away!
Too Many Apples to Choose From
There are thousands of different apple varieties in the world. With so many apples to choose from it’s hard to know which ones are best for what! For a list of which apples are best for baking, eating and making into sauce or cider check out the Ontario Apples website.
The amount of things one can do with apples besides just eating them daily is astounding. With my pounds of McIntosh apples I went into full apple cooking mode. See below for recipes on seasonal apple crisp, easy applesauce, apple spice muffins and a savory apple galette. Make sure to wash each dish down with a warm glass of apple cider – you’ll be in apple heaven, I know I am!