you like them apples?
Hippoís guide to making the most of apple-picking season
My daughter Molly is an
I only have myself to
blame for creating such a finicky fruit monster. Even before she had
enough teeth to bite into one, we started taking her (along with the
rest of our four children) to Mackís Apple Orchard in Londonderry to
pick our own apples. Itís one of those yearly family traditions that we
just sort of fell into one September, and weíve been doing it ever
Molly is so partial to
that crisp, snappy taste of a fresh-picked apple that she turns up her
nose at the grocery store apples, deeming them ďfake.Ē Her reaction is a
bit on the melodramatic side, but the child has a point. With their
anemic size and too-shiny skin, they do look a little like wax models of
the real thing. Though the grocery store apples are good enough to
sustain a desperate fruit lover during the winter months, the truth is,
thereís just no comparison to a fresh-from-the-tree, mouth-watering New
Luckily, you donít have
to travel far for the full pick-your-own experience of apple harvest
season. Several locally owned orchards in southern New Hampshire will
soon be bursting at the seams with dozens of varieties of apples ó good
for everything from pies to sauces to just eating plain.
Some of the
early-season apples (such as Paula Red, McIntosh and Cortland) will be
ready for picking in a matter of weeks, while another crop (including
Golden Delicious, Red Delicious and Rome) will be ready for picking in
mid-September. The last crop (including Braeburn, Granny Smith and
Suncrisp) usually ripens in mid October, and then itís another 11
agonizing months until you can once again sink your teeth into the skin
of a locally grown apple. My advice is to make the most of this time of
year, before itís gone.
I know, I know: how
hard can it be to pick fruit? Well, there are specific techniques to
picking that can help your apples last longer ó not to mention your
picking arm. Experts say the proper picker doesnít just yank away at the
precious fruit; instead, the apple should be rolled delicately away from
the tree branch in a rotating motion. This keeps the apple stem intact,
which means your apples take longer to succumb to fruit rot, and it
preserves the tree branches for next season.
Also, donít reach too
far over your head for apples, especially if youíre up on a stool or
ladder. Pick the fruit thatís just at your eye level. The reasons for
this rule are simple: you can better inspect the fruit before you pick
it, and you wonít lose your balance and topple off the ladder. It will
also keep your arm and shoulder from getting sore.
Many U-pick orchards
will offer you a paper or plastic bag to carry your apples, but a canvas
bag with wide, reinforced handles is more reliable and easier to carry.
Some folks, especially those with small children, bring along their own
wagon or bucket. If a little one is too weary to walk, simply plop him
in the wagon for a while.
Make sure you only pick
what you need, so there are still plenty of apples left for other
pickers. The paper bag the orchard gives out is a good way to keep track
of how many bushels or pecks of fruit youíve picked, so get a good look
at the open bag, even if you opt not to use one. Itís easy to get
carried away with the picking and end up with more apples than one
family can use in a season.
Tips for a good trip
There are a few things
to keep in mind when preparing for your day of picking, to make sure
everyone involved has a good time. For example, if you have small
children with you, keep an eye on how many apples they eat while youíre
picking. One year, I kept glancing over at my son Brandon, who was then
five. I thought he was eating the same Granny Smith apple the entire
time we were picking, but we found out later that it wasnít the same
apple ó in fact, heíd consumed about ten apples in the hour we were at
the orchard. Without getting too specific, I think you can figure out
how we knew the contents of his stomach a few hours later. Itís easy to
overdo it with such yummy apples, but itís best for everyone if you pace
Since the weather in
September can range from a stifling-hot 85 degrees to a drizzly raw 40
degrees, check the forecast ahead of time and plan accordingly. If the
weather seems iffy, dress in layers. That way, if the temperature rises,
you can take off a few layers and still feel comfortable. Old sneakers
or boots are the best choices for your feet, especially if youíre going
picking after a rainy spell. Hats and gloves are recommended depending
on the weather ó it doesnít hurt to toss a few pairs in your trunk
before you go.
Bring plenty of water
to keep everyone hydrated, along with a few snacks, such as crackers, to
cleanse the palate in between apple tasting. Also, leave your pets at
home. Most orchards donít allow them in the fields, and dogs arenít big
apple fans in the first place.
Where to pick
For best results, call
ahead to the orchard and find out which varieties of apples are ready
Apple Acres, 52 Searles
Road, Windham, 893-8596
Apple Hill Farm, 580
Mountain Road, Concord, 224-8862
Brookdale Farms, 38
Broad Street, Hollis, 465-2240
Carter Hill Orchard, 73
Carter Hill Road, Concord, 225-2625
Currier Orchard, 9
Peaslee Road, Merrimack, 881-8864
Deerview Orchard, 64
Old Center Road, Deerfield, 463-7549
Elwood Orchard, 54
Elwood Road, Londonderry, 434-6017
Lavoieís Farm, 172
Nartoff Road, Hollis, 882-0072
Mackís Apples, 230
Mammoth Road, Londonderry, 434-7619
Mapadot Orchard, Route
13, New Boston, 487-5521
Maplevale Farm and
Orchard, Route 107, 14 Depot Road, East Kingston, 642-3381
Orchards, North River Road, Milford, 673-3544
Sunnycrest Farm, 59
High Range Road, Londonderry, 432-9652
Do you know your
Braeburn from your Fuji? Which apples are the best for pies, and which
ones are best fresh off the branch? With more than 25 varieties of
apples cultivated in North America alone, a trip to the local orchard
can be more complicated than you might imagine. When in doubt, ask a
farm or orchard employee for an opinion on which type best fits your
Baldwin: Mottled red
skin, mellow, mildly sweet fruit. Good for eating fresh and excellent
for cooking. Ripens late in the season.
Braeburn: Rich, red
color with white flesh; best for eating straight from the tree. Ripens
late in the season.
Cameo: Yellow skin with
a red blush stripe; tart taste. Ripens late in the season.
Cortland: Red, round
apples with white flesh and sweet-tart taste. Good for eating fresh, but
too soft for baking. Ripens early in season.
Crispin: Light green in
color; sweet, rich flavor. Best for eating fresh. Ripens mid-to-late
McIntosh; red skin with juicy white flesh. Best for eating fresh. Ripens
Fuji: Yellow-green with
red blush stripe; very sweet with a dramatic aroma. Best for applesauce.
Ripens in late season.
Gala: Heart shaped,
reddish skin with yellow stripe. Very good for applesauce. Ripens early
to mid season.
Golden yellow skin with firm white flesh; good for salads and
applesauce. Ripens in early season.
Golden Russet: Tawny
red skin, sweet flesh. Store well after picking. Ripens in late season.
Granny Smith: Bright
green skin with white flesh; very sour taste. Good for eating fresh and
for applesauce. Ripens mid to late season.
abundant in northern N.H., but still available in southern areas. A
round, red-over-yellow skinned apple thatís very good for pies. Does not
keep well over time. Ripens early in the season.
Jonathan: Red, round
apple with sweet-tart taste. Good for eating fresh or baking. Ripens
early in season.
Macoun: Red apple with
white, juicy fruit. Highly resistant to disease. Best for eating fresh,
applesauce and fruit salads. Ripens in early to mid season.
McIntosh: Very popular
red-skinned apple. Best for eating fresh, also good as applesauce when
blended with a more tart apple.
Northern Spy: Red blush
over yellow-green skin, yellowish flesh. Very good for pies. Ripens late
Paula Red: Red, sweet
apple that ripens early in season. Good for cooking and eating.
Pink Lady: Light red
skin with white flesh, very sweet flavor. Best for eating fresh or makes
a very smooth, sweet applesauce. Ripens late in season.
Red Delicious: Very
popular, rectangular-shaped, red-skinned apple. Bruises easily and
doesnít have a very long shelf life. Ripens early to mid season. Very
good in Waldorf salads.
Rhode Island Greening:
Also known as Burlington, Ganges or Green Winter Pippin. Greenish-yellow
skin, tart flavor. Keeps well in storage. Very good for pies and eating
fresh. Ripens early in season.
Rome: Red apple with
white flesh, sweet tart taste that is good for baking and eating fresh,
but not for applesauce. Ripens mid to late season.
Suncrisp: A hard, tart
apple with red-over-orange color in skin. Best for baking; keeps for a
long time. Ripens late in season.
red color with white flesh; best for pies and cooking. Ripens mid to