It’s looking to be a good apple season this year. Mother Nature has been cooperative and not thrown any significant weather problems our way this season, which means that apples should be plentiful and flavorful this year.
Any grocery store and market will be loaded with a variety of apples in the coming weeks, but why not make a trip out to pick your own? It makes for a fun outing for the whole family and you are assured that you are getting produce as fresh as you can possibly get.
Within the Region and just a little beyond, you’ll find several orchards open for the picking.
The biggie in the area is County Line Orchard in Hobart, which has become a major fall family destination for with several other activities in addition to apple picking. They’ve been open for close to 20 years.
“We’ve got a big apple crop this year and we’ll be opening a new orchard that hasn’t been picked before,” co-owner Ryan Richardson said. “So this year we have a lot of apples and some new trees we’ve planted in subsequent years bearing more fruit. We’ll have a lot more Gala and Honeycrisp.” Honeycrisp seems to be the most in-demand variety of recent years at the orchard.
Aside from picking apples, there’s plenty of other fun to be had at County Line Orchard, including a new soybean maze added last year. In partnering with Albanese Candy, the maze was created in the shape of a gummy bear. “The corn maze doesn’t take too long, but it’s geared toward older kids. Sometimes the little ones are interested but to parents it sounds hot and long,” Richardson said. “With the soybean maze you can see over it. It still fun for the 2, 3, 4-year-olds, but it only takes 10 or 15 minutes and you can see your kids going through it.”
The big corn maze this year will have a honey theme.
“We’re celebrating the honey bee and everything it gives to us,” Richardson said. Other fun includes the Moo Choo barrel train, live entertainment on weekends and U-pick sunflowers.
The season this year begins Sept. 29. Also returning are the popular apple cinnamon and pumpkin glazed doughnuts.
If you head over the border into Michigan, you’ll find Springhope Farm in Galien, which offers a more low-key experience. This mom-and-pop farm offers tractor-drawn wagon rides out to the orchards, where they opened for apple picking in mid-August while the last of the peaches were being picked, too.
Different varieties are available as the season progresses. They started with Ginger Gold, Paula Red and Zestar in August, adding Gala, Honeycrisp and others into September. McIntosh, Shizuka and Golden Delicious varieties are some of what is ready in late September before the late season Cortland and Cameos are reading for picking. In all, about 20 varieties of apples are available at Springhope for U-pick or pre-picked in the store.
“About three-quarters of our business in U-pick,” said Bob Woods, who owns the farm with wife, Caren. “We’re kind of a destination as we’re a little out of the way.”
In the store you’ll find a variety of additional produce, freshly picked flowers grown on the farm and local jams and honey. A shady picnic area is available beside the store.
By Carrie Steinweg, The Times