Every autumn we travel south to visit friends and gather in the harvest. All sorts of things grow there that just can’t make it here in the Northern Ontario forest. Apples! When we go south, apples are everywhere.
The best apples are from our friend’s heritage apple grove. I spend the first two mornings wandering around the orchard picking an apple here, an apple there.
Tasting each one, savouring the sweetness of the dark red one with the snow-white flesh, the tartness of the russet greens and the crispness of the golden crowned red ones. I bliss out on the magic of it all.
In the afternoons, we hike the Bruce Trail where quiet paths wander under the majesty of a sugar maple canopy of orangey-red.
The hedgerows along the fields near the house offer wild apples. More tasting opportunities! I’ll pick a box of the little dark red ones for making jelly.
Further along are wild grapes. Small and tart and abundant. I nibble on these as well, as I gather them into another box to take home. These will be steamed, juiced and bottled. All through the winter, I’ll enjoy the deep rich taste of these grapes.
The last day of our visit is dedicated to picking apples. Boxes and cloth bags are filled with joy. It is important to me to pick the apples myself. Many years ago, I learned from another friend (who owned a small commercial orchard) the proper way to pick apples.
If you just yank an apple off the tree there will be very faint finger marks. They hardly show, for the first little while. After the apples are stored for a while each finger mark will develop into a bruise. I pick enough apples to last through to May, so it’s crucial they have no bruises.
The proper way to pick an apple is to cup it in your hand. Gently twist and it will release its hold from the tree. If it doesn’t, then it isn’t ripe enough to pick. Each apple is gently placed into a cloth bag or cardboard box. No plastic! They need to breathe.
Our fall harvest tour ends all too soon.
As we drive down the lane, we see more apples. Orchards full. Wild apple trees along the fences. Abandoned orchards still producing lovely red macs, yellow delicious and golden russets. I gaze longingly at them all ... as we drive by and leave them all behind.
Viki Mather has been commenting for Northern Life on the natural world and life in Greater Sudbury since the spring of 1984.