Take your pick
It was a late start for apple harvesting season, but orchards in southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin now have several varieties of the traditional fall fruit ready for eating.
“When the weather’s been good we’ve been fairly busy,” said John Blue with Flower Valley Orchards in Red Wing. The 700-tree orchard recently concluded its pick-your-own season after starting out about two weeks behind.
At Nesbitt’s Nursery & Orchard near Prescott, apple harvest just started a few weeks ago after being delayed by more than a month.
“The crop has been good,” said Leah Nesbitt-Miller about the 7-acre orchard’s 2,000 or so apple trees. “It’s a big crop, but it’s behind.”
She said the main culprit for the delay is this year’s “debilitating” late spring that brought cold, wet conditions to much of the Midwest.
Cortland, Sweet Sixteen, Honeycrisp and Haralson apples are either ready to go or expected to be ready soon, she said. They can be purchased at the nursery’s Oasis Eatery, N4380 State Road 35, Prescott, or downtown at Red Wing Confectionery, 323 Main St.
Flower Valley Orchards and Nesbitt’s Nursery also sell apples at the Red Wing Farmers Market on Saturday mornings this month at the Levee Street train depot.
Nesbitt’s Nursery doesn’t have a pick-your-own option for apples, but the public can tour the orchard as part of the Happ-E-Hill celebration running weekends through Oct. 26. The event features wagon rides, petting zoo and cider pressing demonstrations.
The numerous apple varieties available from area orchards can be overwhelming, but Blue and Nesbitt-Miller agree Honeycrisp remains a top favorite in recent years.
Honeycrisp is juicy and crisp with a well-balanced flavor, according to the University of Minnesota Extension office website, and is good for both fresh eating and cooking.
Different apples have characteristics that make them ideal for certain recipes, Nesbitt-Miller said. For instance Cortland apples are commonly used in salads because they don’t turn brown as quickly as other varieties.
When it comes to baking, she said Zestar! apples make the best pies. They are big, easy to clean and their moistness helps them caramelize when cooked.
Nesbitt’s Nursery uses its apples to make pies and other baked goods as well as pie filling, sauce and butter.
Many of the apple varieties grown in the region were developed at the U of M, as their local origins make them well suited to the climate and soil.
For more information on U of M apple varieties, including instructions on storage and canning, visit the Extension office website at http://tinyurl.com/ng59y9r.
To search for nearby orchards visit www.orangepippin.com/orchards.