As the seasons change, so does the bounty. September heralds in apple season and with it varieties like Cortland, Northern Spy, Honeycrisp, Empire, Spartan, Delicious, Ambrosia, Cox's Orange Pippin and the good old Macintosh.
Apple growing is as much a part of our Canadian heritage as hockey season. Fruit trees were introduced by the French settlers to Nova Scotia in the early 1600s. By the mid-1800s every province that could grew apples. From British Columbia's Okanagan Valley to the Maritimes, apple orchards and the families who farmed them helped create what would become the most important tree crop in Canada.
You can buy your local apples from your grocery store or farmer's market or you can participate in a true Canadian tradition and pick your own.
Harvest Canada has a great site to help you find the closest apple orchard in your area. Select your province in the pulldown menu. It will take you to the next page where you will find another pulldown menu. Choose your Urban Centre, Attraction (choose pick your own) and By Crop (choose apples) and viola-your choice of pick-your-own apple orchards. Some orchards even have heritage apples available for picking.
Once you've found the apple orchard that you want to visit make sure you call or email before you jump into your car to make sure they're open for picking. Make a day of it and pack a lunch or snacks, hand wipes, and drinks. Bring your own containers for the apples, wear comfortable outdoor shoes and clothing you don't mind getting dirty. And leave your pets at home, health codes usually require that pets are not allowed in the orchards.
Upon arrival, the farmer will direct you to the area from which you're allowed to pick. Pricing can be determined by weight, volume or count. Choose firm apples that are free of bruises and brown spots. Roll the apple upwards off the branch and give a little twist; don't pull straight away from the tree. Place the picked apple gently into your container. Once you get them home, store them in a plastic bag in the fridge, preferably in a separate cooler from your other produce. For larger quantities, store them in a cold cellar.