What to do now - Gardening Events

The Salt Spring Island Apple Festival

By
Donna Balzer
Photography by
Donna Balzer

With a mystery apple in her pocket, Donna Balzer visits this annual event for selfish reasons


Touring orchards
My first orchard stop is Fern Creek Farm where Craig Leitch and Julie Mills grow 36 kinds of apples. Tent caterpillars and improper pollination at the right time meant some of the apples didn't thrive so they have only six kinds of apples for tasting and sale this year. I pulled out my apple and Craig guesses it might be a 'King' (King of Thompkins County). The tree is described as large and rambling with good eating apples. That sounds promising.

I stop at Apple Luscious Organic Orchards, owned by event organizer Harry Burton to taste apples and have a chocolate-dipped fig at the special lunch counter for festival visitors. Downstairs over 60 varieties of apples are on plates for tasting, but I can’t find Harry to ask about our apple.

Finding favourite apple varieties
At every opportunity along the tour I ask about favourite apples, but most of the growers and tasters did not want to name any one single favourite. Like blooms in the garden, favourite apples vary with the season, from early to late. In order of ripening Aylard likes the 'Gravenstein', 'Snow', 'King', 'Golden Russet' and 'Spartan'. The Fern Creek owners like 'Gravensteins' and 'Millionaires'. Harry Burton likes 'Poppy’s Wonder' and 'Summerland Red Mac', but has a passion for red-fleshed apples and reminds me 'Gravenstein' is a local favourite.

The Salt Spring Island Apple Festival is a great way to visit orchards, find out what apple tree you have at home, taste apples and pies, and tour a very interesting island. If Burton and the other local farmers have their way, the heritage apples of Salt Spring Island, the main supplier of apples to Western Canada from 1870 to 1910, will once again be celebrated in our kitchens instead of being hard-to-identify oddities.

Other apple events in B.C.
Although Salt Springs hosts the largest and most diverse apple festival, the apple in my pocket remains a mystery. I’ll have to check out two other apple events coming up shortly:

The UBC Botanical Garden Apple Festival takes place October 19 to 20 and promises 70 varieties on display from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Fall Fruit Show at the West Shore Town Centre (Canwest Mall) in Victoria, B.C. is held this year from Oct 26 to 27 during regular mall hours and includes many different fruits grown on Vancouver Island.

Donna Balzer is a garden writer and horticulturist. Check out her blog at www.gardenguru.net

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