Fall is my favorite season. The leaves are changing colors, there is a cool crispness in the air, and the most delicious fruit is on the trees – apples. In the Berkshires we are extraordinarily lucky for there are apple orchards nearby. Each week new apples are ripe for picking and tasting. Heirloom varieties plus the familiar ‘delicious’ apples are fresh, hanging from the limb of a tree, waiting to be gently released and eaten.
One of the best parts of picking apples is discovering a new kind of apple that you’ve never tasted before. The first year that I tasted a Mutsu apple I ate one at every meal. The Mutsu is large and a pale shade of green. Super crisp. Sweet and tart at the same time. Then I tried my aunt’s – and many people in New England’s favorite: the Macoun. While I still stumble over the pronunciation – MaCown or MaCoon—the flavor is superb. This year I fell in love with the Ginger Gold – another tart and sweet, crisp, pale green apple. Last year the apple that won me over was the Stayman and/or Winesap.
At the orchard you can ask the people who work there about their favorites and how they would characterize the different varieties. Ask which ones they like for making apple crisp and which ones for eating out of the hand. Also you can ask which apple stores the best, and which one is best for baking whole. Plus you can experiment with different ones in pies and tarte tartin and then make one of those gorgeous looking apple galettes.
A trip to the apple orchard at any age is memorable. If your children think food comes from the supermarket – showing them apples hanging from branches of a tree under the blue autumn sky – will help you to show them that food actually grows on trees that are rooted in the ground.
Lakeview Orchard is located in Lanesborough, near Pittsfield at 94 Old Cheshire Road in a beautiful area where there are neighboring farms. They have apples and pumpkins and apple cider, and honey and pies and cider donuts. (413) 448-6009.
Bartlett’s Orchard in Richmond is open year round with a bakery and cider donuts/ muffins/ pies. You can pick your own apples. Bartlett’s is at 575 Swamp Road, 413-698-2559.
Also in Richmond, you can explore Hilltop Orchards and Furnace Brook Winery at Hilltop Orchards. This farm and winery are located on a scenic hilltop. There you can enjoy apple picking and hiking at a historic apple orchard. They too have fresh bake goods at a farm store at 508 Canaan Road in Richmond. (800) 833-6274.
On September 27-28th in Lenox visit the 35th Annual Lenox Apple Squeeze Festival to celebrate autumn and the harvest with vendors, food, fun for kids, rides and more. Fun! 10am – 5pm.
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