Heeeeere’s Johnny: Johnny Appleseed That Is
Apple season is here and what a shining season it is starting out to be. In my quest to eat seasonally and shop locally, I have found some great orchards within a 50 mile radius of Kansas City to shop for and pick apples. As with all family owned farms and orchards, call first to see what is ready to harvest, what is sold out (trust me apple season goes fast), hours of operation, and directions. As a side note, some orchards will allow you to pick your own apples, which is a great weekend day-trip for the whole family. Be sure to pack a picnic. Some orchards are pre-picked for you and ready for purchase.
One of my first stops to pick up a bushel or two is Peter’s Orchards and Market in Waverly MO (phone number 660-493-2368). At Peter’s you can’t pick your own, but from July through November they produce a wide variety of apples such as the Jonathan, the cousin Jonagold, seasonal varieties of Delicious, Fuji’s … the list goes on and on. Check with them for due dates, as Mother Nature is their boss.
I take several trips a season, but it is a must to go in late August through early September for the Galas. Galas to me are the crown jewel of apples. They are sweet and juicy; they store and keep well; and you can do anything with them. They are great in pies and even better in applesauce; best all-around apple I have found. I also stock up on Jonathans, the most abundant apple grown in Missouri.
The Jonathan is one of my favorites for cooking with its sweet, tart flavor and firm texture.
In September, shop for Jonagolds. Jonagolds are a cross between a Golden Delicious and a Jonathan; perfect for apple butter and great for baking. As fall approaches, I seek out Winesap apples in October. I usually grab a couple bushels and a peck for my homemade apple hootch (That’s another article). These juicy, long lasting, cream colored gems make the very best cider, the key hootch ingredient. As fall fades and as apple season draws to a close, you can still find Pink Ladies on the vine. The Pink Lady is a very late apple, but is worth the wait if you want the smoothest, silkiest applesauce you have ever tasted.
Next stop: Weston’s Red Barn Farm (816-386-5437). Apples are not the only game in town at this working family farm. At the Red Barn, they support the surrounding local farmers by selling produce and other products in their country store. They believe in buying fresh and enjoying local. U-pick apple season begins at August’s end and lasts until they run out. Better pick while the picking is ripe because it only lasts a couple of weeks – after which you can buy pre-picked apples. Get up there quick before they are gone!
The next place is a must see day-trip, picnic-in-hand destination: Fieldstone Orchard in Overbrook, Kansas (785-665-7643); just outside Baldwin City, Kansas and an easy jaunt from the K.C. Metro area.
It is such a great place, especially for the kids. There they can explore and romp through the rows of trees, experience how a real apple is grown, and how one tastes right off the tree.
On this family run organic farm you will be amazed by the variety: around 38 signature heirloom apples. Here you will find such choices as Arkansas Black, a medium size apple that is almost black in color. They are very crisp, sharp and like wine in that they improve with age. Also, this apple will keep all winter! The Macoon apple is from the McIntosh variety. It is one of the very best eating apples and will, like the Arkansas Black, keep all winter. Further, the Fameuse (Snow Apple), parent of the McIntosh, is said to be one of the most sought after dessert apples in the world. The list of apple varieties available at Fieldstone Orchard just keeps on going. Do yourself a favor and take this drive; it won’t disappoint.
At the far reaches of Kansas City, Kansas sits a true diamond in the rough; the Cider Hill Family Orchard (913-721-2507). They are open for U-Pick apple season. Remember to call first for what’s in, what’s out and when they are currently open. The beautiful grounds cover 25 acres with over 900 apple trees, 5 ponds, a big pumpkin patch, and a guesthouse for rental. This is another great day-trip for the whole family, so get out there, explore, and don’t forget to pack a lunch. These are just a sampling of some great farms and orchards that operate to reach the local consumer, seasonally as well as some year-round. You can find a host of other working farms and orchards by checking out www.applejournal.com or www.pickyourown.org. Farms and orchards are a great friendship, and there are many throughout the metro area.
Here is a quick guide for apple picking and ripening , however this does not represent every variety available. Remember to call ahead or check websites for availability.
Early apple season. Get the Lodi apple quick for a wonderful applesauce.
Gala apples and Jonathan’s are available in abundance. Others include Ginger Gold, Early, and Golden Delicious.
Golden Delicious apples are one of the most important varieties in the 20th century as a breeder for other variations. The Jonagolds are available and good for everything from pies to sauces. Red Delicious, once the most popular eating apple, has now been replaced by Fuji and Gala.
Winesaps make the best apple cider. The Honeycrisp abounds as a sweet and juicy choice to munch on!
Late apple season. Sweet, smooth and crisp, the Pink Lady is a great keeper and makes a velvety applesauce.
Happy Picking, Happy Eating and remember:
An Apple a Day….