Pie baking is back in fashion.
According to data from The NPD Group, overall pie consumption in the United States is up 16.5 percent from 2002.
Today, dozens of apple types are available for baking at local orchards.
Dick Sochacki, owner of Apple of His Eye Orchard east of Anderson, says that apple season is actually a succession of dates from spring to late fall. In spring, the first apples, like Yellow Transparent, arrive on the tree.
“It’s wanted by some people only for apple sauce,” Sochacki said. “If you were to just eat a yellow transparent, you’d go, ‘Eh. That’s not much.’ But they go crazy for it to make apple sauce, because of the texture of it.”
Sochacki said the latest rage in his industry is the Honeycrisp.
“It’s a new variety by the University of Minnesota, and it’s great for eating,” he said. “It’s tart and sweet and probably juicier than most. It’s got an odd, blotchy color to it, but don’t let that keep you away from it. It’s got a great, great flavor.”
For Shirley Tranbarger of the Apple Barn in Pendleton, the ideal apple is the Cortland, also a relatively modern breed.
“It’s an all-around good apple for everything,” said Tranbarger, who with husband Tom has operated Apple Barn for more than 40 years. “It’s a white-meat apple, and it makes excellent apple sauce, apple butter, pies, cakes, dumplings.”
She also is quite keen on the Mutsu, a Japanese-bred variant on the Golden Delicious.
“It’s just coming out,” she said. “Usually, in pies, your apples will cook down. Mutsu does not do that.”
Sochacki and Tranbarger both note that all sorts of apples hit their shelves throughout late summer and fall.
“We’ve got Gala and McIntosh, and Honeycrisp is starting to come on,” Sochacki said. “Other ones, like Jonathon, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, those have yet to be harvested in this part of Indiana. Probably around the second week of September, we’ll start to see some of those.”
Indiana actually possesses many characteristics that make it ideal for cultivating apples.
“We’ve got the best of both worlds right here,” he said. “We can grow early apples, like the ones I mentioned, plus three varieties that we grow that Purdue University has developed: one called Red Free, one called Pristine, and one called William’s Pride.
“But, since our climate is the way it is, we can grow the late ones, like Granny Smith, Goldrush, Fuji, Northern Spy, which is a great apple that comes out just a little bit later.”
“It depends on the person,” Tranbarger said of Indiana’s apple diversity. “First thing we always ask is, ‘Do you like a sweet or sour, hard or soft apple?’ And then we can go from there.”
Or, as Dick Sochacki said, “There’s a number of reasons that growing apples in Indiana is very fruitful, as it were.”