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Apple trees at Apple of His Eye Orchard at 3185 S. 300E.

I have a grudge against Fall.

It's not that Fall is such a terrible season. The real problem is that I hate winter, and Fall reminds me that winter is on the way. Fall is a calamity howler.

So when September rolls around, my husbandm Seth, tries to cheer me up. 

“Ah, isn't this cool weather a relief?” he asks.

“Nope. I like hot weather. I like to sweat,” I remind him.

He doesn't give up. “But the leaves are really something ...”

“They look that way because they are dying. Lots of things turn funny colors before they DIE. Our fish turned colors before he died. We didn’t stand and admire him.”

My grudge against Fall runs pretty deep.

But as it turns out, there is something that I love about the season. About 7,500 little things.

The APPLES.

So, in September, Seth and I go to the U-Pick orchard. He follows me around while I pick apples and fill one bag after another. We pay for our 400 pounds, then take the apples home and put all the bags on the kitchen, and dining room, floor.

And there they are. 

“What kind of apple is this?” Seth asks, picking a red apple out of a bag.

“I don’t know.”

“Well ... did you pick any Galas?” Seth loves Gala apples.

“I think so.”

“Which bag are they in?”

“I don’t know.” 

He tries again. “Is this a good pie apple?” He has a yellow apple in his hand.

“I don’t know.”

We repeat this ritual every September.

But not this year.

This year I decided to get an apple education, to peel away my ignorance and get to the core of my apple problems.

I visited two local orchards and spoke with two men who know a thing or two about apples.

Teenage trees

Richard Sochacki and his wife, Jude, own and operate their own orchard, Apple of His Eye. 

They care for more than 300 trees, with about 20 varieties of apples. They have been in the apple business for 5 years, and their young apple trees are beautiful, producing a nice crop of healthy apples.

I asked Richard my first burning question. “What’s a good apple for just plain eatin’?”

He laughed. “There are 7,500 varieties of apples.”

And I’m overwhelmed by the menu at McDonalds. 

But Richard did have a good apple in mind. “Jonagold.” 

Jonagold is a cross between the subdued Golden Delicious and the tart Jonathan apple. The result is a crispy, creamy flesh, and a sweet taste (with a hint of tartness from its dear old dad Jonathan). It’s juicy and delicious for just plain eatin’. It’s also pretty good for pies and fried apples. Jonagold ripens in October.

What about an exceptional baking apple?

Richard thought for a minute. “Most people think right away about the Granny Smith apple for baking. But I like the Northern Spy — it’s tart and it’s a great apple for pies and dessert."

The crisp, tart Northern Spy is also one of the best apples for storing, as it is a late apple with a lower sugar content. Richard also explained that “thicker-skinned varieties last longer.” The Northern Spy is an October apple.

I asked Richard about spraying pesticides, which is necessary to protect the trees and produce a good crop.

He looked over his spread of much-loved trees. “As growers it is important to implement good cultural practices - to be a good steward of the ground. That means we’ve educated ourselves as to spraying practices in order to protect not only our own trees, but also the environment around us.”

I thought that was a pretty good answer.

 Full-grown orchard

THE FULL GROWN ORCHARD

Glen Grabow has been growing apples since 1989, and making apple dumplings since 1992. I walked with him through his orchard of mature apple trees, and we talked.

“Tell me an interesting apple fact,” I pressed.

“Well ... let’s see ... did you know that next year’s apple crop is already on the trees?” Of course, I didn’t know that. He pulled down a branch and showed me the early signs of next year’s apples. “To have a good apple next year, this small start needs light and air.  That’s why growers must prune the apple trees, so the crop gets what it needs.”

A little light went off in my head, as Glen had just explained why the two dwarf apple trees in my own yard had produced apples the size of ping pong balls for the last 5 years.

For eating, Glen likes the apple called Empire.

“It is crisp, has good flavor and is just as good as Honeycrisp,” he explained. Honeycrisp is also a good eating apple.

“What’s a good apple for applesauce?” I asked.

“A blend. Blend two apples - a tart apple for crunchiness, a sweet apple to sweeten it.”

Glen sells applesauce at his orchard.

“What’s the best way to store an apple?”

“Cool and moist. Like a root cellar or basement. 34 degrees.  You can put apples in your fruit bin in the refrigerator, but remember they’ll ripen everything else with them.”

Fruit bin?  At our house we call that drawer “the rotter."

My visit with Glen and Richard made me appreciate my beloved apples even more - and maybe even softened my attitude about Fall.

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