Don’t be surprised if you notice a lot of apple recipes coming from me. You see, I went apple picking with Linda and Steve recently. I have an entire peck of…ummm….some kind of red apples with a few Granny Smiths sprinkled in there that I need to consume before they go bad! You’ll soon see why I have no idea what the red apples in my bag are.
Hartland Orchard is located in Markham, VA. In the summer you can pick berries, cherries, and peaches. After Thanksgiving, you can cut your own Christmas trees. Of course it isn’t winter yet, it’s fall, which means apples! Oh, and carving pumpkins, but we’ll focus on the apples. The orchard is pretty easy to get to. Find your way to I 66 W and get off at Exit 18. Turn right at the end of the ramp and then take your first left onto Belle Meade Lane (284). Not too far down the road, you’ll see signs for Hartland Orchard on your right.
Now, I’m not sure what the cause of this was, but after turning onto Hartland Lane, I almost immediately hit a looooong line of cars. The road has a few twists, so I could not see anything except cars giving up and making Y-turns. Did I mention this was a one lane road? Maybe they were going to try their luck over at Hartland’s neighbor, Stribling Orchard. Of course I couldn’t give up. Linda and Steve were somewhere ahead of me waiting in the same line.
It took about a half hour for me to reach the parking area. In that time, I snapped a few shots of the rolling hills that somewhere further west would eventually turn into mountains. I saw the fastest fuzzy caterpillar ever to cross the road (It made it just in time. As it hit the grass, a car came rolling!) and was attacked by stink bugs!!!!!! Yeah I know they’re harmless to people, but I don’t like them swarming around my head and around my car and releasing their horrible odor. Ick! Apparently they love, love, love apples, hence the massive swarms. Thank goodness they don’t seem to like grapes (I need my wine!).
When I finally reached the parking area, where I was greeted by folks clad in bright tie-dye and given a peck sized bag, I was informed that many of the apples had already been picked.(Wha?!) They were very nice, though, and pointed out where they believe there still might be apples. Most of the apples left were to the right, but if I wanted to try my luck with the Granny Smiths they were to the left on the other side of the pond.
I easily found Linda and Steve, who had brought a new friend, Karen, whom they had met the day before at the Fredericksburg Wine Festival. Steve had acquired one of those long picking poles and man were we going to need them. They weren’t kidding when they said the apples had been picked! Rows and rows of apple trees with no apples except maybe a stray one waaaay at the top and out of reach and most likely rotted from a stink bug attack (grrrr, stink bugs!). Did I mention that it was also 80 degrees outside that day? Flannel shirt was not a good idea…
Luckily, all four of us are pretty good-natured, so the disappointing harvest and un-seasonally warm day did not dampen our spirits one bit. We were like a tribe of hunters and gatherers out in search of that little gleam of blush red fruit, which we speared with our picking poles. I ended up killing one of my Golden Delicious apples that way (Ooops). We didn’t care what kind of apples they were, we just wanted to pick apples, hence why I have no idea what’s in my bag. (York, Fuji, Rome, Stayman…they all look alike on online photos!). I’m sure Karen was secretly giggling at us in her head as she had grown up on a commercial orchard out on the West Coast. Did you know that commercial orchards pick all their fruit by hand? They have to in order to lessen bruising and to preserve the stems in the fruit. I like learning new things, don’t you?
In the end, the four of us were pretty lucky. We each had filled our pecks after about two hours. We ran across one couple on the Granny Smith side that had only one lone apple in their bag (yeah, those trees had nada). Too bad we found out about the crates of apples under the tents by the main house on our way out or we would have sent them that way.
So, the lesson of the day was this: if you are planning on spending an afternoon at your local orchard, call ahead to find out whether the pickins is slim or plentiful!
Oh, and find out where the closest winery is! We headed to Chateau O’Brien to wet our palates afterwards, but that’s another story for another post.
If you have any suggestions or recipes for apples, please share in the comments section. I have about 10 lbs of apples and would love to hear your ideas and experiences!