Enjoy apple season in Chester County
● By Steven Hoffman
The beginning of fall means many things in Chester County: children returning to school, cooler temperatures and of course, apple season. From farm stands to pick-your-own operations, residents have a lot of options when it comes to everything from stocking up for lunch boxes during the week to adventures in home canning.
At Highland Orchards in West Chester, apple enthusiasts can either buy directly from the farm store or venture into the orchards for a more hands-on experience. Orchard staff anticipate lunch box favorites like Jonathan, Red Delicious and McIntosh to be ready for picking in mid-September. The date coincides with their annual Fall Fest weekends, which feature hay rides into the orchard, a kids’ fun area and a variety of other family-friendly entertainment.
“The prime apple picking season should last through October,” advises Highland Orchards Events Coordinator Art Whitehair. Whitehair, whose favorite way to eat apples is in apple pie a la mode, encourages those who prefer a specific type of apple to keep an eye on their pick-your-own calendar since varieties tend to last only about two weeks.
For those interested in exploring some less familiar apple flavors and textures, the over 350 varieties at North Star Orchard in Cochranville should do the trick. North Star brings evocatively named apples like Smokey Mountain Limbertwig, Canadian Strawberry and Crimson Crisp to farmers markets around the county, as well as offering them for sale through their fruit CSA program.
North Star Orchard farmer and owner Lisa Kershner encourages customers to look beyond an unfamiliar apple’s appearance when shopping for new tastes. She notes, “Varieties like Heritage Golden Russet and Rubinette may look ho-hum, but their flavor will knock your socks off.”
Kershner also recommends refrigerating apples wrapped in plastic bags to keep fruit from dehydrating. Apples that are left on the counter for more than a day or two may lose their flavor and crunchiness quickly.
Whether you prefer apples fresh off the tree or as an ingredient in a seasonal treat, they are a good way to increase fiber consumption in your daily diet. According to the USDA, one medium apple provides almost 20% of the daily dose of recommended fiber.
“Nutrition habits start at home, and the easiest way parents can instill health is to involve their children and make it as fun as possible,” says Lindsay Smith, Public Health Educator at the Chester County Health Department. “Fall is the perfect time to take your kids to the orchard for apple picking, have an apple carving contest or create a healthier dessert like baked apples.”
To find a Chester County orchard, farm stand or retail outlet near you, go to www.chesco.org/agdev/farmguide.