Inside the 2013 Apple Season with Caitlin Hocombe

Of all the signs that autumn is approaching, one of my favorites is the arrival of the local apple season. Apples have had a great growing season this year, and we are offering a wide variety of local apples and pears already. We are currently featuring local apples from two farmers, Marv Morales in Mt. Morris and Scott Donovan of Donovan Orchards in Barker, New York, on the Niagara Wine Trail. I had the opportunity to visit Donovan Orchards and their BlackBird Cider Works this past weekend.

Though the weather was less than ideal, down-pouring rain and grey skies, the orchard and cider works were well worth the visit. My visit started off with a tasting of just a few of their ten ciders, which range from dry to sweet, including organic varieties, and some aged in oak barrels. They will be releasing a new cider in October that is aged in Kentucky Bourbon barrels; visit their website for more on their cider offerings and where to buy locally:

After sampling the ciders, Scott gave me a tour of the orchards, which cover over 37 acres and look out onto Lake Ontario. Scott has been maintaining the orchards for eight years now and grows certified organic apples: Gala—which we have right now—and ripening later in the season are the Enterprise and Gold Rush varieties.

Scott also grows apples and pears using Integrative Pest Management (IPM). You may have seen a sign up at the far right side of our produce cooler describing IPM. This method reduces the number of sprays needed in a season by monitoring the spread of disease and pest interference. I was able to view one of these methods: a red-colored plastic tag hanging from a tree branch that releases pheromones to attract fruit moths and disrupt them from reproducing. Scott is expanding his organic orchards with the addition of a variety called Liberty, which was cultivated for its low disease susceptibility, which is very important when growing organic apples commercially.

Here are some tasting notes and recommended uses for apples we are currently offering:

  • Gala: Thin-skinned, mildly sweet, firm and crisp. Great for eating and juicing.
  • McIntosh: Red and green skin with tender flesh and tart flavor. Great for eating or making apple sauce-- incorporate skin for a pink appearance.
  • Honeycrisp: Nice balance of sweet and tart, firm apple--excellent for eating.

We have many other exciting local produce now and on the horizon. We have beautiful cauliflower with a purple tinge from Stick and Stone in Ithaca, Concord Grapes from Rose Valley, an assortment of squash including vibrant red kuri squash, and hardneck garlic from Salvere Farm.

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