It might still be August, but apple season has begun in Southwestern Ontario. And we’re not talking about imported apples at the grocery store from Chile, China or the US. You can get plenty of apples grown right here, right now.
The Apple of My Eye
There are over 7,500 cultivars of apple trees in the world, many of which grow in Ontario. We’ll excuse you if that number astounds you. A few years ago grocery stores stocked hardy varieties like McIntosh, Red Delicious, and the tart Granny Smith, with little else to choose from. Royal Galas, Empires and Golden Delicious soon snuck in, but new varieties are added all the time. Now you can find apples with exotic names like Pink Lady, Fuji, Jazz, Eve and Ambrosia. Marketing departments hire only the best when it comes to naming fruit it would seem!
The taste and colours of apples vary almost as widely as the names. You can find green, red, pink, and yellow apples, plus some that have a mix of colours, like the Divine apple with pink-orange stripes over a yellow background. Tastes range from tart to sweet, with flesh that is crisp to slightly soft. Most apples are perfect for eating out of hand, but there are some that lend themselves better to cooking and baking, and others that are the preferred choice for ciders and juice.
Top 5 apples – According to Ontario Apple Growers, the top five apple varieties in Ontario (based on acreage planted) are McIntosh, Empire, Northern Spy, Red Delicious and Gala.
So what can you expect to find in London and area? Well that depends upon the season. Early varieties include Lodi, Paula Red, Ginger Gold, and Sunrise. Ambrosia, Galas, Honey Crisp and McIntosh are right behind them. By the end of September, Empire, Jonagold, Cortland, Golden Delicious and Mutsu are ready for the picking. From the end of September into October, expect to find Ida Red, Northern Spy, Red Delicious and Fuji apples.
If you are looking to find local apples, note that not all apple varieties are found at all orchards. You shouldn’t have far to go to find them though. The Ontario Apple Growers have over 200 farmers with almost 20 different varieties grown on 16,000 acres of land. Those numbers don’t include farmers with 10 acres of land or less. That makes finding an apple in our neck of the woods easy as (apple) pie.
In the London area alone, you can find u-pick apple orchards at Appleland Station, Great Lakes Farms, Dwarf Tree Orchards, Thiessen Orchards, and Janssens Farm Market & U-Pick. If you prefer to pick your apples from a market versus directly from the tree, you have plenty more to choose from; Thomas Bros Market, Covent Garden Market, Western Fair Market, Trails End, M & R Orchards, Crunican Orchard, just to name a few.
While many u-pick farmers don’t officially open their doors til Labour Day weekend or later, now is the time to hit your local farms and markets to get your fresh fix of apples. As they are high in fibre (pectin) and vitamin C, plus low in calories (approx 50 Calories per medium apple), apples make for the perfect snack.
So which apple variety is your favourite?