Monday, September 19, 2011

How 'Bout Them Apples

Cameo Apples - Justus Orchards
Hendersonville, NC - September 17, 2011

For a city girl, who religiously eats an apple a day, I hate to admit the fact that I've never picked apples before.  Considering I have distant relatives who actually OWN an apple orchard and the fact that I make FREQUENT visits to one of our local orchards further compounds the unusual fact that I've never been to a u-pick orchard and picked them myself.  That is, until yesterday.  Check another one off the bucket list.  

Mr. B and I set out Friday afternoon for a much needed weekend roadtrip to our "go-to" spot of choice, Boyd Mountain Cabins in Waynesville, NC.  This trip was a last minute decision and I was thrilled to find the Little Cosby cabin available due to a cancellation.  It is late enough in September that the leaf peepers are starting to travel and I wouldn't have been surprised to find no availability anywhere.  To get something exactly where we wanted to be was a gift!

Temps Friday evening in Waynesville were in the low 50's and we enjoyed our first fire of the season in the wood-burning fireplace.  On Saturday, we meandered across a short section of the Blue Ridge Parkway looking for fall.   And we found it.  Or maybe I should say, we found evidence it was on its way!

Blue Ridge Parkway - North Carolina
September 17, 2011

But we had a destination in mind and after a quick stop at Looking Glass Falls.....................

...............we found ourselves in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

North Carolina is the seventh largest apple producing state in the US.  85% of those are grown in western North Carolina with 150 apple orchards in Henderson County alone.  I had done my research using the Farm Fresh, North Carolina book that I've mentioned previously and chose Justus Orchards as the place I wanted to visit.  Their picking schedule indicated they had Cameo apples which are my favorite and not easy to find in Tennessee.  They also had a variety called Candy Crisp, with which I was not familiar, but sounded yummy and I was intrigued.  

So we arrived and we picked!   I LOVED the philosophy of the folks handing out your baskets and answering questions.  Here's what they said, "pick one off the tree, eat it, if you like it, put some in your basket."  Always with a smile and sending you off into the orchard with a hearty, "have fun!"  All I wanted was apples to eat, so we only picked 1/2 peck, but the Cameos are to die for and the Candy Crisp are delicous beyond description.  Turns out, the Candy Crisp variety was first grown in the Hudson Valley area of New York State, so maybe my friend, Lori (Finding Radiance) might know something more about them.  Normally, I'm not a fan of yellow apples, but these are EXCELLENT!  Crisp and sweet.  So yummy!  Can't resist sharing a couple of pictures of our adventure in the apple orchard...............
Yep, that's me!  Farmer Sharon sits atop her tractor!

You get the impression there weren't many people here.  Wrong!  The place was very crowded and obviously extremely popular.  The red covered area to the right were several picnic tables.  The orchards were off to the left.

And yes, they had the best fried pies I've ever tasted and fresh apple cidar doughnuts that literally melted in your mouth.  I would like too say I didn't indulge, but that wouldn't be honest.  However, I did make the conscious choice to only eat doughnuts while sitting at the picnic tables.  We brought none home with us which was a switch from year's past when at least an extra dozen would've left the orchard with us, but probably never made it home!

After leaving the orchard, we took a quick trip through our summer home, you know the one I've mentioned before.  Some people call it Biltmore Estate - we call it our second home.  We've had season passes for many years and although we rarely visit the house during tourist season, we take full advantage of the hiking/walking path, gardens, winery grounds, etc.  There is so much more to Biltmore than a big house!!  We knew it was a tiny bit early for the mums to be blooming, but hoped we might see the last of the roses.  As it turns out, the mums weren't even planted yet, but look what we found...................

Aren't they just exquisite??

It had been a long day, we'd traveled a lot of miles, so quite content with our day's activities, we headed back to our oasis at Boyd Mountain and spent a very quiet evening in front of another fire reading, talking and just enjoying relaxing.

This morning, we headed back home the long way.  Who needs interstates???  Back up on the Blue Ridge Parkway going in the opposite direction of yesterday with our first stop at the brand new Oconoluftee Visitor's Center at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  There is a 1.5 mile riverwalk starting at the visitor center and meandering along the river that is just beautiful.  We enjoyed walking it and got some exercise at the same time.

Oconoluftee River Trail - Cherokee, NC

After that, it was another hour and a half across the mountain and we were home.  It was a short trip not too far from home, but both of us feel refreshed and ready to start a new week!  

And by george, I got to pick apples.

Have you ever been to a U-Pick operation?  What did you pick?  Is there anything you'd like to pick, but never have?


  1. Hi Sharon! Orchard apples is one of the best things of fall! I got my 20 pounds on Friday. I'm glad you had this experience!

    :-) Marion

  2. Awesome! LOVE the fall apples! DD17 works at an apple orchard this year and now I buy smaller bags of apples - and we keep getting them fresh. Mmmmm. And trying different varieties. AND she gets a discount!! Can it get better??!!

  3. ENVY! When my kids were little we picked most years, kind of as a family outing. When they got older, I still wanted the apples. I think they taste better! So went some years with a girlfriend. It had been quite a few though since going when last year I talked my oldest son into going with me while he was home from college. We went to two orchards, right across from each other, and the apples were horrible. Holes and weird stuff going on. I was so disappointed. I have been checking online for a couple weeks to see what is out there this year. A big one here is Jonathans.

  4. We go to a local orchard and buy the ones already picked. I have no desire to pick apples, as we had a huge orchard when I was growing up. Your trip sounds great, and I love that area this time of year.

  5. I am dying to go up to Apple Hill!!! I've never picked apples before, have to check and see if there's a place like that up there. Yummo on the fried pies and such. Candy crisp sounds fantastic.

    And I LOVE LOVE LOVE that waterfall.

  6. What a wonderful trip! I've never been there during peak leaf season before; I can only imagine how extraordinary it is, but can also imagine it's not quite as fun for you, living right in the heart of where everyone is traveling to!
    I haven't picked apples since I was a kid. It was fun just being out in a quiet orchard; we'd come home and could count on apple pie that week. Since my mother is from KY, everything was from scratch. I miss those pies!

  7. I've picked peaches from an orchard before, but not apples. My parents have an apple tree that the squirrels have laid claim to, taking bites from each one before they get ripe. I should show them an article on how to choose ripe apples. :)

  8. You are such a talented writer! I love those pics. They reminded me of Oregon and all the farms and farmers markets and beauty. Yay that you finally visited a u-pick farm!! Now, have you parachuted out of a plane going a bazillion mph yet? :)

    Take care,

  9. The Lake Ontario region in Western New York was famous (locally) for their orchards when I was growing up. Till we moved to the midwest, we always went to pick cherries, peaches, and apples as each came into season. When we moved here, everyone swooned about Michigan peaches, but I never found one as good as those in WNY. My apologies to anyone from Michigan. I used to have a small raspberry (both black and red) patch and for years I planted strawberries. I loved the freshness, but it's a lot of work and I doubt that I'd do it again.

  10. Mmmm... made my mouth water for a fresh apple. We grow some around, too. Like Cameo, Fuji, Gala, Ginger Gold, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Jonagold, Jonathan, Lady Apples, MacIntosh, Newtown Pippin, Rome...well, that's enough to get me totally into an apple mood, LOL!

    "Leaf peepers"... that was so cute. I had to read the twice, and then I got it!

  11. I used to go pick strawberries at a u-pick farm when I still lived in Ohio (oh how I miss it more than you can imagine). We went almost every year for probably the past 30 years.

    I would LOVE to pick a fresh peach from a tree!!!

  12. HI, Sharon,
    I have never been to a "u" pick 'em place, but have picked plenty of fruit from either my family's or friend's trees and or gardens (permission granted of course!). I love fresh fruit especially. My father lived in CA. We were lucky enough to pluck apricots and peaches from the trees. I will never forget the taste of that freshness. Mmmm.

    I have enjoyed your blog now for way over a year. I find your post ruminative in the very best sense of the word. That is why I am spreading some bloggy love your way. It is an "award," but different than most. Easy and well, your blog is inspirational in my book. Hope others see it that way too. Michele

  13. I actually do get to pick apples...right out my yard. I have a beautiful apple tree. But sadly there are no apples on it this year. I think it was the storms we had in the spring or maybe a late frost that got them. I'm glad you and Mr. B had such a good trip!

    I had a great time yesterday! I smiled the whole way home thinking about the wonderful conversations we had. And for the record, I picked up my mace and am hitting the trail Saturday morning! I'll let you know how it goes, but until then, maybe you could keep me in your prayers Saturday. I'm still a little nervous!