It's apple season! And who doesn't like a crisp, juicy apple?! (Did you know that apples are the second most popular fresh fruit? Bananas hold the top spot.)
Among my favorite apple varieties are Gala and Pink Lady. For me, apple season is one of the highpoints of fall in the Northeast and other parts of the country. The fall harvest season is the time to get apples at their peak of flavor. (Check our Seasonal Food Guide to make sure apples are in season near you!)
Looking for apple-centric ideas? Here are seven things to do - from apple picking to apple pie-making! Plus - a handy chart to figure out exactly what to do with some of the more unusual varieties of apples you might come across at the farmers' market or while apple picking. (We even give you ideas for cheese pairings - a match made in foodie heaven.)
1. Visit an organic (or low-spray) pick-your-own orchard
I recently took my family on a fun apple picking expedition - we picked blueberries too - in Putney, Vermont. We had a blast. Some of the early apples - Paula Red, Zester, Ginger Gold, Sansa - were ripe and ready for picking. Some orchards offer tours which is a great way to learn about the different varieties and about the orchard, too. To find an orchard near you, check out this pick-your-own site or this orchard directory.
2. Find unique apple varieties at your local farm stand or farmers' market
There's more to apples than Granny Smiths and Red Delicious - in fact, there are about 100 types of apples grown commercially in the United States! Head to your local farmers' market or farm stand, pick up some of these unique varieties, and do a tasting at home. Or pick up some cider instead and organize a cider tasting. Or do both! Knock yourself out!
3. Go on a tour of a cider mill and see real cider being made the old-fashioned way
If you're lucky, you'll get to taste fresh-pressed cider. My family and I had the opportunity to do just that while visiting a cider mill in northern Vermont. And we had some great cider donuts too! Be sure to read our Real Food Right Now post about cider which includes a fun apple cider punch recipe.
4. Bake something delicious and apple-y with your family
5. Attend a local apple festival
There are tons of annual apple festivals and harvest celebrations that feature apples all over the country. There are also cider-centric events too like Cider Week New York City which is coming up in late October. Check your local papers online to see if there is one happening near you.
6. Learn more about apples
Learn about the apple's interesting history, including why there is great debate among scientists and food historians about where the apple got its start, what the ancient Sumerians did with the fruit and who Johnny Appleseed really was from our Real Food Right Now series. (Plus a delicious recipe for apple-rosemary-walnut pie!)
7. Have an apple-themed party!
Organize an apple party with family and friends! You could have an "apple tasting" party to discover the different flavors each unique variety of apple has. Or have a party featuring mouthwatering apple-cheese pairings and local cider.
Check out the infographic below to learn more about the flavor profiles of different types of unique apples, what they're best for, plus some fun ideas for apple-cheese pairings!
This post was originally published in October 2016.