Bumper crop; Prime apple quality, quantity predicted deckhead will go here and here.
"I stand holding the apple in both hands. It feels precious, like a heavy treasure. I lift it up and smell it. It has such an odour of outdoors on it I want to cry.'' -- Margaret Atwood, "Alias Grace''
The annual autumnal ritual of pick-your-own apples at farms throughout Central Massachusetts has begun, and it will be an excellent crop this year, according to state agriculture officials and area growers.
"The Macouns will blow everybody out of the water,'' said Mike Meehan, farm manager at Sholan Farms, a 169-acre farm owned by the city of Leominster and operated by the Friends of Sholan Farms. "It's a heavy crop this year. And we started picking Honeycrisps on Tuesday, which of course, everyone loves.''
Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources officials recently reported that the state's orchards have a good crop of apples perfect for picking, and some growers are reporting above average fruit size this fall.
Slolan Farms boasts 37 varieties of apple,s and the state boasts more than 100 varieties -- including favorites such as McIntosh, Cortland (a cross of McIntosh and Ben Davis), Macoun, Gala (Cox Orange Pippin crossed with Golden Delicious) and Honeycrisp. John McIntosh discovered the first seedling in 1811 for McIntosh apples -- red apples known for their crisp bright-white flesh and sweet flavor.
Mr. Meehan said the Macouns are the featured apple variety for the "cream of the crop'' weekend this year on Sept. 28-29.
"The big reveal,'' Mr. Meehan said referring to the peak arrival of the Macouns. He said it definitely looks like this will be an above-average year as far as the volume and quality of apples.
For most growers, this year was perfectly conducive to growing apples.
"Last year was rough; it had its trials and tribulations,'' Mr. Meehan said. This season, "It's been a breeze.''
Though June will be remembered for the large amounts of rainfall, and July for some significant heat waves, growers at several local farms said the weather hit at the appropriate times for apples. Last year, the crop was several weeks early because of the conditions.
Tougas Family Farm in Northboro is family-owned and operated since 1981. In 1981 Maurice and Phyllis Tougas purchased the home farm, 53 acres of peach and apple orchards from Paul Fawcett. In 2001 the neighboring horse farm was purchased by the Tougases, which added another 35 acres to their production.
"We had good bloom and pollination conditions in May, rain in June when we needed it, and plenty of sun in July and August,'' Mr. Tougas said. "Both the size and appearance of the apples are going to be exceptional.''
Mr. Tougas said the farm carries almost 40 varieties of apples -- all of which will be ripe for the picking within the next few weeks and be available into next month, including the increasingly popular Honeycisps (a cross between a Macoun and Honeygold) and the ever popular McIntosh and Macoun varieties
Honeycrisp apples were developed specifically for growers in cold climates by the University of Minnesota and introduced in the early 1990s.
"Honeycrisp has forged ahead to become the most popular at pick-your-own places,'' Mr. Tougas said. It surged ahead in recent years to become the most sought-after variety at Tougas.
More than 40 percent of growers market their apples directly to consumers through roadside farm stands, farmers' markets and pick-your-own operations. Brookfield Orchards in North Brookfield is a fifth-generation orchard established in 1918. David Nydam, grower and vice president, acknowledged the surging popularity of the Honeycrisp variety, and said in his opinion, the McIntosh variety is still the most popular apple in New England.
"We have the ideal climate to grow McIntoshes,'' Mr. Nydam said. He agreed with other growers in the region that the weather this growing season contributed to big, juicy apples right on schedule. He said the Cortland variety is the best all-purpose apple in his opinion, and the Macoun is the best eating apple.
"But for everyone, it's all a matter of flavor and taste,'' Mr. Nydam said. "My favorite is the Macoun.''
Massachusetts ranks 12th nationally for the total value of U.S. apple production. In terms of ranking by total production, Massachusetts ranks 15th. The value of the Massachusetts apple crop in 2011 was more than $19.4 million.
In Central Massachusetts, pre-picked apples are about $1.50 a pound this year, and for pick-your-own, a peck (10 pounds) of apples is about $20 and a half-bushel (20 pounds) is about $30, depending on the farm.
"Usually we tell people who want to pick apples to do it now or in the next two weeks,'' Mr. Nydam said. "Don't wait for Columbus Day weekend. The way they're ripening, they won't be around long.''
Contact Linda Bock via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LindaBockTG
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Sep 15, 2013|
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