Picking your own local, tart apples can add a personal touch to your new year, though there will likely be fewer of them this year.
Apples dipped in honey are a popular way to wish for a sweet new year for Rosh Hashanah. Wisconsin orchards have you covered with dozens of varieties of pick-your-own apples, though this year’s crop could be reduced, due to a cold spell in the growing season, according to Tom Griffith of Door Creek Orchard in the Madison area.
The pick-your-own season typically runs from Labor Day weekend through mid-October. The peak time to pick is Sept. 10 to Oct. 10 because that’s when the most varieties are ripe and ready, said Nino Ridgway, co-owner of Barthel Fruit Farm, 12246 N. Farmdale Road in Mequon.
Picking apples during that time can create a fun day trip for the whole family, whether you’re looking for something historic, something green, or something warm from the oven.
Best for honey dipping
Dipping a sweet apple in honey can give you a bland taste that overly emphasizes the honey, said Griffith, of Door Creek Orchard. Go with an apple that leans more to tartness.
Cortland or Mcintosh apples would be good choices, he said, since both are readily available and both have some tartness and sweetness. Cortland is a popular pick-your-own at Door Creek Orchard.
“They have the ability to stay quite white when sliced,” he said.
Antique farm experiences
Nieman Orchards, 9932 Pioneer Road in Cedarburg, is known for its “old red barn,” said owner Bob Nieman.
“It was built in 1888 and the farm goes back to 1852,” Nieman said, explaining that’s when his family came to America from Germany. “They were foresters there. So here they cut down the trees, cleared the land, sold the lumber and planted grains. In 1935, my grandpa and his brothers started growing apples.”
The antique barn is open to visitors who can shop there for caramel apples, cider and the like before or after taking a wagon ride out to the orchard, which features 44 apple varieties, Nieman said.
Klee’s Out On A Limb Acres, 4704 W. 7 Mile Road in Caledonia, grows an antique apple.
Their 40 varieties include the Kandil Sinap apple, which dates back to the 1500s, said co-owner Candy Klee.
Environmentally friendly produce
Peck and Bushel Fruit Company, 5454 County Road Q in Colgate, is certified organic. It has 12 varieties of apples, all grown completely pesticide free.
“That’s our biggest draw,” said Peck and Bushel owner Joe Fahey. “We can only use products to treat our trees that have been organically certified by the [U.S. Department of Agriculture]. We can’t use anything synthetically derived.”
Growing the apples and keeping them safe from pests is more labor intensive that way, compared to using traditional pesticides, Fahey said, but it’s worth it.
“Taste is usually a little bit better,” he said. “It’s also better for the environment.”
Barthel Fruit Farm uses some pesticides but is careful to use as little as possible on its 22 varieties of apple trees, Ridgway said.
“We control insects and disease only when we have to,” she said, “to not contaminate the environment.”
Barthel Fruit Farm is opening a bakery this fall, Ridgway said. It will not be kosher certified, according to bakery co-owner Sue Knudsen.
“We will sell apple cider doughnuts and apple muffins,” she said, adding they already sell caramel apples and cider.
The Elegant Farmer, 1545 Main St. in Mukwonago, has a market and bakery well-known for its “apple pie baked in a paper bag,” said co-owner Keith Schmidt.
It also sells apple cider doughnuts, muffins, pumpkin apple bread, soup mixes, popcorn and deli items. Plus there are hayrides and a corn maze near the 13-variety apple orchard, Schmidt said. The Elegant Farmer is not kosher certified, he said.
“You can spend the day at the farm and apple pick, and then come over to the market and shop,” he said.
Chilly spring means prices may vary
Cold weather near the end of apple trees’ bloom period this past spring means the crop may be smaller than normal, bringing higher prices for picked apples, Schmidt said.
“We had a hard frost after some trees bloomed, which damages the crop,” he said, adding the same thing happened in 2012.
Prices at local orchards usually range from about $1 to $3 per pound, depending on the apple variety and the amount you buy. Harder to grow varieties like honeycrisp tend to cost more. The price per pound tends to go down if you buy 10 or more pounds, orchard owners said.
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Some Wisconsin pick-your-own apple orchards
– Barthel Fruit Farm
12246 N. Farmdale Road in Mequon
Pick your own Mondays through Fridays 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
– The Elegant Farmer
1545 Main St. in Mukwonago
Pick your own Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
– Klee’s Out On A Limb Acre
4704 W. 7 Mile Road in Caledonia
Pick your own Saturdays and Sundays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
– Nieman Orchards
9932 Pioneer Road in Cedarburg
Pick your own every day 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
– Peck and Bushel Fruit Company
5454 County Road Q in Colgate
Pick your own Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
– Door Creek Orchard
3252 Vilas Road in Cottage Grove
Weekdays, 10-6. Saturday and Sunday, 9-5. Hours could change based on crop strength.