Here’s What You Should Know About Apple Season This Year

If you want to get technical about it, apple season officially started back on September 1st. But if you’re anything like us—feeling just a smidge of denial that summer is over—it’s possible that typical fall activities like apple picking haven’t been exactly top of mind.

Turns out, we may be rewarded for our procrastination—according to author and apple expert Dan Bussey, the best apples are those that actually ripen later, around October through December.

So, as the calendar inches ever deeper into autumn, maybe now is the time to visit one of the many family-owned apple orchards near New York City! But don’t book your trip before you read these five things:

  1. Above Average: Despite a challenging growing year (think frost, hail, and drought, to name a few), New York growers are on track to pick some 30 million bushels of apples this year, slightly above the states average crop of 28.6 million. New York is the largest apple-producer east of the Mississippi, and second only to Washington state nationally.
  2. Smaller but Sweeter: About that aforementioned drought—the lack of water, while stressful for trees, made this year’s apples crunchier and sweeter. With less water content, the concentration of sugar in each fruit is higher, even though they may be a bit more petite. Sounds good to us!
  3. Hard to Pick Just One: New York grows more apple varieties than any other state, and that includes classics like McIntosh, Empire, and Red Delicious, as well as new favorites like Honeycrisp and Ginger Gold. Some types aren’t even available in stores, only at roadside stands or orchards.
  4. A Family Affair: There are nearly 700 commercial apple growers in New York State, and many of them are family-owned businesses that have been passed down from generation to generation. When you support those growers, you’re supporting farm families and keeping jobs here in New York State…not to mention keeping some 55,000 acres in farmland.
  5. Go Beyond: In addition to fresh apples, New York State is also home to 22 cideries, so you can grab a bottle with your bushel. And, don’t forget, New York City Cider Week is coming October 21-30! And do we even need to mention apple cider donuts?

Now that you’re in the know, check out this list of the best apple orchards near New York City—go forth and pick!

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Freshly picked apples. Photo credit: Shinya Suzuki/Creative Commons

 

New York Ranks High in Apple, Grape Production

If you can find it in your cold, iced-over, Vitamin D-deprived heart, consider this: New York has three other seasons besides winter. And during those seasons, things grow here—things that aren’t blackened snow piles pocked with dog poop and uncollected garbage.

Plants, even!

To remind you of this miracle, and give you something to peruse while it snows (yes, again), the USDA recently released the Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts Summary for 2014, a descriptively-named guide to U.S. fruit production numbers by state.

In typical New York fashion, the Empire State ranks high, coming in second in the country for apple production, and third for grapes. The news comes as New York celebrates a record agricultural sales year in 2013 and a range of other farm-based successes.

Leader of the Pack

According to the report, New York is home to 40,000 acres of apple orchards producing an estimated 1.26 billion pounds of apples in 2014. That puts New York second in the nation, a ranking it has maintained since 1996. Only Washington State produces more.

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Remember spring, summer, and fall? We will see them again. Photo credit: Porsche Brosseau / Creative Commons.

According to the New York Apple Association, there are 694 commercial apple growers in the state, who tend more than 10 million trees. These orchardists coax fruit from more than 20 varieties, from the familiar Fuji, Gala, and Golden Delicious, to the more obscure RubyFrost, Zestar, and Northern Spy. Some of these heirloom types can only be found at roadside stands or at the orchards themselves.

The NYAA estimates that 53 percent of the annual apple harvest is sold as fresh-market fruit, with the remainder being processed into juice, cider, and canned products.

A Bushel and a Peck… and a Bottle

As you might expect in a state with high apple production, New York also has a thriving hard cider industry. That’s thanks in part to a relatively new piece of legislation signed by Governor Cuomo.

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There are more than 50 cider producers in New York State. Photo via NY Cider Week.

The Farm Cidery law took effect in January 2014, creating a new license available to small, craft farm cideries that use crops grown exclusively in New York State. Previously, cider production was allowed only under a brewery or winery license.

The new legislation releases cider-makers from some of the more stringent restrictions placed upon brewers and winemakers, while permitting sales at farmers markets and other direct-to-consumer outlets. It also creates a market for “seconds” apples—fruit that would otherwise go to waste.

So far, 11 farm cideries in New York have been granted a license, a number which is expected to grow in coming years.

Additional legislation drafted by Senator Chuck Schumer would decrease the federal tax on hard cider to the same rate as the tax on beer (currently it is taxed at the same rate as wine).

On the Vine

Not to be outdone, New York’s grape growers also ranked high in the USDA report, coming in third in the country, behind California and Washington.

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Grapes in the vine at Benmarl Winery in Marlborough, NY. Photo credit: Young Sok Yun/Creative Commons.

More than 37,000 acres across the state are dedicated to the production of grapes. In the wake of a very harsh winter following the best crop in the state’s history, grape growers produced 5.08 tons per acre of grapes in 2014 with crop production totaling $69.4 million.

As for other fruits, well, the Empire State’s no slouch there either: New York also ranks in the top 10 in the blueberry, peach, pear, strawberry, and sweet/tart cherries industries.