CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Fall is ripe for apple picking, and this year’s crop is looking promising.
“We are just getting started with our fall varieties but so far, so good,” said Cynthia Chiles, who helps operate her family’s Carter Mountain Orchard and Chiles Peach Orchard. “The bulk of the season is still to come.”
Fall apple season begins after Labor Day and lasts well into November, with the majority of the harvest in October. Currently, Carter Mountain has about eight varieties of apples available; by October Chiles anticipates double that amount.
Consumers can explore the orchards and pick their own, or simply purchase already picked apples at the farm market. “Pick your own is really popular with families with young kids and college students,” Chiles said. “Empty nesters are happy buying fresh, already picked apples.
“There truly is something for everyone.”
According to the Virginia Apple Growers Association, Virginia ranks sixth among U.S. apple-producing states, with production from Southwest Virginia through the central region and up to the Shenandoah Valley. The state’s apples are grown in over 100 commercial orchards on more than 16,000 acres. The estimated yield per acre is 700 bushels.
Virginia farmers grow apples for fresh consumption, and sell 70 percent for processing into products like applesauce, apple juice, apple butter and cider. On average, 5 to 6 million bushels of Virginia apples are harvested annually.
Jason McDonald, vice chairman of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Apple Advisory Committee, grows about 10 varieties of apples on his Frederick County farm. He sells fresh apples to packing sheds for resale.
McDonald said apples are ready a little earlier this year thanks to hot, dry weather. “I think growers in Virginia have a fair crop this year. There are plenty of apples for people to pick or buy at local markets.
“It may not feel like fall, but apple season in Virginia has begun.”
There are more than a dozen apple varieties grown in the state, including Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala, Granny Smith, Jonathan and Ginger Gold.
Chiles said the most popular varieties at Carter Mountain are Fuji, Pink Lady, Stayman, Winesap and Jonagold. Some people prefer to use only tart apples for baking, but Chiles said she likes cooking with sweet apples because you don’t have to add as much sugar.
“I always say you can do just about anything with any apple,” Chiles said.
–Virginia Farm Bureau