Monday, September 26, 2011

Apple of my eye.

Apple picking: Jonagold, Empire, Golden Delicious!

I ventured up to Hudson Valley this past weekend with my cousins and on Saturday we went apple picking. I didn't really know what to expect: Do I have the right shoes on? What should I wear? Do I need to bring any special equipment, like maybe I need to climb the tree? Turns out all I needed was a bag and the willingness to bite into a lot of apples.

Driving up to Phillips Orchards with my cousin I was excited to bite into my very first Upstate New York apple (as in, not an apple I bought in California that had travelled three thousand miles to get to me). Pulling up to the farm a nice woman handed us a sheet of paper that showed us where to find the ripe apples. It was a hand drawn apple picking treasure map. She opened her mouth to ask us some questions but before she could do that my cousin hollered out, "Yeah, we got bags," she assured the woman, "Yep, we know where we're going," and we were off.

Driving slowly down the muddy roads I studied the map of the farm and pointed us in the direction of the Empires. Pulling over, askew to a large non-apple bearing tree, along with several other cars, we hopped out, collected our bags and headed to a row of trees. The first thing I noticed was how hot it was. It had been muggy and humid all day but somehow it had compressed even further into an oppressive boggy hotness that pressed into every pore. And there were bugs. Mosquitos buzzing at me from every angle so that, as I approached the tree, I was also waving my hands madly back and forth in front of my face. I was actually glad to be wearing pants at that moment.

The first thing I learned about apple picking was to TRY the apple first. I mean, you don't want to end up back home with bleh apples. The Empires were solid. Red and smallish, perfect size for a snack. They were nice and tart with crisp flesh. Done. Then we walked over to the Golden Delicious. I know, a pedestrian apple, you've seen it a million times before, but they were good, a bit bigger then the Empires, they would be perfect in a pie or the crumble which I planned to make later that evening. There were some misses, the Jonathons had flesh that had a bit of sag when you bit into it and the Ida Red had crunch but no flavor. I'd take a bite, regret it and then toss it down near the trunk. I felt bad. A little guilty for not liking this or that apple. I felt bad when I tugged an apple off a branch and two fell to the ground with it. Appley flavored Jewish guilt. I'm sorry apples, I can't take you all home with me, I thought.

The last row of apples we came to were the Jonagolds, which were perfect. My favorite actually. My bag was already heavy with fruit but I kept going, biting into one, picking others and madly batting at mosquitos. And then the bugs just became too much. I also had a bag buckling from the weight of more apples than one person could ever eat. So we hopped back in the car, bugs following us inside, and us, desperately lowering the windows and, with our hands, escorting them out with a "Shoo!"

As we stopped back at the front entrance I lowered my window and smiled at the woman as she asked "How many bags?" I looked over at my cousin, "Don't they need to see them?" and looked back at the woman, "One." One bag chock full of apples, countless mosquito bites, all for the low, low price of $12.

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