Do Not Twist or Pull!
When I told a friend that I would be going apple picking, she told me of a trick she had recently learned. Take the apple and gently turn it upside-down. If it’s ripe, the apple will fall off the stem naturally. If not, you should leave it. Do not twist or pull the apple. To think I had been doing it wrong all these years! Harvest Season is here again so here are some more helpful tips on How to Pick an Apple in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley:
Choose an Orchard you Love
On Thanksgiving weekend, I put my newly learned apple-picking trick to the test at Noggin’s Corner Farm, just outside of Wolfville. What Noggin’s lacks in livestock (there is no petting zoo), it makes up for in playground equipment. In addition to the main orchard, there is a vast play area with huge piles of tires, tubes, bricks, hay bales, webs, mazes and water pumps – a child’s dream! Although we are eager to try new places (I hear rave reviews about the merry-goat round at Dempsey’s Corner Farm in Aylesford), our annual apple-picking adventure always seems to bring us to Noggins. If you aren’t sure where to go, check our list of Fun Places to Go Apple Picking with your family. When you have found your favourite farm, stick with it. Routine is good for families, and great for creating lasting memories.
Pick your Weekend
As you can see, many apples are in season in Nova Scotia, right up until the end of October. If you have a favourite variety, you can use this handy graphic to help you choose which week to go.
Stop for a Coffee
It’s important to stay fuelled, right? We usually leave the main highway early at exit 10 so we can drive through Wolfville, and marvel at its grand old houses against the fall colours. There are some great places to have coffee in Wolfville, including the JustUs! Wolfville Coffee House, housed in the old Acadia Cinema. Last year I brought my newborn son there, while my husband browsed in his favourite record and bookshops, ‘Rainbow’s End Books and Discs’, and ‘The Box of Delights’, further down the street. The chairs in the roomy, comfortable seating area in the back of the coffee house (what used to be the foyer of the cinema) were perfect for discreet and comfortable breastfeeding. The washrooms were clean, with a spotless change table, and there were plenty of colouring activities and games for my five year old to enjoy. Most importantly, the cappuccino I had was strong, hot and superb.
Sample the Crop
One of the great things about Noggins is they have a “no problem” attitude to strollers. Following the bumpy wagon ride to the Noggin’s orchard area, my son (13 months), jumped straight out of his, dived straight for the fallen apples underneath the trees, and started sampling. This is the beauty of a u-pick: customers are encouraged to sample. It’s also what makes apple-picking one of the best activities for families. There’s always a snack on hand!
Pick with a Purpose
It’s important to know what you’re picking so that you can get the best out of your apples when you return home. Are you stocking up for school lunches? Buy a bag of soft, sweet Golden Delicious. For the same softness, but a hardier skin (i.e. less bruising), the classic McIntosh also makes a great snack. Cortland, Gravenstein and Northern Spy are best for pies and crumbles. The Cox Orange Pippin, a small, round “heirloom” apple, is a classic and has a unique, sweet, crunchy taste.
If your friends or neighbours have heard you are going to the Valley and have requested a bag of special apples, my advice is don’t waste your time picking. Just stop at a farm shop on the way home. It will be a similar price, and your neighbour won’t mind that they weren’t hand-picked! Don’t forget to pick up some tea biscuits, fudge or a fresh-baked pie as well. Somehow baked goods from the Valley always taste better.
Don’t Rush. Have Fun.
For our family, the tradition of returning to the same activity, usually with the same group of extended family, has created a special moment in time that we look forward to every year. Apple picking is simple, relatively low stress, and the family photo opportunities are priceless. Like Noggins, most farms and orchards in the Annapolis Valley have play areas, petting zoos or wagon rides. Depending on the age of your own children, you may have to prioritise these playtime activities, and let the actual fruit-picking take second place. And why not? It’s all about the kids! Wherever you decide to go this year, make it a special day out. Don’t rush, do take lots of photographs… and have fun!