Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Autumn Leaves and Apple Picking; the Perfect Fall Day Trip.

Autumn Leaves and Apple Picking; the Perfect Fall Day Trip.

In the fall of 2006, my son was about to turn one and my daughter was three. My favorite time of year had rolled around bringing with it cooler weather, shorter days and one of my favorite things of the season: apple picking! My family has been taking day trips out toward Julian to pick apples since the 1930s. As residents and dairy farmers of old Escondido, my great-grandmother Barker used to drive my grandmother and her sister out to Julian to pick the apples in the fall when they were just girls. In honor of family tradition and because we wait excitedly for the autumn season the whole year, it was a brisk morning for the four generations of family to set out on the windy, country road in search of sweet, fresh apples.

Our scenic drive led us to a small, lovely apple orchard on the side of the road. The dusty lot was bustling with cars full of excited children pulling in to park and pulling out to the road making the turn toward historic Julian. There was a crisp, cool breeze on that day as we unloaded our group. My grandmother, my mother, my sister, my two children headed with me toward the wooden stand at the entrance of the orchard.

The friendly girls taking payments for the bags of apples handed out sweet samples of sliced fruit. They busily straightened the wooden bins full of colorful already picked apples while giving directions of how to properly pick the apples. We were told not to pull the fruit but to gently twist until it came off of the stem. They said not to shake the branches or the trees. They reminded all of the children not to drop the fruit into their bags so as not to bruise their treasures before they even had a chance to become a part of a pie. A group of boisterous school children sat at the tables nearby listening and eating hungrily from their sack lunches.

We made it to the front of the line and paid for two new plastic bags waiting to be filled with apples. Although my son was a little too young to understand what was really going on, he was very intrigued. My daughter, on the other hand, could hardly stand still. The trees were full of red, yellow and green gems just waiting to be plucked off of the branches as we all ventured down into the old orchard. The leaves rustled around the sounds of children’s giggles nearby. My sister lifted my daughter onto her shoulders and they began the quest for the perfect apple. They moved from tree to tree looking, picking, and laughing. It was incredible to see four generations of family standing together in that aged orchard. It was a sight that left me a little breathless at how fortunate we could be to have us all together in such a simply magical spot. Once our bags were brimming and the kids worn out, we headed back to the car now to search for lunch at some nearby restaurant. “Perfect” apples are probably very delicious but as I have learned during my years of picking, they all taste good even if they are slightly misshapen or have a few blemishes. And I know personally that they always taste the best when they have been picked with love by your own hand in the presence of loved ones.

Sadly, we did not get to go apple picking last season due to the horrible October wildfires. We were one of the many, many families who were evacuated at the time of the apple picking season. My grandmother will not be able to go with us this season as she can barely walk anymore. It is just a reminder that we were so lucky to have those times together. My kids are already counting down the days until the orchards open for picking.

A quick search of the internet can help you make the most of your apple-picking day trip. I encourage families to get out and plan a trip to enjoy the fall season, fresh apples and ever-important time together. Check your local Farm Bureau online to find local "you-pick orchards." Be sure to call the orchard before you go to confirm hours/days of operation.

Here are some fun apple facts:
- The Red Delicious is the most popular variety of apple in the United States
- Fresh apples will float in water due to the high volume of air in them.
- Apples are a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber and have virtually
no fat.
- A medium apple has about 80 calories.

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