It’s Apple Harvest Time by Karen Shughart

If you drive around our area in October, you will notice the leaves on the trees have begun to turn, colorful red, orange, and yellow instead of multiple shades of green. The air smells of sweet decay, new mown grass, and when the waves crash against the beach, a clean, verdant aroma wafts through the air, a bit like the ocean but without the brine.

You’ll notice farm markets, large pots of colorful mums clustered together at the edges of the parking lots, filled with a bounty of vegetables: squashes, pumpkins, eggplant, green beans, and apples, lots of apples.

New York is one of the largest apple-growing regions in the country, second only to Washington state. On the south shore of Lake Ontario, where we live, you’ll see acre upon acre of lush orchards, laden with the heavy, ripe fruit. What might surprise you, if you don’t know much about apples, is that not only do they come in different sizes and colors, but there are also hundreds of varieties, old favorites and those recently developed. Each year brings more choices; there’s an almost infinite selection.

Photo by Karen Shughart

Apple harvest here, in the north, is a reason to celebrate. One of our friends spent his earlier years as an MD but has become an apple farmer in retirement (the story of his journey to this point is a long and interesting one), with 100 acres of the sweet and savory fruit.  Now he can be seen-cowboy hat, jeans, and boots, shirt sleeves rolled up to the elbows-cheerfully working alongside his seasonal employees to pick the crop before the frost creeps in.

We love going to his farm, when on a late afternoon, with a variety of cardboard boxes and tote bags in hand, we stroll through the stands of trees, lined up in rows in military precision. We carefully choose apples that will last in cold storage in our garage throughout the winter: baked into breads, pies, and cakes, eaten with sharp cheese, or sliced into a salad.

After, we’re likely to cluster around a large island in his farmhouse kitchen, drinking glasses of wine and eating charcuterie boards piled high with cheeses, sausages, artisanal breads, and apples, yes, apples. When the skies are clear and the air is cool, he’ll host an evening barbecue for friends in his meadow at the edge of the orchard; a huge bonfire burning with apple wood. Then, we gather, to laugh, share stories and eat a meal of locally sourced food. One year a white bedsheet affixed to the side of his barn served as a screen for an outdoor movie while we munched on apple fritters and popcorn cooked over that fire.

I love October for many reasons: the cool nights and bright warm days; the quiet and calmness now that summer residents and visitors are gone; the bright colors, and the earthy pungency of burning leaves that fills the air. But mostly because it’s apple harvest time, a time for convening with friends and sharing the bounty of the season.

9 thoughts on “It’s Apple Harvest Time by Karen Shughart

  1. That is something I miss! Where I grew up in NE Oregon we had a small apple orchard. Just enough apples for our family and a few friends. As kids that was where we found our snacks all summer long. First plums, then pears, and then the apples. We would borrow a cider press in the fall and after picking up all the apples the deer hadn’t eaten that were still good, we would make apple cider that was kept in the cellar. I can see why you wrote about apple harvest. It is a time that brings back fond memories and can make fond memories. Fun post!


    1. Thanks, Paty. I forgot about the apple cider. We have another friend who makes hard cider from our friend’s apples and even from the crabapple tree we have in our backyard. It’s a lovely time of year.


  2. What a wonderful description of your autumn life. We have something similar here in New England but not nearly the number of farms and apple orchards. Thanks for the description of a wonderful visit to your farming friends.


  3. Sounds wonderful. October is our anniversary month, will be 70 years on the 24th. Also first grandchild was born on our anniversary too. Great post. We have apple orchards in our area too.

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