A slice of the season
They come around—like a couple’s anniversary, a child’s birthday or a favorite holiday—year after year. They’re just a symbol of routine seasonal change like digging out a jacket or heating up soup, but they’re taken for granted and missed when they’re gone.
Kids beg their parents to let them pick them. Girlfriends want their boyfriends to hold their hand while admiring them. School children can’t wait to collect them on a field trip.
So picking apples is much more than simply pulling fruit off trees. It’s a day outside with family, a romantic date, a fun day at school, a bridge between summer and winter and a reminder of what’s great about Wisconsin.
“It’s quality time,” said Judy Jacobson, co-owner of the Apple Barn Orchard and Winery near Elkhorn.
This is the time to pick apples. The season generally runs from early September until late October. Several orchards in southern Wisconsin are within a close driving distance.
So go out and grab a piece of Americana before it’s too late.
The Apple Barn is a mom-and-pop operation that has been in the family since 1848. The owners live in the house next door.
The orchard has about 45 acres. Trees grow a dozen varieties of apples. Each variety ripens at different times. The farm harvests 420,000 pounds of apples from its 5,500 trees.
“The crop is pretty good,” Jacobson said.
The Apple Barn’s apples and cider are available at local groceries. The farm also makes its own cider, apple donuts, apple wine, apple cookies and caramel apples.
On a recent morning at the Apple Barn, children ages 4 to 9 from the Wisconsin School for the Deaf in Delavan were on a field trip. They had just finished a unit on apples. They walked through the long rows of apple trees, picking Cortlands, a large, dark-red variety.
At a time when computers and video games are dominating their lives, these children seemed revved up about the farm.
“This is one of their favorite field trips of the year,” teacher Jen Vander Molen said. “With our school we like to do a lot of hand-on visual things with the kids. Most of the kids are visual learners because of their deafness.”
Their tour guide, Marilyn Alberts, told the kids to be gentle with the tree branches. She asked them not to touch the ends of the branches, because those were the buds for next year’s apples. She advised them to grab an apple, twist and let it fall off the branch.
“The kids love it,” Alberts said.
The children, laughing and smiling, grabbed apples and stuffed their plastic bags, picking about a dozen each. They went from tree to tree, from branch to branch, choosing their favorite ones.
Skyla Meyer, 8, of Delavan, said apple orchards are cool. She said she had been to the orchard six times, but the place never gets old. She had a sack full of large, shiny apples.
“I will eat them or make apple pie,” she said.
Cayden Rawlings, 4, of Janesville, was at the apple orchard for the first time.
“I’m going to give them to my mom and dad, and I’ll share them with my brother,” Cayden said.
Varieties of apples
Paula red: These apples are great for eating or baking. They have a mild flavor and light flesh.
Holiday: These are best for caramel apples. They’re mildly tart and good for eating or baking. They bake firm. They also make a chunky sauce.
Zestar: These are mild, tart, crunchy and juicy. They’re an excellent eating apple. If you like honey crisps, you’ll like this one.
McIntosh: These are mild and sweet. They’re good for eating, baking or sauce. This apple bakes down and does not hold its shape. It makes a smooth sauce.
Gala: These are juicy and sweet. They’re good for eating. They’re perfect for salads or desserts.
Honey crisp: These are firm and crisp apples that are popular for eating.
Empire: These apples are a cross between McIntosh and red delicious apples. They do not taste like either variety. They’re firm, juicy and great for eating. The smaller apples are good for children’s lunches.
Cortland: These are mildly tart and good for eating, baking or sauce.
Honey gold: These have a sweet flavor and smooth finish. They’re good fresh or in salads.
Red delicious: These are sweet and firm. They’re good for eating or in salads.
Ida red: These are firm, crisp and tart. They’re good for baking, eating, sauce or salad.
Macoun: These are firm, mildly tart and great for eating.
Source: Apple Barn Orchard and Winery
If you go
Apple Barn Orchard and Winery
Where: W6384 Sugar Creek Road, Elkhorn.
Phone: (262) 728-3266
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Elegant Farmer
Where: 1545 Main St., Mukwonago.
Phone: (262) 363-6770
Hours: Every day, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Pearce’s Farm Stand
Where: Highway F and Highway 67, Walworth.
Phone: (262) 275-3783
Hours: Every day except Tuesday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Where: 8450 S. Schroeder Road, Beloit.
Phone: (608) 676-4789
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
Where: 1718 W. Walters Road, Beloit.
Phone: (608) 362-1961
Hours: Every day, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.