Apple Hill™ is where people in Northern California go each year to see apples and apple trees. In some places apple trees grow promiscuously, but in California it likely demands a trek into the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. I’m among those who believe it is well worth it. Apparently many Californians agree, because the area’s fifty or so apple growers seem to have prospered in recent years.
On a quiet day in early November we stopped at Larsen’s Apple Farm and Bakery. Years ago visitors were met with big wooden bins of apples stored in dark barns. Now most are like Larsen, with neat new buildings and apples in branded boxes and sometime even cello bags.
The view from the Larsen barn, looking towards the bake shop.
They had put out samples of some of the apples, and pears as well, for tasting.
This caught me by surprise. Wine tastings are compulsory for Californians, so we all know we should mumble something about tannins, fruit, and oak — or at the very least that the wine is “ready to drink” — meaning it doesn’t have to be aged to get the sludge out. But saying that an apple has plenty of fruit and is ready to eat doesn’t quite cut it. The woman offering the apples clearly knew a lot about apples, but I was not prepared to ask anything intelligent. “That one’s real good.” would have to do.
The region produces at least nineteen varieties of apples. On that day Larsen was featuring Arkansas Black, Winesap, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious. I had a run-in with Arkansas Black in previous year, so I showed off my limited knowledge by describing it as a cross between an apple and a billiard ball; prepare with power tools. They hold up to cooking, for days I presume. Granny Smith is a famous pie apple. I said that I liked Fuji, and the woman said it was the sweetest. Figures. I ended up buying a bag of tart Winesap, because they were real good. In fact, I would go so far as to say darn good.
Later that afternoon we stopped by Boa Vista Orchards, which runs something too large to call a farm stand. They operate year round and have dozens of their own branded products sold on the web. We bought some Pink Lady apples (real good), El Dorado pears (they keep for a long time), and an apple blackberry sour cream pie (darn good).
Pink Lady apples.
All this has given me much to think about. Is the plural of Granny Smith Granny Smiths, Grannies Smith, or maybe, like sheep, just Granny Smith? There is a whole new vocabulary to learn. I must prepare for next year.