Happy Friday and happy harvest!! We have really started bringing in the apples now. Yesterday, Zestar and Paula Reds were harvested for the first time this year. Still no varieties for the hard-core (pun intended) crunchy apple enthusiasts, although Zestar has a good bit of snap to it. I have heard it referred to in the apple-verse as the “poor-man’s” Honeycrisp, but that is a little bit of a stretch in my opinion. We will be picking Ginger Golds very shortly too, which are a great, crispy apple. All three varieties we are offering at the moment are still mouthwateringly juicy, and a very refreshing treat after a summer without them. Yes, we had our own apples out of controlled atmosphere storage, and sure, you can always get apples at the grocery store, but there is nothing like new apples in the late summer. I know some of you aren’t ready for summer to end, but I love to embrace the seasons. Nothing primes my palate for fall more than fresh apples. The “fall harvest” can be different for different farms, but for us at Kirby’s, apples are a huge chunk of it.
Despite how much apples are a part of our farm, it is one of the crops I am least familiar with. I have been growing our vegetables and small fruits, in an attempt to focus my efforts and hone my skills on these crops first. That being said, I apologize for not talking about apples more in this blog. Just because I haven’t talked about them a lot, does not mean we haven’t been doing a lot of work in the orchards. If you are a healthy, growing farm, apples aren’t all about the harvest. They are about year round care and management, with a little love. More like a lot of love. One thing that caught my eye this week was a job we are working on even now in August: summer pruning. If you are at all familiar with apples, you know they are trimmed/pruned in the winter time while the trees are dormant, and will be injured less. However, sometimes it is worth the slight damage you may cause to take off some branches in the summer. Summer pruning has several benefits: better color on the apples, and less of a response from the tree. When the trees are pruned in the winter, they react by growing several new branches out from that point, creating a tree that is much too dense. So when the tree is pruned in the summer, it doesn’t react with as much vegetative growth. Summer pruning creates better color on the apples because more of the fruit can be exposed to the sun. Sunlight is actually how the apples gain color. The best weather for coloring apples are warm, sunny days, and cool nights. Basically what we’ve had this week! In the picture above, you can see how uncolored these gala were. But now that the leafy branches were pruned out of the way, the sun is shining right on these apples, and is going to color them up beautifully, making them much more valuable. Ok, on to other summer fruits we are harvesting:
We are so excited to be harvesting our elderberries for the first time ever! For those of you who don’t know, elderberries have incredible health benefits, as well as being delicious. The berries don’t have much flavor when eaten raw, but when cooked in a pie, or made into a syrup they are fantastic! As well as being loaded with antioxidants, they are a huge immune system booster. When you get a cold in the winter, a little tasty elderberry syrup will really help you out! I plan on making a few jars to get me through the winter. Maybe some wine too if I get really ambitious! So many possibilities! One thing to keep in mind is that like all berries, they are extremely perishable and need to be kept refrigerated at all times. Also, I want to share a great tip for working with elderberries my dad discovered after doing a little research. In order to get the berries off of their “umbles” or bunches, throw them in a large bag in the freezer overnight, and then once frozen solid, roll them around and gently crush them. The individual berries will fall off like marbles, leaving the stems behind. It’s quite amazing how well it works, and how fast it is!
Alrighty, now that my mouth is watering, I’ll sign off. As always, thank you berry much for reading, have a great week, and we’ll see you back here next Friday!