Autumn is the right time to make an expedition to area orchards to find interesting apple varieties.
Courtesy of Doreen Howard
It’s not enough that I grow eight kinds of apples in my mini-orchard. I need more apples to get me through the winter, and fortunately, I live in the heart of apple country along the Illinois-Wisconsin border.
Late September means the start of fruit stand and apple orchard exploration on Saturdays. And it means I get to sample slices of apple cultivars I’ve never grown or eaten previously.
I love the thin slices of sharp cheddar, too, the orchards put out as palate-cleansers so that you can truly gauge an apple's flavor.
Besides pecks and bushels of apples to store in the basement for winter munching, I find loads of unique and attention-grabbing edibles and plants at various orchards and cheese stores that dot the rolling hills of rural southwestern Wisconsin.
Last fall at Ten Eyck Apple Farm in Broadhead, Wis., I found orange, green, and silver gourds that looked like long-necked swans, plus an apple variety I’d never tried.
Apricot apple, also known as Smokehouse, had a stunning array of nuanced flavors underpinning its crunchy acid-sweet perfect balance. Peach, citrus, and chardonnay were some of the essences I could pick out. I’m still looking for a tree of it grafted on dwarf rootstock or a graft of it to put on rootstock myself.
Most of the apple trees on my mini-orchard are on Bud 9 rootstock, which produces a tree that is under eight feet in height. The rootstock also is extremely cold-hardy, so that my trees easily survive the frigid winter.