October 18, 2008

Apple Picking at the Rodale Institute

Today was a perfect fall day for apple picking--clear sky, chill in the air, warm sun. I wanted to make some applesauce for SoJo rather than buy jars of baby food (being cheap here, not picky) so I thought apple picking and canning would be an old-world way to spend a Saturday.

We have a wonderful resource for certified organic apples nearby, The Rodale Institute. You've probably heard the name Rodale before, as in Rodale Press, especially if you subscribe to Prevention, Organic Gardening, and Women's Health. The Rodale Institute, an experimental farm which focuses on organic gardening, is supported by Rodale Press.

The Rodale Institute hosts lots of different events and workshops dedicated to sharing their research in organic gardening. They offer tours, talks, and even a shop (pictured in the old school house building in the photo) that sells books and organic produce.
In the fall, they open their apple orchards to the public for picking, which is what I did this afternoon. For $13, you can pick a half bushel of apples ($22 per bushel), which is a great bargain for 100% organic apples. When I was a little girl, my dad had a big vegetable garden and 4 apple trees (which were there when we moved in). Although my brothers and I hated those trees, because it was hard to play under them with all of those fallen apples and gross gypsy moth worms falling on us, I really miss them now. We didn't know what "organic" was back then, but those apples were organic as far as I know, since we never sprayed or used synthetic fertilizers.

My dad used to take the apples to be pressed for cider in the fall at Krum's Orchards, and sometimes I'd get to watch the big machine in the back barn pressing the apples. There would be flies in the barn, slurping any stray juices, and the whole place smelled like sweet apples and fermenting alcohol (not that I knew what that was back then). We'd keep the cider jugs in our chest freezer in the basement, which was also our playroom, and whenever I would get thirsty, I'd sneak some icy cider from the freezer. My dad would always wonder why the jugs weren't full, but I think he must have known one of us was tapping his supply.

Enough of my reverie, and back to the Rodale Institute....
The Orchard

So I set off for a nice afternoon out by myself while Chris was with SoJo, and headed up to the orchard with my half-bushel basket, borrowed from the Rodale Institute.
Here's a close up of one of the trees. This late in the season, I was surprised to get some good apples. Most of the trees had been picked through already, but since I was just planning to make applesauce, I didn't mind the blemishes or holes. I felt bad for those unwanted apples anyway! Kind of like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree.
Here's my basket, half-full in the midst of picking.

And here it is filled up. I munched an apple on the way home, although I wasn't certain of the variety, since I got a lot of different kinds to make the sauce. The one I did taste was so sweet and really had an apple-y taste, unlike some of the mealy ones you get in the supermarket. I like to think the cool nights help to sweeten up the apples.

These are photos of some of the gardens that you can tour, which I didn't do.
The photos don't show how beautiful the plants and flowers looked, even this late in the season. I am amazed at how lush things were. That's what organic compost can do, I suppose.

Back at home, I got to work on canning preparation. I washed all of the apples, since I believe they spray them with watery white clay as a natural pesticide. I didn't ask the nice woman at the desk about this, but I recall from last year that someone had told me that.

I also washed all of my canning jars and will boil them tomorrow as I'm cooking the apples. I'll take some more photos then and show you the results. Could someone please volunteer to babysit for me?


  1. Yum, yum! That looks like an awesome day. Good luck with the canning tomorrow!

  2. This is why I'd love to have my own mini orchard in my yard someday! We'll start planting some fruit trees next summer and I can't wait! I make my own babyfood too. Much healthier and cheaper!

  3. What gorgeous pictures! I love the fall too.

  4. I have never done that! It looks really great. I wish I could have gone picking and packing with you!

  5. Oh Kathleen. Leave it to you to feel sorry for unwanted apples!

    The looks very....industrious of you and I am sure those males will appreciate your work. There's something so special and different about fall cooking, isn't there? It just FEELS homey.

    In a couple more years, Soren will be able to help out in that kitchen!

  6. I've never picked apples. Ever.
    I've also never canned anything. You have so much to teach me, wise green mama...


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