It seems that apple picking is the thing to do in Ottawa in fall. And so, today was our day.
I grew up in the Niagara Region, the fruit belt of Ontario. Apples were abundant to say the least and pick-your-own was also a mainstay but, funny enough, not with the apples. I picked apples for pay but I never did it "for fun." If you wanted apples, you went to the farm and bought them. I assume this is because picking apples is a bit of a skill if you don't want to ruin the chances for a decent crop the following year.
But, in Ottawa it is the thing to do and every apple farm offers it. So, off we went to Mountain Orchards about 40 minutes south of Ottawa. I chose it because I heard good things about it and also they have my two favourite apple types: Empire and Honey Gold.
Mountain Orchards is a great place to pick; it is just what I look for in pick-your-own: the farm experience with a few fun things thrown in but not too much. I don't like it when working farms try to become dog and pony shows. Mountain Orchards does it just right, I think. They offer some pies and hot cider and coffee and also they make some cider donuts right there that you can get hot (totally delicious by the by). The only "entertainment" they offer is swings and tether ball. You have to know that John and I played tether ball. My shoulder protested but I didn't care. It was so much fun. I spent a ridiculous amount of time in public school playing tether ball.
We rode a big tractor-pulled wagon down to the orchard. We went by their corn field and some fallow fields and then, to Emily's excitement, a whole bunch of bee hives that were set up next to a tree line close to the orchard. We disembarked, got instructions on picking and where to pick and headed to the Honey Gold row. The apples were badly pock-marked from hail. The Honey Gold got the worst of it but the farmer promised that it doesn't affect taste or quality.
We had Honey Gold last year from a different farmer at the Carp Farmer's Market and they were by far our favourite apples of last year. We picked a big bag today. After that we moved onto Empire, my second favourite. They were beautiful and soooo delicious - we ate one or two at the end of picking. They are super crisp, slightly tart and juicy. Mmmmmm.
Picking apples with kids is great. It is easy for them to do and it is over quickly. After running through the trees for a few minutes we headed back for tether ball and the drive home.
For my dessert after lunch I bit into one of those Honey Gold and you know what? They suck! Not very crispy, absolutely no flavour and totally not what we had last year. Maybe I made a mistake? Now I'm thinking it isn't exactly the same name: maybe it was Honey Crisp last year. Anyway, I'm badly disappointed and have 15 pounds of Honey Gold I have to do something with.
At least I've got my 15 pounds of Empire.
Ideas anyone for flavourless apples?