So… you heard about Longo’s Field Trips, and you heard about our foggy drive to Wilmot Orchards early early early in the morning, now I really will tell you about the orchard, Charles & Judi and the apples!
I mentioned in my last post that I was fretting a bit about being late, well that was no problem at all. We arrived at about 8am and Charles Stevens the owner and operator of Wilmot Orchards was there to guide us over to the part of the orchards we’d be touring. They have 140 acres of trees, so it was important to be at the right part of the orchard.
When we arrived we found the film and photo crew there
and setup to do the video that I snagged from the Longo’s site:
The bus coming from Longo’s had gotten stuck in some traffic, and probably fog, so they’d be running a little late. That gave us almost 40 minutes to chat, visit, sample some of the blueberries which had ripened since they closed the pick-it-yourself blueberry season.
And of course get some beautiful shots of the orchard and apples in the mist.
After a nice casual wander through the front part of the orchard, the bus arrived and out streamed the Longo’s Produce Managers.
It was fun to watch them scatter into the blueberry bushes and apple trees checking out the fruit and flora as they went.
A quick official photo shoot for head office,
And some individual portraits with Charles in among the apple trees, and then we started the tour.
Charles took us immediately to the Honeycrisps which were the apples being harvested while we were visiting. As you know there are early apples like Early Gold; mid-season apples like Macintosh and Spartan, Cortland; and late apples like Honey Crisp & Empires and ; which together allow an orchard to cycle it’s harvest and focus on the fruit which is perfect for harvesting and eating right now.
The list of apples that Wilmot Orchard provides to Longo’s include: Early Gold, Paula Red, Macintosh, Cortland, Royal Gala, Honey Crisp, Empire, Crispin, Ambrosia and Red Delicious. They do grow other varieties, but these are the ones they provide to Longo’s.
The Red Delicious, which looked beautiful, were still 3 weeks out from being ready to harvest
and the Early Gold were already picked and stored ready to ship out with only a handful still left on the trees.
Charles told us about the nurturing required to grow Honeycrisps which while being the most popular apple in Canada right now are very fussy to grow.
It turns out that the trees need to be kept to under 60% of the load of an average production farm bearing tree in order for it to produce at all the following year. (This is is the chemical I was talking about in the last post.) So Wilmot has a double thinning process during the blossom stage.
In addition, the calcium levels need to be monitored closely or the apples get things like bitter pit and cork spot, which means they can’t be sold.
The apple itself is delicate enough that Judi even showed me the proper way to harvest them to make sure you don’t damage the fruit.
You need to cup them in your hand, rotate up and away from yourself without putting any pressure on the apple from your fingertips or they get bruised and “Longo’s won’t take them”.
The Honeycrisp is also very sensitive after harvest to temperature. It’s speculated that this is due to its moisture content and it must be stored carefully to avoid scalding. (That’s the big brown marks on the skin of an apple that you sometimes see, occasionally with brown soggy flesh underneath.)
Since many apples go into long, or longish, term storage, Wilmot Orchards and their packaging partners Algoma are testing ways to temper the apples by storing them for a sort period at a milder temperature to make the longer term storage less destructive.
We then toured through the other trees, some harvested, the others in different stages of ripening.
At one point Charles likened farming to being a doctor, nurse and care-giver all at once, since every tree needs care and tending so any issues can be identified early. Doctoring to diagnose the issues and nursing back to full health and potential. Every tree in the 140 acres!
We talked about protecting the trees while protecting the environment and I saw something beautiful.
This may just look like an average photo of a spider’s web covered with dew to some. But to me it’s a one of the signs of a healthy farming ecosystem not polluted with pesticides and chemicals. Spiders in your garden are beautiful!
And then, as I was dawdling behind taking even more photos of apples and trees there was a big resounding BOOM! Charles had set off the Hail Cannon to show the guys how the sonic boom broke up the hail as it was forming reducing it to rain and letting it fall without damaging the apples or the trees.
Very cool use of technology in farming.
But a little surprising when you are quietly wandering through the apples.
Charles and Judi kindly let me pick some apples fresh from the trees which I shared with last month’s Longo’s grab bag winner, and a couple to try out their Honeycrisp Apple Crisp! (recipe coming next!)
And if you are wondering why I held these posts back, it’s because I wanted to make sure you could get their apples at Longo’s when you read this. (Also because I got sick, but now I’m back on my apple a day regime I’m sure I’ll be fine!)
[next up: Judi’s Honeycrisp Apple Crisp recipe!]
Note: this post is part of my Longo’s Taste Ontario Ambassador series. For more information and disclosure on my relationship please take a second and read about my Foodie Adventure: Longo’s Taste Ontario Ambassador! and my Disclosure statement