Fall for Fall with Ontario Apples
October 07, 2022
Locally grown fruit will be in good supply this year
By Lilian Schaer
Ontario’s apple growers are preparing for a bountiful harvest, ensuring there will be a plentiful supply of locally grown fruit this fall and winter. That’s following a warm, sunny growing season and a spring that left apple trees unscathed by frost – frost damage can impact fruit size and shape.
“We expect an excellent apple crop this year in both volume and quality, even though we had a shortage of rain in some parts of the province’s growing regions,” says apple grower Cathy McKay, chair of the Ontario Apple Growers. “This means Ontarians will have plenty of opportunities to buy local this season, whether at a Pick Your Own, farmers’ market, on-farm outlet or grocery store.”
The province’s main apple growing regions are spread along the shores of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, where approximately 227 farmers grow close to 20 different varieties of apples on 16,000 acres of orchards.
The three most common varieties in Ontario are Gala, Ambrosia and Honeycrisp, all relatively new varieties that have grown in popularity with consumers in recent years.
Gala is sweet and fragrant with a crispness that lends itself well to salads, pies and sauce, as well as fresh eating. Ambrosia, discovered by chance by a Canadian apple grower who found it growing in his British Columbia orchard, is the sweetest apple grown in Canada, and Honeycrisp’s crisp and juicy sweetness has made it popular with consumers.
Ontario orchards also still produce many of the classic favourites like McIntosh, Cortland, and Empire, that have been common household names for generations.
McIntosh, a more than 200-year-old variety, is a mildly tart but juicy all-rounder, suitable for fresh eating as well as salads, pies, sauce, and baking. The Cortland is a McIntosh descendant that resists browning, making it perfect for salads and fruit plates as well as pies and sauces. Empire, too, is a McIntosh descendant; it’s ideal for snacking and makes a great apple sauce.
Which apple varieties are best suited for what type of application is a question that consumer often ask, so the Ontario Apple Growers have developed an apple usage guide available on their website for all of the major varieties grown in the province.
As Thanksgiving approaches, apple harvest is in full swing across the province. Consumers are encouraged to look for the Foodland Ontario logo when shopping for apples at the grocery store, and Pick Your Own operations are open for visitors looking for a genuine on-farm experience. A new “Find a Farm” feature on the Ontario Apple Growers’ website lets consumers search by address, city or postal code to find a Pick Your Own location in their area.
“We’ve seen a growing interest from Ontarians looking to visit a real Ontario apple farm, pick their own fruit, and learn about where their food comes from,” says McKay, adding that the pandemic years made orchard visits particularly attractive as a safe, outdoor activity to enjoy with family or friends. “But regardless of whether you’re shopping on farm or at the grocery store, be sure to support local growers by choosing Ontario grown apples.”
Here are a few tips for the best eating experience with Ontario apples:
- Apples bruise easily so handle the fruit with care. Look for firm, well-shaped apples with smooth skin that is free of wrinkles and bruises. Brownish freckled areas do not affect flavour.
- Store apples in perforated plastic bags in your refrigerator crisper to keep them crunchy. Cold, humid storage maintains their crispness, juicy texture and full flavour.
- Apples naturally emit ethylene gas, which speeds up ripening, so store apples away from other fruits and vegetables.
- Remove any fruit that are overripe or have soft spots as they will cause nearby apples to ripen too quickly and spoil. Trim and use these apples for pies or applesauce.
For more information, visit www.onapples.com.