After a picture perfect summer in the Northeast, fall is most definitely in the air. Although it is not “officially” here, the days are getting shorter, the nights are cooling off, the air is crisp and apple picking season has officially begun. For many of us, heading out to the apple orchard is an annual tradition, whether it’s to pick a few hundred apples, go on a hayride, or enjoy some hot apple cider.
Plain and simple: apples are good food. They are an excellent source of dietary fiber, which reduces cholesterol, aids digestion, and prevents certain types of cancer. Research indicates that, because apples contain flavonoids, they may reduce the risk of lung cancer and generally improve lung function.
So what could be bad about an apple? Unfortunately, apples have consistently been listed on the Environmental Working Group’s list of the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables (the “Dirty Dozen”). Apples and 11 other fruits and veggies are contaminated with an average of 10 different pesticides, with many tainting more than one type of produce. Because of the high risk of pesticides, EWG suggests that apples should be bought from an organic producer.
To steer clear of the large amounts of pesticides and herbicides used on apples, organic orchards are your best bet. Organic apple orchards are hard to come by in the Northeast. Organic apple growing is very difficult in the in our neck of the woods. It seems to be a work in progress, but many farmers are sticking with IPM (integrated pest management) for now. In other areas, organic options seem to be plentiful.
What is IPM?
IPM is a pest management strategy that focuses on methods that are least harmful to the environment. Pesticides are applied in such a way that they pose the least possible hazard, and are used as a ‘last resort’ when other attempts aren’t working.
How to Green-Up Your Apple Picking
- Find an orchard near you- shop for local orchards on PickYourOwn.org by clicking on your state and browsing pick-your-own farms. Or, check with your state department of agriculture office for orchard listings.
- Educate yourself before going-know what you are picking. PickYourOwn.org will have a short description of each orchard.
- Is the orchard organic?
- Do they use pesticides or herbicides?
- Is it considered an IPM orchard?
- Bring your own reusable bags to pick apples-don’t use plastic bags.
- Start your own orchard- grow your own apple trees. Check out this kit.
- Wash your apples- fill a spray bottle with three cups of water and one cup of white vinegar. Spray each apple with about six squirts of the solution — just enough to coat the surface — and then rinses it in cold water. The cold water will wash the residual flavor from the vinegar, and finishes the cleaning process.
Now you are ready for apple picking. Whether you choose an organic or conventional orchard, know that you are helping sustain an important part of the apple-growing industry. The orchards offering PYO or U-pick are mainly small family-run operations that -along with selling their produce via farmers’ markets — make the bulk of their income from agritourism (from pickers like us).
Massachusetts Apple Pickers
For you Massachusetts folks-there are two great options:
- Bear Swamp Orchard, has an eco-friendly philosophy; they use the least toxic pest and disease controls available. It is located in Ashfield, Massachusetts, about an 1 ½ hour drive from Boston.
- Old Frog Pond Farm in Harvard, Massachusetts is a 25-acre certified organic farm with a ‘pick your own’ raspberry patch, apple orchard, and a sculpture studio by Linda Hoffman. Harvard is about 45 minutes from Boston.
Tell me about where you apple pick……….
Related post: Top 12 Fruits and Vegetables to Buy Organic
America’s Best Apple Picking Farms
EWG’s Guide to Pesticides
Integrated Pest Management Principles