While the cool, wet spring of 2013 challenged many Iowa corn and soybean farmers, this year's weather has been near perfect for Iowa's apple trees. The result is many orchards are reporting a bumper crop of this delicious and nutritious fruit.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey is encouraging Iowans to consider visiting a local apple orchard this fall. Many growers are reporting their apples are maturing a little ahead of normal, so now is a great time to visit an apple farm or pick some up at the local farmers market, he says. "Taking your family to an apple orchard is a great way to enjoy the autumn weather while also providing your family with healthy, wholesome food and great memories."
Visiting a local orchard is a great way to find new varieties that may not be available in a grocery store, adds Maury Wills, a horticulture specialist with the Iowa Department of Agriculture. "Most orchards offer samples, so consider trying a new variety this year. Farmers at the orchard can help recommend varieties that are ideal for baking, making apple sauce or eating fresh."
How do you like them apples? There are many different varieties of Iowa-grown apples
There is something unique about fresh apples, and people with discriminating taste buds can tell the difference between the various varieties. Some chefs seek out special varieties of apples as well as fresh apples, says Wills. It's not uncommon for orchards to receive phone calls from chefs at this time of year so they can try different varieties and get them fresh.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
Wills says the size of orchards, and the assortment of varieties they have for sale, varies across the state. Some have a dozen varieties of apples, others have many more. A list of apple growers can be found on the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship's directory.
Before heading to the orchard, the Iowa Department of Agriculture offers these helpful tips to make sure you get the most out of your visit:
* Check the website of the farm you will be attending as there are many fall festivals occurring that will offer heaps of fun activities and entertainment for the whole family.
* Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that you aren't afraid to get dirty.
* Bring sun gear (lotions/hats/sunglasses).
* Many farms offer drinks and snacks and even lunch, so you may want to bring along some extra money (check with the farm before going).
* Be sure and read rules of the farm and adhere to them as they are there to help keep you safe.
Once you get the apples home there are a wide variety of delicious treats apples can be used to make. Wills suggests you consider this easy apple brownies recipe taken from the Apple Lover's Cookbook.
1 c flour 1 c sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt ¼ tsp. baking soda
1 large egg 1 stick melted butter
2 large firm-sweet apples ½ c chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and set a rack to the middle position. Grease the baking dish with butter.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and baking soda. In separate bowl beat together butter, sugar and egg for about 2 minutes. Add walnuts and apples and stir by hand until evenly combined. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined, another 30 seconds.
Spread the batter into the pan and bake until golden brown and lightly firm to the touch (40 to 50 minutes). Let cool and cut into bars.