By Carolyn Twesten, Weaver Street Market Produce Merchandiser
Having grown up in New York State, I know that the best tasting apple is the one that’s plucked direct from the tree. Unfortunately that isn’t always an option in the North Carolina Piedmont. Many apples require a certain “chilling period,” a number of days below minimum winter temperatures. And generally speaking, many apple varieties don’t appreciate our hot, humid summers (and can we blame them?!).
Luckily for us, North Carolina is a state of diverse growing regions and the climate in the higher elevations is ideal for growing apples. Henderson County in the mountains is the top apple growing region in the state, growing 65% of the state’s apple crop, with Wilkes and Alexander Counties coming in just behind.
We now have many varieties arriving weekly from Deal Orchards in Taylorsville, NC (Alexander County) and Lively Orchards in Flat Rock, NC (Henderson County). Both of these orchards are small-scale multi-generation family operations with fewer than 100 acres. Where once North Carolina was a top apple producer in the country, there are now fewer than 300 commercial orchards in the state. Large apple-growing and packing operations in the Northwest US have taken over the market with better growing conditions, more acreage, and state-of-the-art grading and packing equipment. Smaller growers in the Eastern US have a hard time competing with the big guys in price, variety, and convenience. At the same time property values in the mountains have continued to go up due to demand for vacation homes, forcing many small farms to sell to developers. Weaver Street Market values our small local growers and keeping land in agriculture, so we carry NC-grown apples every fall!
The primary North Carolina apple varieties are Rome, Golden Delicious, and Red Delicious. Some newer grown varieties that are becoming more popular include Fuji, Gold Rush, Honeycrisp, Jonagold and Pink Lady, while a few growers still raise the old-timey varieties: Stayman Winesap, Arkansas Black, Limbertwig, and more.
As the summer turns into fall my consumption of berries and peaches gives over to apples and pears, but sometimes I like to temper the crunch. Here is a great recipe to try out for snacks or a delicious pancake and oatmeal topping—No-Sugar Apple Pie Applesauce!