A few weeks ago, my family and I shared the magical experience of picking fresh raspberries straight from the bush at Glenbernie Orchard in Darkes Forest. Since this experience the boys have been hounding me to go back to the orchard to pick more fruit. So last Sunday, when the orchard advertised they would be allowing visitors to the orchard to pick their own apples, we jumped at the chance.
Upon arrival at the orchard, after the obligatory cheesy photo of the boys standing next to the giant Glenbernie apple was taken, we were met by Casey, a very bubbly and enthusiastic orchard worker who turns out to be the daughter of the Orchard owners, Jo and Glen. I love that the whole family is involved in the running of the Orchard, and all of them appear to have the same passion for their produce. It certainly adds to the whole experience.
Following a small sample of fresh apple wedges to wet our appetites, and a quick induction in ‘apple picking 101’ to make sure both us and the apple trees came out of the experience unscathed, we were provided with a large canvas bag, loaded onto a little bus and driven to the section of the orchard where we were promised that there were hundreds of deliciously ripe Pink Lady apples ready for picking. Stepping off the bus we followed our host deep into the rows of gorgeous apple trees, learning about the new trees, the old trees, and what to look for in pursuit of the perfect apple. We were educated on the difference between the apple varieties and why some varieties are sweeter than others. We were also given insight into the hard work that is required to sustain the orchard along with some quirky apple facts along the way.
For instance, did you know the stalk of an apple is actually called a ‘peduncle’? Such a fun word to say, not sure it will ever help me or the kids in life to know this fact, but it is a lovely little quirky fact all the same. Another, more useful fact, is that apples are best stored in the crisper section of your fridge. They will age 6-10 times faster left in your fruit bowl as they continue to ‘breathe’ once they are picked, and placing them in a cooler environment (ie the fridge) slows their breathing rate considerably. Worth noting now that we have 6kgs of freshly picked apples to store!
Jo and Glen’s passion for their orchard is contagious. You can’t help but be excited about being there and hearing their stories about the orchard, told whilst you are negotiating your way over fallen fruit and muddy puddles in search of the perfect apples. You can’t help but lose yourself in the old rite of apple picking – a pleasure which we have forfeited in favor of perfectly round, long-travelled waxed apples we pick up in our produce section of the local supermarket, all year round. The experience is not just about picking as many apples as you can carry, for me the experience is also about providing a fun way of teaching my boys so much in terms of real food education – teaching them where their food comes from, instilling an appreciation of the hard work of the farmers that produce their foods, and sharing the joyful experience of getting lost in the rows of ripening apples in search of the perfect apple for them to pick and eat whilst it is still warm from the sun. It gave me such pleasure later that day, after we arrived home weary from our picking adventure, when my 4 year old sat down to make his ‘slinky apple’ out of the apple he had picked and carried the whole way home, paused and said ‘thankyou Mr Farmer’ for the beautiful apple he was about to enjoy. Bless.
For me, watching the kids have the freedom to play hide-and-seek among the rows in the beautiful fresh air, to search for and pick the prettiest apple, to taste a just-picked fruit at its freshest, and to reconnect with our food heritage in terms of learning about the journey of our produce from earth to table —those are traditions worth generating and cherishing. Pure and simple, honest-to-goodness family fun that can create memories that last a lifetime.
As a result of our apple picking adventure, we subsequently ended up with 6kgs of the most delicious, sweetest Pink Lady apples we have ever tasted. Whilst I was assured by the orchard staff that the apples would last for 2-3 months if stored correctly, I set about conjuring up recipes to showcase these little jems in their prime. The following recipe was a creation we made the following morning, using 2 fresh apples stewed in maple syrup as the perfect topping to our buckwheat blueberry pancakes. What a great way to start the morning.
Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes with Maple Syrup Stewed Apples
- 1 cup oats
- 1 cup buckwheat flour
- ¼ cup self raising flour (I use GF)
- 1 ½ cups of almond milk
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons of honey (or rice malt syrup)
- 1 vanilla pod, seeds
- 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- Coconut oil or butter for cooking
Stewed Apples Ingredients
- 2 fresh apples, peeled and diced
- 2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
- Coconut oil or butter for cooking
- Combine all of the pancake ingredients together in a large bowl, except the honey and blueberries. Mix well.
- Add honey and mix to combine, before folding in the blueberries. Go gently, as you don’t want to burst the blueberries whilst mixing, otherwise you will end up with purple pancakes.