A recent visit to an orchard brought back memories for Jan Main.
By Jan Main
As I gazed at the basket of perfect, flawless, mouth-watering apples, it brought back memories of the orchard at my parents’ home near Caledon East.
In the past they had a picturesque apple orchard at the front of the property laden with flowers in the early spring and covered in apples in the fall.
Each tree produced a different variety of apple, tasty but not free from defects. The apples were irregular in size and shape, often with worm holes and not easy to pick! You needed a ladder and skill to get all the fruit from those tall and wide apple branches. It was a time-consuming undertaking.
Farming is big business these days. You need to produce quality and quantity for an ever-growing population that demands high standards for beautiful and tasty food.
To reduce costs, crops should be harvested easily by machine with minimal manual labor. Gone are the days when local farm help was readily available. Today, migrant workers are essential to the farming community to help produce and harvest crops. In many cases, they return each year to their Canadian farm where they play an important role in agricultural production.
On a recent media day with Farm and Food Care of Ontario, a busload of food writers visited an apple farm and a strawberry and raspberry farm in Simcoe County.
These farms reflected the knowledge, hard work and innovation of farmers to ensure farm success in an ever-changing era. They must produce high-quality food in large quantities with a short growing season for critical consumers while making a profit to stay in business. It’s not a feat.
The fruit farms I visited on September 8 were impressive. The apple farm no longer had the orchard of my childhood (pictured above.). Instead, there were rows of vertical trees at eye level, laden with perfect fruit. Either side of the tree can be easily picked up by one person in minutes, in most cases without a ladder. To help them with this work, this farming family has hired a team of Jamaican workers who return every year and are part of the agricultural team making production and harvesting possible. (Please note that this farm regularly advertises for local help, but there is no response – migrant workers are essential to the success of the farm.)
Similarly, in strawberry and raspberry farms, raspberries are grown on tall single raspberry canes in flower pots to control the quality of the soil and the health of the plant. Perfect raspberries were visible on hand for picking. Strawberries were grown in rows of waist-high planters with succulent berries hanging from the side of the boxes, again ready to be picked at standing height instead of bending over. Both fruits have been protected from heavy rain and cold weather by plastic domes which help extend the growing season.
Ever-evolving methods produce quality foods that you can enjoy in these recipes:
Apple Berry Pie with Crumble Topping
Try a variety of apples for a different flavor and texture.
Early varieties like Paula Red and MacIntosh will be milder and sweeter than crisp varieties like Cortland or Gala. Honey Crisp is a relatively new and popular variety that is more expensive than others because it is more difficult to produce but as the name suggests, sweet as honey with a characteristic crispiness. Ambrosia has a firm texture but a luscious sweetness, perfect for a pie. Try a selection for fun!
Apple and Berry Filling
4 cups (1 L) sliced and peeled apples (about 5)
2 cups (500 mL) berries such as cranberries, fresh or dried, or strawberries or raspberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 to 3/4 cup (125-175 ml) granulated sugar, depending on the sweetness of the fruit
2 tbsp. 1/2 tsp (10 mL) grated lemon zest
1 prepared 9-inch (23 cm) pie shell
1/4 cup (50ml) melted butter
1/2 cup (125 mL) each quick oats and all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (125 mL) brown sugar
1 C. (5 ml) ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C). In a mixing bowl, combine apples, cranberries (or other berries), sugar and lemon zest. Put aside.
In another bowl, stir together melted butter, rolled oats, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon until well blended.
Spoon apple and berry filling into prepared pie crust. Sprinkle with crumble in the evening. Bake in a pie on a cookie sheet in a preheated oven for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 F 190 C). and continue cooking until the fruit is tender, about 30-35 minutes.
Cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. For 6 persons.
Ginger apple and carrot soup
A warming soup for a windy day, it is quickly prepared for an inviting lunch. Butternut squash could replace carrots.
2 lb (1 kg) carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 can of 1 litre/4 cups of chicken stock and 2 cups/500ml of water
2 tbsp. 2 tbsp (25 mL) peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 can (375 ml) evaporated milk
1 C. 1/2 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/2 tsp. 1/2 tsp (2mL) fresh black pepper
In a saucepan, combine the carrots, apples, onion, celery, chicken broth, water and grated ginger.
Cook over medium heat until tender about 25-30 minutes.
Blend mixture in blender until smooth; add evaporated milk, salt and pepper.
To taste. Adjust seasoning, for 4 to 6 people.