Apple pies, apple crisp, caramel apples or crispy bites of fresh apples — no matter how you slice them, you’ll find a plentiful crop of high quality apples at your local apple orchards this year.
Now is the time to visit your local orchard, when more apple varieties continue to roll out through Michigan’s
apple season from mid-August to November.
But be aware that your favorite apple variety may be slightly behind schedule this year, because of the cold late winter weather that slowed the development of spring buds. So it’s wise to call your local orchard first, especially if you plan to pick your own.
Many orchards offer u-pick options or market apples by the bushel, peck or pound. You’ll also enjoy hand-pressed cider, fresh, cinnamon-sugared doughnuts, hikes or hayrides through the orchard and plenty of early fall seasonal ambiance.
“We have a pretty good crop all in all,” said local apple grower Charlie Mueller of Mueller’s Orchards & Cider Mill in Fenton Township. “The quality is really good this year.”
Mueller credits plenty of moisture in the spring, which allows for good cell division during its growing season, for his high quality apples. “The fruit got off to a good start,” he said. “If the cells divide well, the apples will size well.”
Mueller Orchards is selling Wealthy and Greening apples, both old heirloom varieties that are becoming more and more popular with customers. “We’ve also got McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Gala and Empire and we’re picking some Jonathans,” he said. “Next week we’ll start on Red Delicious.”
Spicer Orchards also boasts a strong crop with 40 different varieties, Shannon (Spicer) Rowe said. She partners with her parents, Alan and Wanda Spicer and brother Matthew, in operating the orchard.
“We actually have a fantastic crop of Honeycrisp and other varieties,” she said. “Our Honeycrisps are big. They’re our top sellers, along with Gala and Fuji. We’ve got new varieties this year, too, including Candy Crisp and Crimson Crisp.”
Don’t miss a stop at the historic Parshallville Cider Mill in Parshallville (Hartland Township), celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, especially if you enjoy heirloom apples.
“We’ve got Braeburns, Gravenstein and Spitzenberg apples, grafted from trees from the 1700s,” Sandy Detlefs, owner of the cider mill with her husband, Jack, said. “The Spitzenberg was Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple.”
The Detlefs get all of their apples from local growers. “Cider is our biggest thing, made by hand in a rack and cloth press, the original way of doing it,” Sandy said. “We’re also well-known for our fresh apple pies made in our bakery.”
Diehl’s Orchard & Cider Mill in Rose Township offers a full fall experience, especially with apples, cider and doughnuts. Mike and Chris Diehl and their son, Nick, are the owners of this 65-year-old orchard business, started by Mike’s grandfather, Paul Diehl.
“We kid around that we should call it ‘cider and doughnut season,’ because we sell tens of thousands of doughnuts,” Chris said. “People can also watch our cider being made on weekends, through a viewing window.”
Diehl’s will be running its popular Ciderfest weekend Sept. 28-29, complete with a run/walk event, crafts, barbecue and live entertainment.
All of the local orchards and cider mills have their own fall personalities and events to offer their customers — from festival atmospheres to scenic and quiet venues.
“We hope for really good weather,” Mueller said. “We have about three months that make it a year for us.”