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Published: Tuesday, 9/20/2005

It's a sweet year for apples

With all of the sun this summer, imagine what's been happening to apples on the trees - they are deeper red, deeper yellow and green. They are just beautiful.

Around the state, the apple harvest is in full swing. "Ohio apples will be sweeter due to the dry conditions," says Kathy Lutz, program assistant for the Ohio Apple Marketing program. "They have an abundant crop of good-sized apples."

There are more than 152 apple orchards in the state. Northwest Ohio is where the crop grows best. "It's a friendlier climate," says Ms. Lutz. "The newest and most popular apple is the Honey Crisp. They are the crunchiest apple you will ever eat."

Sunny days have been good for the apples. "When you have a hot summer, the sun puts more sugar into the apples versus a wet year that dilutes everything down," says Betty Eshleman, chairman of the Ohio Apple Operating Committee. "These are some of the nicest apples this year. With more sun they get more color. Apples all around are just going to be great."

Mrs. Eshleman and her husband, Richard, are owners of Eshleman Fruit Farm in Clyde (hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except Sunday when the farm is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.).

The Eshlemans put little logo labels on the apples on the trees in early August (while the apple is still green, yet a good size). Then when school children visit the orchard, the labels can be peeled back and the children can see the effect the sun has on the apple skin by the difference in color under the label.

Right now the Eshlemans are picking Gala, a sweet apple, and Honey Crisp with a tart sweet flavor. McIntosh and Cortland are next. "The last apples we have are Fuji, in the last half of October," she says.

Most growers in Ohio have the apples off the trees between Nov. 1 and Nov. 10. "By then everyone is done picking."

When Mrs. Eshleman gets a chance to cook with apples, she says, "I prefer to make apple pie. You need to use a mixture of apples. Don't make a pie with one apple. I would use Cortland, McIntosh, and probably Golden Delicious, which has a really good flavor."

She says that Red Delicious aren't good for cooking; they are an eating apple and will stay crunchy in a pie. Better for pies are Golden Delicious, which will cook up. "They won't turn to mush, but they won't be crunchy either," says Mrs. Eshleman.

With 30 acres of apples, Witt's Orchards, located eight miles from Oak Harbor near State Rt. 2, has a retail market as well as stalls at the Toledo Farmers' Market on Saturdays. By mid-September, they are picking Jonathan, McIntosh, Golden Delicious, and Gala.

Because people like to try different apples, they sell a make-your-own bag, says Robert Witt. These are $5 for a peck or $3 for a half-peck.

At MacQueen's Orchard, 7605 Garden Rd. in Springfield Township, the annual Apple Pie Contest will be held at 11 a.m. Oct. 1. The 24th Apple Butter Stir and Craft Show will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 1 and 2. Entry deadline for the pie contest is Sept. 30. Pick up entry forms at the market or call 419-865-2916.

Fall harvest is in full swing at MacQueens. They also have pick-your-own apples with a half-bushel minimum (nominal fee) beginning Sept. 24.



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