Happy Monday everyone! I always love the beginning of the week since the gang brings some delicious stuff to the #fruitsandveggiesmonday table for us to enjoy, but it is even more fun when I get to bring something to share, as well! Though it still feels like summer, we are in full apple season here in Georgia. I think you all know how much I LOVE going fruit picking by now. Last year we went up to North Georgia too late to actually pick any apples ourselves, so this year we didn't want to miss the fun experience!
My mom, boyfriend and I got up early to make the drive up to Mercier Orchards yesterday morning. There are quite a few different orchards in the area that offer U-pick, but we opted for this one this time around. My mom had only ever driven by before, so she was excited to get to enjoy the whole experience for once. We enjoyed the leisurely trip up, and arrived to our foggy destination.
I snapped a few pictures walking from the parking lot up to the store. I always think foggy pictures are neat to look at, plus it was fun to get a before and after as it lifted pretty quickly as the morning went on. We thought we might have beat the heat, but no such luck there. At least the day started out cool and nice. If I had been by myself I might have even taken the opportunity to do a little meditation overlooking the water since it had such a nice serene vibe. :)
However, we meant business, so on to purchase our entry to the orchard! They only do picking on the weekends and tend to get quite busy in the height of the season. We wanted to make sure to be there right when they opened up at 10. The market and restaurant inside open at 7am, though, so many people get there early to enjoy a bite to eat and some warm cider before heading out to the orchards. I think I'll save those shots for another post perhaps. Today it's all about the orchard!
We only had to wait about 15 minutes before getting on a tractor to hitch a ride over to the part of the orchards where they were doing the picking that day. The ride is actually nice as a guide tells you a bit of the history as you make your way there. Merciers is family-owned for four generations and in their 76th year in business. I think she said they are the largest cider producer in the state. She explained how they use the banged up fruit to make the fresh cider, with nothing added to it. The owner passed us by in his Jeep as we were making our way there. I always enjoy getting to support family-owned local businesses like this one.
Obviously the fog was completely lifted and sun was shining for our picking excursion! We had access to lots of the orchard, but the main varieties ready for harvest that day were Candy Crisp, Braeburn, Mutzu, and Red Delicious. There were a lot of rotten apples all over. I imagine with the weather still being unseasonably warm it is impacting the fruit a bit. We still had plenty of wonderful fruit to grab, though!
I just love being outside and connecting with the trees. It is wonderful to be able to get your food straight from the source like that and be mindful of the energy it takes to produce. Though I enjoy it more when it is quiet, it is great to see kids out there learning those lessons, as well. We are so disconnected from our food sources these days that I think a lot of people forget what real food actually is. I know I have a much better appreciation for it when I can get out in the garden or into an orchard like this.
20 pounds each!
On the fitness side of things, getting out and doing manual labor is the best workout, too! The heat was enough to make you sweat, but the effort of picking and lugging around the bags is enough to get your heart rate up a good bit. Got a nice bicep pump as usual, haha! Farming is HARD work. As with many other fruits and veggies, they do all the harvesting by hand. Seriously, give your favorite local farmers a pat on the back and support their efforts next time you see them. They totally deserve it!
After about an hour of picking, our bags were full and we were ready to head back down to the market. In the picture above you can see a house nestled in the trees. Our guide on the way in was saying they were just finishing it up and it is on the outermost border of the orchards. What a killer view they have! I would love to wake up to this every day.
No fog now!
We perused the store for a bit before heading back home. By the time we were leaving the parking lot was packed and we were pretty worn out from getting up early and picking in the heat. Totally worth it to come home with 50 pounds of fresh-picked apples! Besides the 40 pounds we picked, I grabbed another bag of the Ambrosia apples from the store because I really enjoyed that variety. There was a lovely lady offering up samples of each type they had available, so you could try before you buy. Now it's time to get down to the business of making all kinds of yummy apple dishes...
I feel blessed once again to have access to such a wonderful bounty. I tend to go a bit overboard in my purchasing, but I would much rather spend my money on local grown goods like this. It also forces me to take the time to get in the kitchen and make some homemade items that I sometimes take for granted how easy it is to purchase at the store. One big batch of applesauce is already made, and now I'm looking up some other items to get to work on here when I finish typing. Some friends are loaning me their dehydrator, so dried apples are on the list to save for later!
They always say eat an apple a day for good health. I think we'll be set for quite a number of days. They are packed with fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that are so great for overall health and wellness. By making any goodies at home I also have control over not adding anything to my dishes to take away from their natural healing benefits. If I need any extra sweetness I still have tons of dates from my mega date purchase a few months back to use, but these beauties seem to be plenty sweet and delicious all in their own right! I'll definitely try to keep you all posted as I work through our harvest. 🍎
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