By LENNY ROGERS
Well, if you haven’t noticed, it is apple picking time in Alexander and Wilkes counties. Some of the leaves are starting to turn, the mornings are a little chilly, the cornstalks are starting to brown in the fields, but most importantly the apples are getting ripe on the tree. Yes, apple season is here! And yes, our apple seasons go way, way back here in Alexander County.
Isaiah Lowe, born in 1788, moved here from Kentucky and purchased land from the government in the early 1800’s for 12.5 cents per acre on which to plant some of our first apple plantings in the county. Boy, things sure change! Isaiah at one time owned between 2,000 and 3,000 acres. Bobby and Ryan Lowe, of Sugar Loaf Orchards, still owns a piece of that original family tract today.
Picking is now wide open. The apple houses are bee hives of activity and bushel after bushel of apples are leaving Alexander County. Don’t fret though; it is not too late to get your own fresh, locally-grown apples. Our Alexander County growers will be picking apples for eight or so more weeks. Even after they finish picking, with our huge cold storage units, there will be fresh apples available until after Christmas.
It has been a great year for fresh or retail markets for our growers. Alexander County presently ranks fourth in apple production in the state. We have some of the most progressive North Carolina apple growers in our county who are producing in medium and high density orchards which have more trees per acre, more yield per acre, but less chemical use per acre than the older, larger traditional trees.
Newer apple varieties you might try include Gala, Fuji, Pink Lady, Jonagold, Cameo, Mutsu, Honey Crisp, Crimson Crisp, and others. Older varieties you can easily obtain include Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Rome, Stayman Winesap, McIntosh, Arkansas Black, and Granny Smith. There are five to ten other varieties you will run across, depending on which orchard or retail stand you visit. Active orchards in our county include Greengo Orchards, Sugar Loaf Orchards, Deal Apple Orchards, and Perry Lowe Orchards. So, don’t miss out while the picking is still good! Visit one of our own local growers and help our county’s economy. The prices will beat those grocery store apple prices all to pieces and besides they will be much fresher.
And don’t forget the pumpkins, Asian pears, local honey, jams & jellies, country ham, old timey candy, local ground cornmeal, apple slushies, apple cider, and the list goes on of items for sale in our apple orchard retail stands. And what would the season be like without a good homemade apple pie? Or two or three? There are always great cooking apples available, too. So don’t miss this wonderful apple season and we’ll see you out at one of our local apple houses!