Finally! It’s autumn, and that means it’s apple- picking time; time to head to the orchard to pick-your-own, or just pick up a bag of your favorites. More than 7,500 known apple cultivars are grown throughout the world; of these, 2,500 varieties are grown in the U.S. One hundred of those varieties are produced for the commercial market with Indiana ranking 15th in commercial apple production.
According to Purdue University’s Department of Horticulture, the most popular apple varieties in our state are Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious,
Jonathan, Red Delicious and Rome Beauty.
It wasn’t that long ago when Vincennes, and the surrounding region, had numerous family orchards to pick from, but over time, most have
closed. Today, only three local orchards remain, all located north of town on U.S. 41, near Bruceville.
Apple Hill Orchard
First stop is Apple Hill Orchard, producing more than 40 varieties of apples and a dozen types of peaches along with nectarines and pumpkins. Apple Hill also has cider donuts, apple fritters, apple pies, apple slushies and fresh apple cider to enjoy in their cozy dining area, or on their airy porch.
Brad and Karen Black, along with Brad’s parents, Joe and Jane Black, own Apple Hill. The family started planting trees in 1999 and opened in 2003. Ginger Gold, Pristine, Redfree and Zesta are their early season apples, ready to pick in July and early August.
According to co-owner, Karen Black, “Our mid-season apples include Gala, Golden Delicious, Honey Crisp and Red Delicious, and all are local favorites.”
Red Delicious are the most popular apples grown in the state, and across the country, with Golden Delicious running a close second. Late season apples appear around the end of September, through October. That’s when you’ll find the super sweets like Mutsu (think of a higher quality Golden Delicious) and Fuji (juicy and crisp.) Late autumn apples also have a bite to them like the wonderfully tart Granny Smith apples, which are grown only in the southern part of Indiana, (thanks to the long growing season). Another sharply flavored late autumn apple is the Jonathan; perfect for eating out of hand, or for baking.
Peaches are another much beloved Hoosier fruit. Brought to the New World by horticulturist George Minifie, the seeds were planted throughout Virginia by Native Americans who carried the peach seeds with them across the country, planting as they moved westward.
Peaches became a popular commercial fruit during the 19th Century, and today the majority of peaches are grown in Georgia, California, Missouri, South Carolina and Washington State.
Indiana ranks 25th in the nation in terms of annual production, but the majority of those peaches are grown right here in southwestern Indiana.
The most popular peaches around here are Red Havens and Redskins. Red Haven is the “classic peach” — reddish yellow incolor with a firm, round shape. This is the peach that all others are judged against.
Redskins were created by crossing Red Havens with the Elberta peach. Redskins are red in color with an overlapping of yellow and bright yellow flesh, and are considered to be the perfect peaches for pie.
Apple Hill Orchard
6235 N. Ford Road (5 miles north of Vincennes just off US 41),
Facebook: search Apple Hill Orchard in Bruceville
Open Monday – Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.,
Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. July through November.
The Big Peach
7738 N. Old 41,
Facebook: search The Big Peach in Bruceville
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. mid-May through October
McKinley Orchard and Restaurant
14469 N. Old US 41,
Facebook: search McKinley Orchard and Restaurant
Open Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.