A wonderful rite of autumn here in Vancouver is taking advantage of the bounty of the local apple harvest. I love the ultra tart, crisp ones while my boyfriend favours the ones that are sweeter. Whether I’m chomping on one as a mid-afternoon snack, or taking a fork to apple pie still steaming from the oven, apples are the ultimate in fall comfort food.
Vancouver grocery stores are currently full of local apples. For example, a recent visit to one turned up red delicious and gala ones. However, for the ultimate celebration of all things apple and the chance to try apples that aren’t always available in stores, make a plan to take part in the UBC Apple Festival (October 15-16, 2016). There’s tons of apple fun to be had, making it a great date activity for you and another apple fan.
Now in its twenty-fifth year, the UBC Apple Festival promises two days of celebratory apple activities.
Taking place at the beautiful UBC Botanical Garden, this large fundraising event for the Garden costs $ 5 (cash only) for adults, with children under 5 being free. The fee also includes admission into the Garden for further strolling and exploring once you’re done with the apple festivities.
Once at the Fest, choose from a variety of displays that are interactive and educational. These include an apple display of 200 BC varieties put on by the BC Fruit Testers Association. You’ll get to talk to Master Gardeners, see demos of cider pressing and apple grafting, and find out about all things bee-related.
There will also be a roster of great local talent, like Fionn, an award winning singing duo from White Rock, BC, and Judy Henry, a Celtic harpist based in Tsawwassen and White Rock.
Once you’ve taken a look at the scarecrow contest display (you have until October 7, 2016, to enter), head over to the food fair for a slice of apple pie, as well as other delectable, like hot chocolate and perogies. Various local craftspeople will be selling their wares (eg natural soaps).
A main draw are the 16,329 kilos of apples for sale. Choose from more than 60 varieties of apples, including winter banana, yataka, and oaken pin. Additionally, apple trees will be on sale (about 50 varieties).
If you want to sample the apples before committing to a bag, head over to the Friends of the Garden Apple Tasting Tent Sponsored by Whole Foods (11-3:30pm). The fee is $ 5 for the chance to taste up to 60 varieties of apples grown in BC.
When tasting apples, you want to pay attention to the size of the fruit, shape, colour (both skin and flesh), flavour (sweetness and tartness), juiciness, texture, and crunchiness. I’d recommend taking notes as you’re tasting, for referencing later on. You can also purchase an Apple Booklet, which gives you further background info on the different varieties.
Here are 5 to look out for at the event (based on the availability at the 2015 event):
This variety is a McIntosh-style apple that was introduced in 1926 by the Summerland Research Station in British Columbia by crossing a McIntosh apple with a Grimes Golden one. The apple is sweet in flavour and more tender in texture since it quickly loses its crispness after harvesting.
One of my favourite apples, Honeycrisp hails originally from Minnesota, US, and has a refreshing and juicy crispness. The flavour is sweet as honey, making it fabulous for munching on. They tend to be on the larger side for substantial snacking.
The parent varieties of this apple are the Gala and Splendour, which were crossed at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland, BC, in 1981 (it took decades to develop). Expect a very crisp bite, with a satisfying tangy flavour and plenty of juiciness. Even better, it stores extremely well.
This apple was developed at the Institute of Experimental Botany in the Czech Republic. The flavour is sharp, with spice notes, considerable acidity, and a certain briny minerality in taste. It also boasts a crisp juiciness, making each bite satisfying and nuanced.
Cox’s Orange Pippin
My parents grow this one in the backyard, so I have a particularly fondness for this variety. It’s exceptional eaten raw, but is also fabulous for baking (we tend to have a lot from my parents’ tree that we need to use). Cox’s Orange Pippin originates from the UK and is characterized by a crisp tartness and a dense hardness. Some people claim to taste mango, pear, and/or melon when they sample them. See for yourself!
Apple info sourced from Orange Pippin website.