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Pick Your Own Fresh Fruit

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By Mary Vlahos

Fall brings with it a variety of traditions such as campfires, hayrides, and carving pumpkins. Have you ever thought of picking fruit as a fun fall tradition? It’s a great way to ensure your apples are super fresh, and it’s something the entire family can enjoy. Buying fresh fruit from the store can mean that your fruit is already quite old. Apples go into cold storage with reduced oxygen, and are dipped in wax as a preservative. They can be 6-12 months old by the time you buy them. I personally was shocked by this. What does an apple have to go through to last 6-12 months? It can’t be good for you. Picking your own fruit right off the tree results in a totally different taste. Teaching your kids to embrace fresh fruit, where it comes from, and what to do with it, is a great lesson in nutrition. What are the benefits of fresh fruit? What are some creative ways to use your fruit? Where do you go in your area to pick fresh fruit? How do you process the bushels of fruit you pick? These are all good questions we will be answering in this article.
The benefits of fresh fruit are numerous. Fruit is rich in vitamins A and C and full of fiber. It can prevent heart disease, control blood pressure, and lower cholesterol. Fruit is a healthy way to snack and a great substitute for sweets. Fruit also contains minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and vitamins. Do you get 3-4 servings of fruit a day?

If you find it tough to get your servings of fruit, here are some creative ways to integrate the fresh fruit you pick into your diet. Salads can be a great way to add fruit to your diet. Try pears, blue cheese, and sliced almonds on a bed of butter lettuce, or add apples, walnuts, and shredded Parmesan to Romaine. Throw it on the grill! Pears, apples, and peaches are great to throw on the grill. Finish them off with a little honey and fresh mint. Many orchards also produce their own honey. Sangrias are a popular cocktail and filled with fresh peaches, pears, apples, or berries, it’s definitely a fun way to enjoy fruit. Fresh apple cider is found at most orchards and it’s a great fall drink. Warm it up and add a cinnamon stick, or for an adult version, add spiced rum.
Do you spend time around a camp fire? Core an apple or pear, stuff it with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon, wrap it in foil, and throw it on the campfire until it gets soft. Grab a spoon and dessert is served. Slice pears or apples and layer on a pork tenderloin with brown sugar and butter and bake. Savory or sweet, there are many things you can do with fruit. Fall is also the time to pick pumpkins. We generally think of them as a decoration, but you can clean, dry, roast, and salt the seeds. Pumpkin seeds are one of the best sources of iron.
The most important thing of course is where to find orchards. There is a website that can help you find a pick-your-own orchard near you. At www.pickyourown.org you just enter your state and it will bring up a list by county. They also have a section about how to freeze apples and pears. Here are a few orchards that were listed in the Stark and Summit County areas. Arrowhead Orchards in Paris is a great place to pick apples, go hunting through a pumpkin patch, or enjoy honey from their hives. Sanor’s in Minerva combines U-pick with pre-picked fruit for sale. The farm has cherries, blueberries, apples, peaches, and grapes (each fruit is seasonal of course). Sanor’s has a picnic area for even more family fun! Greenfield Berry Farm in Peninsula uses natural growing practices but is not yet organic certified. Fall at Greenfield Berry Farm brings a crop of blueberries, red raspberries, pumpkins, and sunflowers. They also sell lip balm made with honey and beeswax from their own hives. If apples are your love then Kuner’s Fruit Farm in Green is your place with 26 different varieties to choose from. Wade’s Fruit Farm in Paris has apples, chestnuts, fresh cider, honey, and a picnic area on the premises. Is there a better way to enjoy fall with your family than picking apples and having a picnic afterwards?
Picking your own fruit is a healthy and fun alternative to the grocery store. What do you do with the bushels of fruit you’ve picked? Canning, dehydrating, and freezing are all good options. Canning can be an intimidating process, but canning 101 can give you an easy step by step process. Consult their website at www.freshpreserving.com/canning-101-getting-started.html. If you have apples then canning applesauce is a must and definitely a kid favorite. A dehydrator can be very affordable and another great way to process fruit. Slice your fruit, sprinkle with Fruit Fresh, and dehydrate. Combine your dehydrated fruit with nuts, put it in a festive container, and you have a hostess or holiday gift. Yes, you can freeze apples and pears. To freeze fruit you need to clean, peel, slice, pat dry, sprinkle with Fruit Fresh, and freeze in a freezer bag or container. If you are freezing, you need to pick fruit that is firm and not overly ripe.
I have very fond memories of picking apples at Kuner’s Fruit Farm as a child. One of the things my mom did with them is make apple cake. This recipe was handed down to her from my grandmother and it’s a delicious rectangular sheet cake with layers of cake and apples. I hope you enjoy picking fruit with your family as much as I did.

Apple Cake Recipe

Ingredients:
2 sticks of butter or margarine
3 egg yolks (reserve the whites for topping)
3 Tbsp. sour cream
3 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
6-8 apples peeled, cored, and shredded on a grater. You may want to grate more or less depending on how large your apples are or how much filling you want. Squeeze the apples to get out excess liquid. This will avoid very soggy dough.
1-2 Tbsp. sugar and cinnamon to taste

Directions:
Cream the butter, sugar, and egg yolks together. Add the dry ingredients and sour cream and mix. Divide the dough in half. Roll out half the dough to fit a 9 x 13 baking dish. Spray the baking dish with cooking spray and put in your first layer of dough. Add a layer of the shredded apples. Sprinkle the apples with sugar and cinnamon. Roll out your second layer and place on top of the shredded apples. Prick the top of the dough with a fork. Beat the 3 egg whites till frothy and spread on the top. This will help brown the dough.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the top is nice and brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool and cut into squares. Enjoy and happy picking!!

Pick Your Own Fresh Fruit

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