The core of fall customs

Apples: A pick-your-own farm in Woodbine welcomes another season of visitors in search of the crisp fruit.

September 30, 2004|By Lisa Kawata | Lisa Kawata,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Craving an apple so crisp it crackles with each bite? So fresh that juice squirts into your mouth and dribbles down your chin? Whether you like your fruit sweet or tart, for a sensational, apple-licious experience this fall, pick your apples right off the tree at Larriland Farm in Woodbine.

"There's hardly a person in the United States that doesn't like apples," said Larriland co-owner Lynn Moore. Together with her parents, Larry and Polly Moore, and her brothers, Guy and Fenby, Lynn Moore manages the pick-your-own crops of fruit and vegetables, which includes 18 varieties of apples.

"Most conversation is about flavor and texture," said Moore, after helping a customer looking for a "sweet, crisp-tasting apple."

The unique flavor of each variety comes from its content of malic acid and sugar. For example, the popular Gala apple, which ripens in late August, has high acid and high sugar. The Red Delicious apple has high sugar and low acid. But it is the water content of an apple that makes it crisp, Moore said.

"People like a crisp apple," she said.

Under normal growing conditions, a newly ripened apple should have plenty of water in it. At Larriland, each variety has "10 to 20 days of optimum picking, afterward the apples become mealy," said Moore. As an apple dries out, its texture and taste deteriorate. Also, cooler temperatures during the ripening season yield better tasting apples and help preserve crispness after harvest.

Moore advises customers to store freshly picked fruit in plastic bags in the refrigerator. Depending on the variety, apples stay crisp about two to four weeks in a refrigerator, said Moore, longer if the temperature is kept at 33 degrees.

In early October, pick-your-own apple varieties include Cameo, Fortune, Ida Red, Stayman and Braeburn. Mid-October yields Suncrisp and Mutsu apples, while the Enterprise, Fuji and Granny Smith varieties usually ripen later in the month. Pink Lady apples ripen by early November and also store the longest. Except for the tart Ida Red, which is used strictly for cooking, all Larriland's apples are suitable for cooking or snacking.

In addition to being sweet or tart, apples are also classified by firmness. An Ida Red is soft; a Fuji is medium firm. Braeburns and Suncrisps are firmer. A Granny Smith is very firm.

When making a pie, a soft apple makes a more sauce-like filling when cooked. Firmer apples hold the slice shape better after cooking. For applesauce, Moore says, she uses Golden Delicious - a medium-firm apple.

A favorite apple from last year might not taste exactly the same this year. Try one before picking a bagful - taste can be dependent on the environment.

"It's kind of like wine. It can change from season to season," said Moore.

Many of the apple trees are dwarf-sized, making for family-friendly picking. The best way to pick an apple is to lift it up so that it easily separates from the branch and doesn't disturb the apples next to it, said Moore. The farm supplies plastic bags for its customers in the orchard.

In addition to pick-your-own crops, Larriland also sells fruit and vegetables, canned fruit, pumpkins and gourds in its barn. Hot apple fritters and cider are available on weekends, along with a hay maze and a "boo barn" for children. Hayrides are available Monday through Friday for groups. For reservations: 410-489-7034

Larriland Farm, 2415 Woodbine Road, Woodbine. Phone: 410-442-2605 (Baltimore area) or 301-854-6110 (Washington area). On the Web: pickyour own.com. Next month, hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. In November, the farm is open the first weekend only, Nov. 5 to 7, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call ahead on the day you plan to pick. Payment is by cash or check.

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