What would a Newtown Pippin taste like? Or a Manchurian Crab or Black Gilliflower? Winter Banana? That one is easy, hints of bananas.
Every October, my family and I taste our way around a 35-mile loop full of fruit stands, orchards, and vineyards. Come fall, when the morning is crisp with the feeling of winter approaching, we eat as many apples as our stomachs allow, sticking the toothpicks into the firm meat of the belly and plopping the hard chunks into our mouths, waiting for the sweet and tart to tingle our tongues. Is it too mealy or firm? Does the smell reminisce of pineapples or strawberries? We have our favorites.
Getting up early and packing mason jars of water into the trunk of my Subaru for the cut zinnia flowers, varying bags for the varieties of apples we will buy, and a mini cooler for the fruit scones and pies we begin our descent over the pass, down into the valley.
We always start at the Kiyokawa Family Orchards, on our annual apple picking trip to Hood River. Parkdale, Oregon, to be exact, to catch the view of a snowcapped mountain, the mist just beginning to dissipate as the sun climbs high into the sky. There are many aisles of apple trees to wander down. In the distance, snow covers Mt Hood. Picturesque with the trees framing the tall white-capped mountain, apple orchards flank both sides of the mountain, a view upon a view.
This year, friends have joined us.
Last year’s favorite apple was the Zestar, similar to the Honey Crisp. This year’s love is Pink Pearl, smaller but tart and white flesh marbled with pink and a hint of grapefruit. I bought too few and they were gone within in the week.
Our other favorites, Pink Ladies, with a sharp and sweet taste, were still ripening on the limbs, too early in the season to pluck from the low hanging branches.
I feel like we have been here too long and still so many other apple orchards to explore. I haven’t even cut the zinnias that grow on the side of the shed.
We see the biggest apple ever. Lush and heavy, dragging the tree branches low. Big as your outstretched hand and cherry red. Walking down the grassy pathways, dew on our pant legs, searching for the prettiest apples. That is our last task, we need to move on to the next apple orchard along the Hood River Fruit Loop trail for it is already time for lunch.