By Pete Zamplas-Apples are extra crisp and juicy this season, thanks to a rainy summer, and with recent sunshine are regaining usual sweetness.
That is the consensus of Henderson County apple growers, whom The Tribune spoke with at the Apple Festival this past weekend. Most said they got about 80 percent of their crop this year. Many are expanding products to include cider and apple honey.
Among hazards from excessive rain is a moldy fungus, noted Kande Newman of Newman Farms. “When you have an unbelievable amount of rain, you get a lot more disease,” noted Marvin Owings who heads the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service county office.
Barry Hollingsworth of J.H. Stepp said the many apples surviving are much crisper and slightly larger than usual from extra rain nourishment, and from having fewer apples on each tree. He said Stepp had thinned trees.
Danny McConnell said his McConnell Farms phased in trees with more popular varieties in the last six years. These younger trees make up a third of his 15,000 apple trees. Last year, when a freeze damaged crop, they grew extra by not nourishing fruit which they are doing well now.
By trees not getting drained by fruit a year ago, they were better able to handle a fuller fruit load this season, observed Creasman Farms’ Bobby Creasman. His daughter Colby Creasman, former area beauty queen, noted apple color flourished as rain subsided in the last week or so and sunshine increased.
The timing is good, as many apple varieties are just now maturing. McConnell sells 27 varieties. On the festival’s opening day, Friday, his biggest seller was Tsugaru. He was one of the few if not only one carrying it, and it impressed visitors in a taste test, according to Extension Service volunteers. They manned the sampling of six apples, mostly newer strains. They were Alfler, Zestar, Rebella, Tsugaru, Senshu as well as Honey Crisp which boomed in popularity years ago in such a taste test at the Apple Festival.
For more on local apples including a list of growers-retailers, check www.NCApples.com.