Autumn is prime apple time. Believe it or not, the climate found in Arizona's high desert locations is ideally suited for growing apples. Sunny days, cool nights, an elevation of 4,500 feet, and a plentiful supply of water create the perfect apple growing environment. Arizona apple growers raise 55 million pounds of apples each year. Arizona's commercial apple crop is located in the southeastern region of the state near Willcox. Several small privately-owned and historic apple orchards can be found around the Oak Creek Canyon/Verde Valley area. Apple trees also grow in such diverse places as Date Creek (north of Wickenburg), Prescott/Bradshaw Mountain area, and even in the Supersition Wilderness! Apple harvesting in Arizona begins in August and runs through October.
A TASTE OF ARIZONA'S APPLE ORCHARDS
Apple Annie's Orchard - Apple Annie's Orchard is a family-owned fruit orchard north of Willcox. Apple Annie's specializes in tree-ripened fruit, apple cider, pies and other treats. They even sell apple-smoked burgers! Their cider mill is the largest in Arizona, producing thousands of gallons of freshly pressed flash-pasteurized apple cider each year. U-pick tree-ripened apples are available beginning in July. Varieties include Gala, Red and Golden Delicious, Fuji, Rome Beauty, and Granny Smith. To get there, take I-10 to Willcox, exit 340. Turn West on Ft. Grant Rd., travel 5 1/2 miles to Apple Annie's sign; turn right and follow the apple signs. They have seasonal festivals and offer field trips and tours. For information, call Apple Annie's at 1-800-840-2084 or visit www.appleannies.com. It's like spending a day in the country! Apple Annie's baked goods and apple cider are also available all year round at Costco stores.
Did You Know…? Anne Holcomb of Apple Annie's Orchard homeschooled her two children for nine years. The apple bread that they sell at Costco is the result of her son's homeschooling project when he was 8 years old. He developed the recipe himself and did all of the baking until he was 12 and they started baking for Costco. When he realized that they would have to hire bakers and he would no longer receive all of the profits, he negotiated for a royalty on each loaf!
Stout's Cider Mill - A favorite stop for travelers just off Interstate 10 in Willcox, Stout's Cider Mill specializes in fresh, homemade products using no preservatives. Their apple cider, apple butters, apple-nut cakes, and apple pies are all made from apples grown in their Arizona apple orchard. Stout's Cider Mill has over 10,000 apple trees of 18 different varieties, including Granny Smith, Gala, Fuji, Jonathan, and Red Delicious. Willcox is approximately 75 miles east of Tucson and about one hour west of the New Mexico border. Take exit 340 (Rex Allen Drive) and head north (a left turn over the overpass if you're east bound, a right turn if you're west bound). Then make an immediate right onto Circle I Road. Follow Circle I Road just a few hundred feet, and you can't miss the Cider Mill. Visit their website at www.cidermill.com.
Douglas Apple Orchards - Twenty years ago, Mark Douglas began planting apple trees to create a wind break around his house in Elgin, Arizona. These trees are not the greatest producers due to the fact that late frost kills most of the apple blossoms in 3 out of every 4 seasons - but the fresh-picked fruit is delicious. Douglas has about 1500 different apple, pear, and peach trees, representing 150 different varieties. Visitors are welcome to come and pick their own apples and pears from August to October. The apples only cost about 30 cents a pound, and you can taste them before you buy! To get there, take the Lower Elgin Road from Elgin or Sonoita, southeast of Tucson. See the Douglas Apple Orchard at www.dakotacom.net/~mdouglas/index2.html.
Briggs/Eggers Organic Apple Orchard - Second generation farmers Lance and Melissa Eggers, along with Jean and Joe Briggs, began growing apples in the fertile Bonita Springs Valley of southern Arizona in 1968. They have been farming organically since 1990. Their 300-acre apple orchard lies at the base of Mount Graham, and is composed of granite-rich, alluvial soil washed down from the mountains to which they add their organic nutrients. The moderate-high elevation allows the Briggs/Eggers to begin early harvests of Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala, and Pink Lady varieties. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lance Eggers is President of the Arizona Apple Growers Association, Willcox Arizona 85643, 520-384-6099 (phone) or 520-384-6099 (fax).
Date Creek Ranch - Phil and Karin Knight are the owners of this family ranch and organic orchard near Wickenburg, Arizona. They are located about 25 miles northwest of Wickenburg on Highway 93. Turn off at milepost 177.5. In addition to Organic Early Blaze apples, they produce beef, pork, and peaches. Fruit is available for picking from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm at 50 cents per pound or at the ranch fruit stand on weekends from August through September. When you come to pick apples, you can also hike along Date Creek and have a picnic. Call them at 928-776-8877 for more information.
Oak Creek Canyon/Pendley Homestead - Slide Rock State Park in Oak Creek Canyon contains much more than just its namesake 30-foot long water slide worn in the rocks of the creekbed. Other attractions include nature trails, picnic spots, fall colors, and an historic apple orchard. You can see the orchard, farm machinery, packing shed, old cabins and farmhouse on the site of the old Pendley homestead. Frank Pendley arrived in the area in 1910 and acquired the 43 acre site under the Homestead Act. Pendley planted his first apple orchard in 1912. His innovative irrigation system is still used by the park today. There are 13 varieties of apples grown on the site. Apple blossom time is mid-April. Apple harvesting takes place in September and October. For more information about the park and its history, visit www.pr.state.az.us/Parks/parkhtml/sliderock.html.
Jordan Historic Park/Sedona Heritage Museum - Located at 735 Jordan Road in Uptown Sedona, this park and museum focuses on Sedona's first industry - raising apples. Drive across the bridge on Mormon Wash and park in the lot; then take one of the scenic pathways through the fruit orchard and past vintage farm implements to the museum. Expect to spend at least an hour or as many as three hours looking at the exhibits and touring the historic buildings. The 4000-square-foot Apple Barn houses a 40-foot-long apple sorting machine from the 1940's. The museum opens daily at 11:00 am, admission is $3.00, and the last tour of the day begins at 3:00 pm. Read the story of Sedona's first apple orchards at www.sedonamuseum.org/orchards.html.
Reevis Ranch - Reevis Ranch in the Superstition Wilderness has an apple orchard, tall sycamore trees, and year-round water springing from a small valley in the middle of the rugged mountains. Reevis was a working cattle ranch as late as the 1950's or 1960's. A ten-mile uphill hike through high desert with spectacular views leads to what's left of the ranch. The Reavis Ranch house burned in November of 1991 and the old stone structure was later leveled by the Forest Service. The orchard is still there, and you can pick apples off the old trees in September.
Did You Know…?
The great American frontier hero known as Johnny Appleseed was born on September 26, 1774. He supplied apple seeds and young trees to settlers throughout the West.
The following recipes take advantage of newly harvested apples at their peak of freshness, sweetness, and juiciness. Plus, they don't require much preparation time and are fun to make!
Arizona Apple Salsa
1 cup diced Arizona-grown Granny Smith apple
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and allow flavors to blend about 1/2 hour. Serve with chicken, pork, beef or low fat tortilla chips. Serves 4.
1 cup whole raw almonds
1. Put almonds into a food processor and grind to a fine meal.
To make a clove apple you will need: 1 large red apple, ½ cup whole cloves, and a toothpick (optional). Press the sharp point of each clove into the apple. Push it in only until the head of the clove shows. You may need a toothpick to help you get started. Continue until the whole apple is covered with cloves, or you can make some artistic designs on the apple with the cloves. Display your apple on a dish or in a bowl out of direct sunlight.
BOB FOR APPLES
Fill individual buckets or one large bucket with water. Add apples and try to "catch" them with your teeth.
www.azpermaculture.org/html/regis-tree.htm (A registry of historic apple orchards and other fruit trees in Central Arizona with photos, descriptions, and locations.)
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