When there's a chill in the air and the leaves are starting to turn, that's the time that people think about apple harvests. Virginia is known for its apples, and there are orchards throughout the state that have the delicious fruit in many varieties. There are apple festivals, too, where you can sometimes pick your own apples and even watch people making spicy, dark apple butter. But whenever people talk about how apple trees were spread across America in the early 1800s, there's always one name that comes up. Johnny Appleseed.
Tart or sweet, cherries are a favorite flavor, and there's more to cherries than meets the eye. Cherries actually belong to the rose family. Cherry's rosy relatives include other stone fruits such as almonds, apricots, plums, peaches, and nectarines.
February is a terrific month to dig into cherries. For years, people have made cherry pies to celebrate George Washington's birthday on February 22. Why do we think of cherries when we think of our first president?
Kids have a big advantage when it comes to picking strawberries because they grow close to the ground. With just a little know-how, you can be a berry good berry picker.
Tips for picking terrific berries:
-Break the stem about a half an inch from the top of the berry.
-Don't pick berries that are mushy-soft, nibbled on by insects or birds, green or pink
-Don't pile your berries in a big bucket. Strawberries are heavy and have delicate skins. They can get bruised if they are piled thick, one on top of another.
-Keep your berries cool, either in the shade or the refrigerator.
-Don't wash them until you are ready to use them.
-If you are going to eat your strawberries right away, you can go picking any time.
-If you need your berries to last for longer, try to pick in the morning or in the early evening when it's cooler.
-Wear a hat and sunscreen so you don't become red as a berry yourself.
-Strawberries taste wonderfully good and are high in vitamin C, which helps your body heal, resist infections, and keeps your bones, gums, and teeth healthy. There are lots of ways to enjoy strawberries: in muffins, jam, salad, salsa, and simply by themselves.
No sodium. No cholesterol. Extremely low in fat. High in fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and niacin as well being sweet and juicy—what's not to love about a peach? Unless sugar is a concern, they are certainly a most delightful guilt-free treat. Whether they are in season locally or still available in the freezer section, peaches have many uses and are an excellent addition to your dinner table.
They're cool, tangy, and sweet—all at the same time. Best of all, when you go blueberry picking you can just reach out and pluck them. They are so much easier to pick than strawberries. There's no kneeling in the straw and mud only to find that critters have eaten the underside of your berries. Besides being fun and easy to pick, blueberries are splendid for you, too. They are rich in vitamin C and other important nutrients. Blueberries are in season for Virginia from mid-June to mid-July, so grab a bucket to fill with sweet berries.
Oranges bring a warm sweetness to the dreariest winter day. They are full of good things: vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Some oranges are used to make juice while others are eaten just as they are.
This is the time of year when delicious fruits and vegetables fill the homegrown gardens and bins at farmers' markets. An abundance of heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn and sweeter peaches make August the right time to practice the very rewarding work of preserving.
Whether they're Galas, Granny Smiths, Yorks, Winesaps, or Ginger Golds, apples are one of Virginia's loveliest and most useful crops and were much enjoyed by the early colonists and pioneers as well as today's families. Crisp, sweet apples-- harvested in the chilly days of October, can be part of your celebrations in November and December.
An October Excursion to a Mountain Orchard
First, a Little History
Originally, strawberries were wild things. Their unique flavor and sweetness led to their cultivation. At Monticello, Thomas Jefferson grew Alpine Strawberries, a European import, among other varieties and shared the seeds with his friends. The plants were hardy and delicious, but the berries were tiny. Jefferson remarked that "100 would fill half a pint." Wild strawberries grew freely in abandoned fields and woods and were gathered by Indians and colonists alike.