Apples and Art Orchard
Scenes from apple picking in the "Apples and Art Orchard"
If you have exhausted all the fun activities in San Diego, then it is time to wander a little further away from "American's Finest" city. One rewarding activity to do in late summer and early Fall is apple picking in Julian. Julian is over 50 miles from San Diego, but it sure is worth the drive; as you approach Julian, the road meanders through lush forests and scenic country roads. So beautiful and so different than the fun-in-the-sun style of San Diego.
There are 4 or 5 U-pick apple orchards in Julian. Click below to see some of our favorite orchards:
How to Pick Apples
The apple at "Apples and Art Orchard" hang low enough so that you can reach up and pick them without a ladder. If you like, you can use an apple picker for the fruits beyond your reach. An apple picker is a long stick with a basket and a hook at the end. Place the basket under the apple you want, use the hook to twist the apple off the tree. If the apple is ripe, it will come off easily. Don't pull an apple that does not want to come off - this simply means that the apple is not ripe and not ready for harvesting. It is important to remove just the apple and perhaps a short stub of stem. Don't yank off leaves and bits of tree branch. If you remove the fruit spur (where the apple bud is), it will prevent an apple from growing at that same spot the following year.
Often when you pick one apple, a few may fall off the tree. These are perfectly fine and you should pick them up and place them in your basket. Apples that are already on the ground are probably not good anymore, but the ones that just fell off are probably perfect for eating, apple pies, apple cake, apple sauce, apple strudel, apple crumble... If you are picking at an organic farm, don't be surprised to find a few worm holes. Pesticides are not used so worm holes are just a part of life in an organic orchard.
About Apples and Art Orchard
Unlike other places, "Apples and Art Orchard" does not have trees organized in rows and columns. Here, the trees are scattered through out the land and you can approach them by wandering through the paths. Be prepared to ascend gentle hills, skirt around old trees, duck under boughs, and cross rustic footbridges.
The grass and wild wheat are left to grow waist high. During the summer, this provides a green backdrop that is pleasing to the eye. During Fall, the wheat mature and dries to give "amber waves of grain". Not only are these wheat grains edible, they are also home to wild animals such as wild turkeys and snakes. The orchard is also visited by deer and on occasion, predators such as mountain lions and bobcats (don't worry, these latter two are shy and will most likely avoid you, especially if you are in a large group).
The main house is picturesque with a yard dotted with classic Fall and Harvest elements. Imagine a scarecrow, a windmill, an old-time 2-seater swing, a hammock, benches and picnic tables.
Did you know that apples are a member of the Rose family? There are about 7500 varieties of apples in the world: 2500 varieties are grown in the USA but only about 100 varieties are commercially available. Why so many? Well, breeders like to create varieties by putting pollen from one type of apple onto the stigma of another kind of apple. These experiments generate new types of apples. As, well, some farmers will graft one type of tree branch onto the trunk of another kind of apple tree. With 7500 types of apples around, it's not surprising to find a few "mystery" apples of unknown heritage.
All apples have 5 seeds within and the Red Delicious apple is the only apple that has 5 bumps at the bottom of the apple. Other than that, it's hard to figure which apples are which - you need a tag/label, or the farmer to tell you what they are.
What to Expect
"Apples and Art Orchard" is more than just apple picking. The owner, gives you a 20 minute talk about how to pick apples and a good hunk of apple information. For example, did you know that an average American eats 45 pounds of apple per year? Of an entire apple, a quarter of it is air (that is why it floats in water). After you've had your fill of apple-lore, it's time to get your fill of apple picking!
Buy a bag ($10 per bag, each bag holds 5 to 6 pounds of apples) and start picking. The owner will escort you around the orchard and give you hints and tips on apple picking. As well, she will tell you the variety of apple which you are picking. Some of the trees at the "Apples and Art Orchard" are 50 years old (they need to be 5 years of age to bear fruit). You may find:
Red Delicious, Jonathan, Gala, Arkansan Black, and new strains like Fiesta, Greensleeves, Queen Cox, and Liberty.
After you have filled your bag, go back to the house and get ready for apple cider making! The owner prepares the hand-crank apple press and supplies the apples for pressing. About 50 apples are washed and then loaded into the top of the apple press. Turn the wheel to coarsely chop the apples. Once that is done, the turn the crank to apply pressure and manually press the juice out of the apple chunks. Then comes the even more fun part: drink freshly squeezed apple cider! It's sweet, refreshing, and contains flavors from different types of apples.
What do you do with all that apple pulp after extracting the juice? Feed them to the chickens, of course! Not exactly part of "apple picking", but certainly a part of the fun. The owner will feed the chickens and, while they are busily pecking at the apple pulp, the owner may sneak into the chicken coop and bring out newly laid eggs.
After apple lecture, apple picking, apple cider making, (and feeding chickens!) you can then spend the rest of your day in downtown Julian.
- Miner's Diner
- The Apple Country Restaurant
- Julian Pie Company
- Don's Market: a well stocked convenient store located at the junction of highway 78 and 79.
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