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September 10, 2010

This year's Maine apple crop offers early pickin's

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

Apple season is in full swing here in Maine, a good two weeks early. But Steve Eveld says it's "kind of painful" to walk through his organic orchard.

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Some apple varieties, such as this Gala, have visible frost damage.

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Blair Edwards makes a pick at McDougal Orchards.

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Wednesday, September 8th's Portland Press Herald has a handy Apple Guide with the most popular varieties of apples, where to find them, what they taste like and how to use them.  Buy a copy of the newspaper and take the guide along to an orchard or market.



WHEN: Sunday

WHERE: Maine apple orchards

HOW MUCH: Cost of products or activities

WHAT IS IT: Much like Maine Maple Sunday, but more loosely organized, Maine Apple Sunday is designed to get individuals and families to visit their local apple orchard and see what it has to offer. Apples and apple cider are typically for sale, or you can pick your own fruit. Some farms offer hay rides, mazes and animal petting areas. Call your local orchard to see if it is participating.



WHEN: 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

WHERE: Raven Hill Orchard, 255 Ossipee Hill Road, East Waterboro

HOW MUCH: $30-$40 (Final cost has not been set; call 247-4455 or 459-4271 for more information or reservations)

WHAT IS IT: Chef Sebastian Carosi, founder of the New England Farm 2 Fork Project, will teach participants about 15 varieties of heirloom apples. The session ends with a four-course meal.



WHEN: 2 to 3 p.m. Sept. 24 and 25

WHERE: Fedco Tent in the Agricultural Products area at the MOFGA fairgrounds in Unity

HOW MUCH: Admission to the fair is $10 for adults

WHAT IS IT: Apple expert John Bunker will lead an apple tasting on Friday and Saturday afternoon.



WHEN: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine, Sept. 25 and 26

WHERE: Alfred Shaker Museum and York County Shelter Programs, both on Shaker Hill Road in Alfred


WHAT IS IT: Dig into apple crisp or a pie made with Shaker apples at this festival set in an old Shaker village. Take an antique car ride to an "apple crisp event" in a private garden. Other activities include Shaker-related crafts demonstrations, a juried arts and crafts show, a silent auction, pancake breakfasts, yard sales, lunch wagon, wagon rides and a Shaker Village tour. Proceeds benefit children of the York County Shelter Programs. For more information, call 324-1137.




WHEN: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 25

WHERE: Center of Cornish village in Thompson Park


WHAT IS IT: Features apples, apple fritters, fresh-pressed cider and other products from local growers, a 5K road race, crafts and local music. The annual apple pie baking contest and auction will be held at 1 p.m. on the front porch of the historic Cornish Inn. Stop by the annual bluegrass gathering at Apple Acres Farm (see below).



WHEN: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 25 (Rain date Oct. 2)

WHERE: Apple Acres Farm, 363 Durgintown Road, South Hiram

HOW MUCH: Admission $7, kids 16 and under free

WHAT IS IT: This annual bluegrass festival is just three miles down the road from the Cornish Apple Festival (see above). Chicken barbecue is available at noon. For more information or directions, call 625-4777 or go to



WHEN: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 25

WHERE: 748 Main St., Monmouth


WHAT IS IT: Apple Pie Cafe, apple exhibits, barrel car rides, wagon rides, a Boy Scout lunch counter and more. Museum buildings will be open. For more information, call 933-2287.



WHEN: 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 2

WHERE: Church of the Good Shepherd, 100 Main St., Rangeley


WHAT IS IT: Bring your own apples to make your own cider with the cider press. Includes a beef stew luncheon, crafts, apples for sale, music and chain saw carving demonstrations. For more information, call 864-5595 or 864-5364.




WHEN: Begins with a 7 a.m. pancake breakfast Oct. 2 and ends with a 7 p.m. concert

WHERE: Lakeside Orchards, 318 Readfield Road


WHAT IS IT: Some festivals get people to carve boats out of giant pumpkins. This one has the Great Build a Boat from an Apple Crate Race. Beat everyone else across Muck Pond and win $100. The festival also includes a parade, carnival games, horse-drawn wagon rides, pony rides, a road race, a horseshoe tournament, hay rides, a craft show, a bean supper, live music, children's activities, apple picking, cooking demonstrations by Colby College's chef, an apple pie baking contest and the Maine State Pie Eating Championship.



WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 25, Oct. 2, Oct. 9

WHERE: Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, 707 Shaker Road, New Gloucester

HOW MUCH: Free cider pressing

WHAT IS IT: Bring your own apples or buy Shaker orchard apples at the Shaker Store and have them put through the cider press for free. Each Saturday has its own special event. On Sept. 25, there will be an apple pie sale. On Oct. 2, there will be a candied apple sale, and on Oct. 9, there will be a cider and doughnut sale.



WHEN: Noon to 4 p.m., rain or shine, Oct. 23

WHERE: Common Ground Education Center, 294 Crosby Brook Road, Unity

HOW MUCH: $4, or $2 for members of MOFGA and the Maine Pomological Society

WHAT IS IT: Learn how to prune your fruit trees, cook with old-time recipes, taste rare and heirloom apples, and shop for local apple products, cheeses and other handmade goods at this celebration of the history, flavor and tradition of Maine apples. Take a walk through the Maine Heritage Orchard and learn about the apple varieties enjoyed by your ancestors. Experts will help you identify your mystery varieties, and there will be – of course – an apple pie contest. Sponsored by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Fedco and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

His Raven Hill Orchard in East Waterboro is small, just 700 trees, but it grows 40 varieties of apples, many of them highly-prized antique varieties. Thanks to an unexpected frost last spring, he's lost 75 to 80 percent of them.

"Apples are pretty resilient," he said, "but I think we hit 25 degrees. And at the stage they were at, the fruit had already set. The apples were probably green pea size. What it does is it kills the germ, the inside, the seeds. And then the apples don't develop. They just fall off."

At the other extreme is McDougal Orchards in Springvale, where some apples have frost damage but most survived. Add in the fact that the branches weren't thinned as heavily as usual, and "we have a load of apples -- a lot, a lot of apples," Ellen McAdam, the owner, said last week. "And they're not small. They're big. And they are beginning to break branches, so people need to come pick."

Many Maine orchards lie somewhere in between. Where they're located largely determined how well they survived the frost. Elevation plays a role, and orchards surrounded by woods were hit harder than those on open land.

"We have two orchards, and at the one in Manchester, which is near Augusta, we ended up with half a crop because of the frost when we were in full bloom," said Marilyn Meyerhans, who owns the orchards with her husband, Steve. "But the rest of the crop is good. And then our Fairfield orchard, it's a full crop but it's coming so early that we're picking like crazy about a week before we should be. But they're ready."

At Randall Orchards in Standish, the pick-your-own season normally runs to the second week in October, but this year it will be over by the third or fourth week of September because the orchard lost so many apples. Like a lot of other orchards that are short on apples this year, Randall's is bringing in apples from other sources so it can stay open and provide the apples and activities the public has come to expect during apple season.

"I think a lot of farm stands that suffered losses are just going to buy apples from other farm stands," said Renae Moran, a tree fruit specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. "So people can still go to their favorite orchard and expect apples. But the pick-your-own season might end early for some people."

Moran said she expects the state's apple crop to be down by 25 to 50 percent from the average of 800,000 bushels. Fruit flavor is good this year, but red color has been slow to develop because of the heat.

Some apples have russetting, a roughness on the surface of the fruit that was caused by the freeze, but such frost damage is mostly cosmetic. The apples are still edible.

"Sometimes it improves the flavor of the apples," Moran said. "There are some apples that naturally russet, and people who highly prize the intense-flavored apples like these russet types."

At McDougal Orchards, frost damage is common on varieties that have Golden Delicious as part of their make-up -- varieties such as Gala and Ginger Gold and Crispin, McAdam said -- but there are just as many apples with no damage at all.

What has stunned McAdam is the earliness of the season.

"We're picking Macs now that look like the middle of September McIntosh," she said. "We're picking Honeycrisp, which we never picked until the second or third week in September. It's just extremely early, a couple of weeks early. We're just going 100 miles an hour here. It's crazy to have this many apples so soon."

Moran said an early start to the season doesn't necessarily mean it will be over early.

"I think the season will be extended because we don't usually see this earliness in the late varieties," she said. "There is one variety that's not ripening up earlier than expected, and that's Ginger Gold. It's ripening up right around the time that it normally does."

 Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:


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Additional Photos

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Seth Edwards arranges apples in boxes on the back of a truck at McDougal Orchards in Springvale. Apples are abundant at many Maine orchards this season.

Photos by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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McIntosh apples hang from a tree at McDougal Orchards in Springvale. "We're picking Macs now that look like the middle of September McIntosh," said owner Ellen McAdam.


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