The warmer days and cool nights in North Carolina’s mountain region present the perfect conditions for growing firm, crisp, juicy apples. Commercial apple production in the Southeast is concentrated in the Appalachian mountain regions of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee with more than 10,000 acres in the region located in our home state.
According to the NC Dept. of Agriculture, North Carolina typically ranks 7th in apple production in the United States with nearly 8 million bushels of apples produced in a given year.
Our state produces some of the greatest quality apples and receives support from a team of research and extension personnel at NC State University’s entomology, plant pathology and horticultural science departments. The focus of the Integrated Fruit Production program is to help ensure the production of safe and high quality fruit, develop and implement modern horticultural and pest management programs and to prepare the industry for anticipated changes in regulatory and marketing programs. Such research and initiatives provide consumers with an excellent color and high sugar content offering exceptional flavor.
North Carolina offers four major varieties including:
- Red Delicious: The most widely planted apple. With its thin bright red skin and mild flavor fine-grained white flesh, this apple is most enjoyed fresh as a snack or in salads.
- Golden Delicious: Its firm white flesh retains its shape and rich mellow flavor when baked or cooked. The skin is so tender that it typically does not require peeling for most recipes.
- Rome: The flavor from this variety grows richer when baked and is considered the ultimate baking and cooking apple. The smooth red apple is also great for fresh eating.
- Stayman: Offers juicy crème-colored to yellowish flesh and a tart-wine flavor. Staymans hold up well in storage and are often used for cider apples.
Apple season hits North Carolina during the fall and continues through early winter. Travel to Western North Carolina to enjoy the fresh mountain air, good country fun and farm adventures. Many orchards offer wagon rides through several acres of orchard. To find opportunities to stroll through the states many apple orchards, visit www.ncfarmfresh.com. A few North Carolina favorites include:
- Apple Hill Orchard and Cider Mill, Morganton: This orchard includes a cider mill, country store, you pick apples, educational tours, group tours and a bakery.
- Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard, Hendersonville: Pick your own apples, grapes and pumpkins, children tours and birthdays, country store, farm tours and educational school field trips.
- Millstone Creek Orchards, Ramseur: Orchard hay rides and tours, nature trail access, tasting tours, antique apple processing equipment demonstration and fresh fruit picking.
- Skytop Orchard, Flat Rock: Working beehives, animal park, playground, bamboo forest to explore, fresh-made apple cider donuts, school and group tours and hayrides all on its 40 acres of farm.
Once you pick your apples, there are a variety of things you can do, from applesauce and apple jelly to a variety of baking recipes, including this Caramel Apple Cake.