This week the first signs of autumn have delighted my senses… temperatures dipped into the 50s at night, cool breezes kissed the daytime and the leaves on the trees began to blush. What better way to embrace the beginning of the season than to visit the North Carolina Apple Festival?
Since arriving in April, people have recommended the North Carolina Apple Festival to me. The festival has been held for the past 60 years on Labor Day Weekend in Hendersonville’s Historic Downtown area, which is just south of Asheville. Nine blocks of Main Street were filled with arts and crafts vendors, continuous live music, children’s and youth activities, special exhibits, food of every sort and tons of locally grown apples. This year, 26 apple orchards brought their delicious, locally grown apples and apple products to the festival.
My first stop was at the NC Cooperative Extension Center and Blue Ridge Apple Growers Association which were conducting their Annual Apple Taste Test. I had the chance to sample a variety of apples and provide feedback on which one looked and tasted the best to me. The type of apple was kept secret from the tester, but a nice lady behind the counter slipped me the name of the apple variety that I found most delicious – Crimson Crisp!
So off I went to find the very elusive Crimson Crisp. I finally spotted a stand that grew this variety. The man informed me that what I saw in the display was all they had left since their harvest was small so far this year mainly because this apple is a late harvester. This is a small, sweet and crisp apple whose parent is the Malus domestica (McIntosh). They were first introduced in 1995 by the Rutgers Fruit Research and Development Center.
As I perused the apple stands, what in the world did I find? My very favorite apple, the Cortland Apple. These are simply the juiciest apples and are snow white inside… I might be biased since Cortland is my hometown. Turns out these are also offspring of the Malus domestica, however they have been around since 1898 and were developed by the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. Seems my taste buds have a type of apple they prefer.
The festival was teaming with people, sights and sounds. I could not resist the smell of fresh apple turnovers coming straight out of the oven. As I savored this mouthwatering slice of heaven, I stopped to watch the live entertainment on the main stage. A very enthusiastic dance troupe took the stage, and I found myself highly critical of their performance. After years of sitting through many dance competitions, I am embarrassed to admit that I have become T-H-A-T ugly dance mom that thinks her daughter’s dancing outshines all others. OMG – personal insight is not always pretty! I am delighted to say that my judgmental attitude did not spill over into the culinary department – everything that I tasted was outstanding.
This brings me to apple ice cream. Sounds a bit weird (oops judgmental attitude slipping in again), but I had been told by many people that I simply must try it. I found a local creamery selling “Apple Pie” ice cream and was not disappointed. It tasted just like fresh apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Not sure how they pulled that off , but who cares – it was divine.
After a wonderful autumn morning that delighted all of my senses, I found my way home with a belly full of apple goodness and two bags of fresh apples. My old favorite – Cortland, and my new love – Crimson Crisp. I am sure they will meet in a delicious, homemade apple crisp later this week.