Apple picking in the early weeks of fall will always conjure up nostalgia for me. From childhood up until my senior year of high school, my family and I would make the Columbus Day drive out to eastern Long Island, where we would spend the day enjoying the brisk autumn weather and brightly colored leaves as we made loops around our orchard of choice. Each year, we hunted for the perfect collection of apples for baking, chopping, and mashing as well as eating in their unadulterated forms.
Before we began selecting our fruits, my mother would give my brother and I very explicit apple picking instructions to ensure we chose the best ones available. Throughout the day, we were reminded to tilt the apples upwards to remove them from the branch; a ripened apple would detach with ease, while an apple needing more time to mature would be more difficult to remove. Though being patient and thorough was a considerable challenge for an easily excitable child such as myself, I diligently followed my mother’s directions, extending my tiny arms up into the trees in an effort to grab the unblemished fruits that had so far evaded human contact.
To this day, filling up my plastic bag with bright red fruit still gives me that same sense of satisfaction and pride as I exercise my competence as an apple picker. However, my favorite parts of any day spent at an orchard will always be twofold: the quality time spent with my family, and the apples that don’t even make it into my bag and are instead eaten right off the branch. As a fervent supporter of the farm-to-table movement, I have recently become very conscious of where my food comes from and how it’s grown, so having the opportunity to pick my own food from the earth holds deep personal meaning for me.
My reasons for enjoying apple picking as an activity have certainly changed quite a bit over the years. Not only am I able to value the simple pleasure of picking fruit from a tree, but I am now able to appreciate its importance from a political standpoint as well. While it’s a fantastic way to get family and friends together, it’s also a wonderful way to reconnect with a way of life that the agricultural industry all too often impersonalizes through its implementation of processing and mass production.
I find that there’s nothing that says “autumn” quite like the simple feeling of bliss that comes from biting into a crunchy, flavorful apple in the shade of the tree from which it grew. And of course, a freshly made cider doughnut enjoyed in the company of loved ones makes an already sweet day even sweeter.