Arizona Specialty Crops Blog
‘Ode to the apple’
A ti, manzana,
con tu nombre
To you, apple
I want to
with your name
With my mouth
by eating you.
The brilliant Chilean poet Pablo Neruda was a great lover of apples. The first stanza of his poem ‘Oda a la manzana’ (Ode to the apple) appears here.
Arizona boasts 201 commercial apple orchards, according to the 2012 crop census by the Arizona Farm Bureau. Orchards are located throughout the state, but require specific growing conditions directly related to climate. Like people, apple trees need rest to thrive. A tree gets rest when low temperatures allow it to go dormant. This period of inactivity renews the tree and supports a productive bloom the following year. Different varieties of apples require different amounts of exposure to cold temperatures. Depending on the variety, apple trees need between 300–1200 “chilling hours” (hours between 32–45 degrees F) to achieve dormancy.
A few varieties of apples can be grown in the low desert, but most varieties prefer longer periods of cold weather. With its fertile foothills and high elevations, Cochise County is Arizona’s most popular recorded apple-producing region, with 214 acres dedicated to apple production on 31 farms according to the 2012 crop census. Surprisingly, Maricopa County boasts 34 apple orchards, but these orchards are generally much smaller, taking up a combined total land use of just 12 acres. Many orchards are just one component of a larger farm.
Apple Availability in Arizona
Apples ripen from late summer through fall. Warm weather varieties can be harvested as early as July, with cool weather varieties available through November. The Arizona U-Pick Farm map offers 11 locations to pick your own apples, but it is important to check with the location to learn what is growing and peak harvest times.
Apple Annie’s is one of southern Arizona’s most popular locations for fresh apples. The farm is celebrating their 30th year growing apples, peaches, pears, pumpkins and vegetables just north of Willcox in southeastern Arizona’s Cochise County. They grow 14 varieties of apple and offer guests delicious treats like apple pancakes with cider syrup and a topper of peaches, homemade apple ice cream, apple pie or their delicious and regionally famous apple bread. Apple harvesting begins in August with the Jonathans and Galas, and runs through October. For one weekend during their apple festival, they roll back the hands of time to showoff antiques tractors, cider mill, and farm equipment.
Other U-Pick Farms in the Willcox and surrounding areas include Brown’s Orchard, Suhr Family Farms, Beatty’s Guest Ranch (and Angle Orchard (Graham County). Farther north, Howard’s Orchard offers Pima County’s only U-Pick apple experience in Oro Valley.
In Maricopa County, apples are just part of the offerings at Schnepf Farms, the Farm at Agritopia, and Mother Nature’s Farm. Fenway Park orchards in outside Wickenberg and Folded Hills Orchard in the Verde Valley also eager pickers a taste of fresh apples.
Exploring Apples in Food
Apples are a classic ingredient for sweet dishes, but they can be great as a savory component, too. This recipe from StateReports at classbrain.com puts a new twist on an Arizona favorite.
1 cup diced Arizona-grown Granny Smith apple
1/4 cup diced peeled ripe avocado
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
Dash of pepper
1 small clove garlic, minced
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and allow flavors to blend about 1/2 hour. Serve with chicken, pork, beef or low fat tortilla chips. Serves 4.
A visit to Apple Annie’s is kid friendly and pet friendly and you could well end up on a hay ride. They host school programs that reach more than 8,000 kids each year on the virtues of farming and sustainable agriculture.