Ripe for the Pickin’

STANSTEAD, QUE. - Despite the bad springtime weather and Tropical Storm Irene, the overall apple crop is doing well, at least in this area.“From what I’ve seen, the apples are looking great,” said Koi Boynton, agricultural development coordinator for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. Chris Rawlings, owner of Heath Apples Orchard in Stanstead, agrees. “So far so good,” he said. Rawlings said the current apple season is better than some past ones. “I would say it’s much better in most of the varieties. We’re looking at larger apples, we’re looking at more apples on the trees, and we’re looking at good quality for most varieties.”Some apple orchards in the state were damaged by hail and Tropical Storm Irene, said Steve Justis from the Vermont Tree Fruit Growers Association. Some of the hardest hit areas were Addison County and the Champlain Valley. Heavy flooding as well as damage from Irene prevented customers from getting to the orchards. Rawlings said Irene dropped a lot of rain, but a line of trees near his property helped prevent wind damage. He also credits his good season on the hot summer. Rawlings said the rain came at the right time and the bumblebees were out in “full force” last spring.Apples that have defects and bruises are usually made into cider. The state still has two-thirds of a normal crop and there are plenty of good quality apples.“We’re hoping to be able to get them all in during the next three to four weeks,” said Justis. “There are still plenty of apples around. Anyone who wants fresh apples will have plenty of options.”Rawlings feels the season is half over and will be picking apples, weather permitting, until the end of October.