CROSSNORE — Apple season is in full swing in Avery County.

Apple growing homeowners and orchards are harvesting the early fall apples in the High Country where apples grow spectacularly well. One of those orchards bearing substantial fruit is the Crossnore Heritage Orchard.

Started in 2009, the Crossnore Orchard contains around 22 different varieties of apples on about 38 different trees. The public orchard is owned by Crossnore Communities for Children and used by the Avery Cooperative Extension for environmental education and agricultural demonstrations. The orchard is also a living embodiment of Avery’s agricultural history that aids in the remembrance of what helped sustain the population in the area for years. Some of the trees in the orchard have nameplates with informational and historical messages to describe the variety.

The apple varieties contained in this orchard consist of many types that one may not typically find in a general grocery store. Varieties such as the American Golden Russet, otherwise known as the Rusty Coat, the Virginia Beauty and the Newtown Pippin are ripening around this time. They are a flavorful way to get a taste of the historic High Country culture.

Thanks to the interest of local citizens, these heritage varieties have been identified and grafted to create a crop that preserves history, educates and satiates the community.

This season specifically has been a strong one for bearing fruit for the Crossnore Heritage Orchard. Bill Hoffman, agricultural extension agent, stated that this year has provided “an amazing crop of apples.” He noted that there has been “good conditions, less freeze, and just the right time for them to bear.”

One of the benefits of the Crossnore location is that it is a little too residential for large swaths of deer to browse, to which Hoffman references as one of the biggest pests to the crop. The site provides good soil, proper sunlight arrangement and air flow which contributes to the suitable growth.

Apples, a versatile fruit, can be more than simply eaten off the branch. Applesauce and cider are delectable ways to ingest vitamins inherent to the fruit. Many of the apple varieties found at the orchard are great for both uses. Apple cider, a popular autumnal beverage, can be made easily with the use of a cider press.

The Avery Extension Service has a press that can be rented by the day for personal use. The press grinds the apples into a pulp and then an attached hand crank is used to press all of the sweet nectar right out of the fruit. When complete, the cider comes out ready to drink.

Cider is a nuanced beverage and can be made from any type of apple. Some, like the Grimes Golden, are more suitable than others. However, the mixing of different varieties in the same cider is a great way to personalize the drink. The different ripeness of apples can alter the flavor as well, providing some mystery to the mix. Hoffman shared that cider freezes exceedingly well, so it may be stored for an extended period and enjoyed later.

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