When autumn arrives, apples are the undisputed star. Nothing quite compares with a trip to a local orchard or farmers’ market where you can find fresh-picked fruit that’s juicy, crunchy and just plain wonderful. Like many seasonal favorites, apples typically fill a few tried-and-true roles in the kitchen. Of course, they’re terrific for eating out of hand, packing a powerful nutritious punch of fiber and Vitamin C. But apples can headline in a variety of uses that demand minimum prep or skill. Ready to take your apple eating to the next level? Check out some of our favorite ways to enjoy orchard-fresh apples.
Making healthy fun: That’s the motto of Bitsy’s Brainfood, whose tasty crackers, cookies and other snacks are packed with organic fruits and veggies and are an excellent source of several vitamins. Through the Give a Bitsy Back program, the company donates cases of its products to communities lacking access to healthy snacks. Plus, a portion of the proceeds from Bitsy’s new Smart Crackers (available at Target as part of the Made to Matter collection) goes toward organizations that help keep kids happy and active.
The best tomatoes come from plants with a strong root system. Give your plants a head-start on healthy roots by planting seedlings deep. Start by removing lowest leaves on your seedling and burying the lower stem. Tomato stems produce roots easily. Any portion of the stem you bury will sprout roots that help nourish and support the fruit-laden plant. This tomato seedling is definitely overdue for planting. Notice the roots starting to appear along the lower stem. The stem on this seedling should be buried right up to the gloved fingers. In this case, a short trench may offer the best option for accommodating that curved stem.
Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) is a native tree known for its towering size (70 to 100 feet) and yellow, tulip-like blooms that open in summer. ‘Little Volunteer’ brings that stately beauty down to a size that fits modern gardens. Leaves offer an unusual shape and shimmer in the wind. Look for gold fall color and cup-like fruits made of seeds. It’s a medium-fast grower, reaching a size of 12 feet tall by 6 feet wide in 4 years (starting with a 3- to 5-foot sapling). The strong pyramidal shape looks elegant in winter, especially when wet snows stick to branches. This is one tree you won’t regret planting. Size: to 20 feet tall by 9 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
Keep an eye peeled in lawns and planting beds for sapling trees. Often these trees, like this walnut sapling, sprout thanks to the diligent digging of squirrels. It’s especially easy to miss these beneath mature shrubs or roses, until you spot the leaves poking through the plant. The other place that seedling trees pop up are along fencelines, courtesy of birds who have been gobbling fruit, such as mulberry, cherry or holly. Small trees are easy to hand-pull. Grab a spade if they seem firmly anchored in soil. Keep an eye out for seedlings in spring when weeding or mulching. Remove any you see before they have a chance to develop a tap root.
A leaf rake comes in handy for moving leaves, pine cones, fallen fruit and other tree-related items. Look for an ergonomic design that makes the task an easy extension of natural body movements. Choose a wide head with springy tines to make quick work of cleaning large areas. For raking leaves from around shrubs, select a rake with a small head and shorter handle. Use a lawn rake with thin tines to gather grass clippings or clean up the lawn after winter. A bow rake is handy for soil prep in vegetable gardens and new beds, as well as raking gravel areas. A small hand rake earns its keep if you have planting beds beneath trees. Its widely spaced tines let you remove leaves without damaging plants.
Brown marmorated stink bug has been in the United States 20 years, and in that time it’s spread throughout the Mid-Atlantic, Upper Midwest and along the West Coast. Stink bugs attack many home garden crops, including beans, corn, tomatoes peppers, apples and raspberries. Their feeding wounds fruits and veggies, resulting in corky spots that are inedible. Stink bugs spend winter inside, invading home voids and attics. With their stinky personalities, these bugs stir up drama indoors when they emerge from hiding in hordes, usually in winter. In the garden, knock stink bugs into soapy water to kill them. Indoors, the same method works, or you can try vacuuming up the stinkers (which might make your vac stink). Another indoor option is using a dry-mop cleaning tool (think Swiffer-type) that you cover with duct tape, sticky side out. That device gives you reach to grab stink bugs climbing curtains, walls and ceilings.
An unusual concept, Calyroad Creamery in Sandy Springs is both a retail shop and an artisanal cheesemaking business that produces an impressive variety of both cow and goat cheeses. Visitors can sign up for a cheesemaking class, tour the behind-the-scenes cheesemaking process or just drop by for a tasting of the house-made cheeses paired with wine or have a beautiful cheese board with a selection of handcrafted cheeses, jams, dried fruit and chutneys or pickles delivered to their hotel. Personable owner Robin Schick loves to share her passion for cheese and cheesemaking and can help you put together any combo of condiments, cheese, wine and other goodies your heart desires. The shop has a curated selection of local craft beers, wine, jams and other artisanal goods for a one-stop locavore foodie destination. Next door Susansnaps makes this little shopping area a great place to pick up an edible Atlanta souvenir.
When tomatoes are weirdly deformed, that’s known as catfacing. It usually happens on the bottom end of the tomato and results from cool temperatures (50 F to 55 F) during pollination. Usually when temps fall that low, tomato flowers drop from the plant. But if a blossom has been pollinated and the evening is unusually cool, the flower can get stuck on the newly forming tomato. The stuck-on bloom doesn’t allow the tomato to enlarge and form freely. This typically occurs on tomato plants that are tucked into soil too early in spring. It also happens in cool-weather regions when late summer evenings dip into chilly fall-like temps while plants are still bearing fruit. Catfacing doesn’t affect tomato flavor, so you can still eat the deformed ‘mater. Just cut out the brown, woody parts.
The Serenbe community features an 8-acre organic farm (staffed by a comely group of earthy millennial farmers) and the local restaurants highlight the fruits of that labor. The homespun, casual Blue-Eyed Daisy does a great job in a relatively small space with delicious seasonal Southern fare. Stop by for a coffee, breakfast or lunch, or the Taco Nights and Meat & 3 dinners scheduled each week that draw local residents. A bit more upscale, The Hill is a white-tablecloth variation on that farm-to-table theme sourcing proteins and produce locally and serving lunch and dinner in a farmhouse chic, unpretentious setting. But you don't have to eat at one of those spots (though you absolutely should); there is also produce galore from April through November at the Serenbe Farmers and Artisan Market where you can watch a chef demo or listen to live music or just pick up some artisanal goodie as a souvenir of your trip to the gorgeous Georgia countryside.