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Napa Farmers Market: It's the best time of the year for apples

Napa Farmers Market: It's the best time of the year for apples

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Apples

Apples from Devoto Gardens & Orchards are at the Napa Farmers Market

"Give me juicy autumnal fruit, ripe and red from the orchard." Walt Whitman’s description of the fall’s bounty captures my own delight in knowing that apples are now available and abundant.

My husband and I both have an enduring love for apples and apple orchards, and enjoy the many culinary dishes, baked goods, snacks, and beverages that apples offer in the kitchen.

Each fall, I look forward to apple butter, apple crisp, apple cider, and of course, fresh apples. While grapes bring excitement to our valley, this time of year the apple brings me equal joy.

Few of us realize that apples are part of the enchanting rose family, along with pears and quince. Northern California growers harvest apples from July through November. While apples are available year-round in grocery stores, now is the best time to enjoy them: fresh, locally grown, and right off the trees.

Our local farmers at the Napa Farmers Market, Devoto Gardens & Orchards, and Arceo Ranch, pride themselves on practicing sustainable and environmentally friendly farming techniques. And their apples are delicious.

Gravenstein apples, often the season's first, are considered one of the best apples for cooking and baking. We can place the origins of this heritage apple varietal in 17th century Denmark. Brought to America in the 1800s by settlers, the Gravenstein has a long history in the Northern Bay Area, specifically in Sebastopol and the surrounding area.

Gravensteins have maintained their popularity through the years because they are crisp and tart with a touch of honey. Commonly found in pies, cobblers, and crisps, they also appear in cider, apple sauce, and jams, and are ideal for drying. Visit the Devoto Gardens & Orchards at the market this season to acquire them, and other apple varieties for your cooking delight.

The Granny Smith apple, available from Arceo Ranch, had its beginning in Australia in 1868 when Maria Ann (Granny) Smith discovered this green apple variety growing on her property.

Today, it is one of the most instantly recognizable and popular of the apple varieties. The Granny Smith is commonly known as an "uncompromising" apple, crisp and hard with a very tart and sharp flavor, balanced with just enough sweetness. That sweet-sour flavor makes this variety a perfect choice for pairing with creamy cheeses or more intensely sweet fruit. Granny Smith apples are also the ideal choice for that iconic Halloween treat, caramel-coated apples.

As we approach a season of thanks and gratitude, I find myself looking at this accomplished fruit with a new appreciation of its history. I am incredibly grateful for our local farmers who bring the apple, and a multitude of other produce, to my table and that of many others. May your cornucopia this fall be filled with apples and the glorious fall colors of our local bounty.

Gala Apple Harvest Salad

Dressing:

1 cup apple cider

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon each ground cinnamon & ground clove or ground nutmeg

2 tablespoon brown sugar

¾ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Salad:

8 cups mixed greens

4 Gala apples, cored and thinly sliced

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Gruyère cheese

½ cup chopped pecans

½ cup dried cranberries

For the dressing: Mix apple cider, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, and spice in a bowl. Whisk together to incorporate mustard and dissolve sugar. While whisking, slowly pour in olive oil to create an emulsion. Set aside.

For the salad: Toss mixed greens, dried cranberries, pecans and grated cheese in a large salad bowl. Pour dressing on the greens and toss gently to coat. Add apple slices just prior to serving.

To turn this salad into an entree, add 4 cups sliced grilled chicken.

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It’s apple cider season and we have the perfect cocktail for you just in time for your Thanksgiving celebrations. Buzz60’s Chloe Hurst has the story!

Caroline Wiegardt is a member Napa Farmers Market board.

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