I learnt quite a few things at the orchards, thanks to Joe and Lily Saliba who own and operate a 50 acre apple orchard in Bilpin. Joe’s father and four uncles bought the land almost 40 years ago and now their children and grandchildren continue the family business. It’s hard work tending to the apple tress, keeping them pest free naturally, and a lot of of the work is done by hand, including picking and packing.
The highlight at Saliba farms was getting to see how the apples are passed through slow-moving conveyor belts that have hot water running through them and then they go through a jet of warm water to remove any dirt. The apples are then sorted and packed by hand and the cases are taken by road, mostly to farmers’ markets and large supermarkets in Sydney, just 1.5 hours away.
Joe and Lily were warm and welcoming, and very generously gave us each large boxes of apples to take home.
The next stop was Bilpin Springs Orchard which is now exclusively a pick-your-own orchard, much to my delight. Although apples take up most of the orchard, there were also other fruit trees like lemon, plums, oranges, and even blueberries. We were instructed how to pick apples (grip with your palm and twist gently with fingers) and then left along to pick our own apples.
The apples felt rough and non-waxy, very different from how they feel in the supermarkets. They were also incredibly crisp and tasted better than any apples I’ve ever tasted. It also helped that Fuji apples were among my favourites. After about 45 minutes of wandering around the orchard and selecting the best and most photogenic apples, we were done.
Here are some interesting facts about apples that go beyond ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’, which by the way, is apparently true.
- The skin of the apple contains more than 9x the antioxidants in the flesh, so do not peel and throw the skin away. Although I am positive she didn’t know the stats, my mom never allowed us to peel apples before eating them
- Apples look pretty in fruit bowls and we have seen tons of pretty interiors and kitchens pictured with apples in bowls. However, you must refrigerate the fruits so that their goodness and crunch last longer. If you have ever bitten into an average-tasting floury apple, this is the reason
- The darker and redder the skin of the apples, the more antioxidant properties they hold
- An apple has a greater antioxidant capacity than half a punnet of blueberries, a cup of strawberries, two cups of tea, three oranges, a cup of grapes, or eight bananas. Cool eh?
- Pink Lady is the most popular Aussie Apple with more than 500 million crunched by Australians every year. I had my first taste of Pink Lady earlier this year and they are crunchy, sweet, and perfect for snacking
Phew, who would have though a humble apple which is one of those fruits that I consider ordinary held so much story and goodness. I am never going to look at a large pile of shiny apples the same again.
We picked Fuji apples from the orchard since they were the ones in season now and I had more than we could eat in a month!
Note – I was a guest of Aussie Apples at both the orchards but wasn’t compensated for this post or for writing about them. All opinions are my own.
So how do you like your apples? Crunchy and fresh or cooked/baked into something? Share in comments! Also, if you want a more real-time update of stuff I cook, my beautiful balcony garden, and some general randomness, follow me on Instagram.