Michigan apples: What’s not to love?

By: Jennie Miller | C&G Newspapers | Published October 13, 2011

 Farmers are expecting some 26 million bushels to be harvested this year — up 78 percent from last year — which adds up to more than 1 billion, 92 million pounds of apples.

Farmers are expecting some 26 million bushels to be harvested this year — up 78 percent from last year — which adds up to more than 1 billion, 92 million pounds of apples.

Photo by Jennie Miller

What’s your favorite apple?

“The last one I ate.”

Ed Robinette doesn’t even hesitate to give that cheeky yet appropriate reply to what is surely one of his favorite questions. He is, after all, raising 23 varieties of apples on his family farm in Grand Rapids. That’s a lot of options. But it barely breaks the surface.

“There’s so much diversity in the apple crop in Michigan — there are literally thousands of varieties,” Robinette said.

Michigan ranks No. 3 in the country for apple production, behind Washington and New York. Farmers are experiencing a successful crop this year — up 78 percent from last year — predicting that some 26 million bushels will be harvested, which adds up to more than 1 billion, 92 million pounds of apples.

“We had excellent growing conditions this summer — plenty of rain,” Robinette said. “We had a small crop last year, and as a result the apple trees were well-rested, so they were able to make a very bountiful crop this year.”

Apple season is in full swing, which usually runs for 11 weeks, according to Denise Donohue, director of the Michigan Apple Committee.

“We grow apples commercially in 26 counties in Michigan, on 900 family farms,” Donohue said. “We harvest them, and every single apple touches a hand. Two-hundred-and-three billion apples, and every single one will be picked by hand between the third week of August and Halloween.”

Apples are the largest fruit crop in the state, contributing $750 million to the Michigan economy, between being sold as is or as apple sauce, apple juice, apple cider, apple cider vinegar, and sliced and served fresh at fast-food restaurants, Donohue said.

“Every apple has a purpose,” Robinette added, whether it’s for baking or munching.

The Michigan Apple Committee features many unique recipes on its website, including apple-pecan burgers, cheesy apple quiche, zesty apple salsa, gingered apple sweet potatoes, apple scones and Bavarian apple tortes.

Apple celebrations have been planned in cities throughout the entire month, including the Michigan Apple Committee and Detroit Eastern Market Corp. hosting the Michigan Apple Gala & Auction from 6-10 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 14 in Shed 3.

“What’s not to love about apples?” said Dan Carmody, president of Eastern Market Corp. “They’re sweet, they’re good for you, and they last a long time.”

The event will include a strolling dinner, cocktails, live entertainment, an auction of artistic apples created by local artists, and an urban chef cook-off. Tickets to the event are $40 for members of the Friends of Eastern Market, or $50 for non-members.

“In collaboration with the Michigan Apple Committee and 20 farmers markets in southeast Michigan, we commissioned 20 large public displays of apples,” Carmody said. “They’ve been on display every Saturday.”

Last weekend, on Oct. 8, Eastern Market hosted the Michigan Apple Festival, with a variety of activities for the entire family, including an apple pie baking contest, a visit by the Apple Queen, a cow-milking contest, demonstrations by a chainsaw carver and live musical entertainment.

Celebrating such a successful crop comes naturally to farmers and consumers who are proud of locally grown products.

“Michigan is unique among the 50 states — other than California we have the most diverse crop availability,” said Robinette, whose family farm is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. “Blueberries, cherries, apples and on and on. That’s because of Lake Michigan and the climate. We don’t get as cold in the winter and we don’t get as hot in the summer, so it makes it possible for fruit to be grown from the southern border all the way up to Traverse City and even north of that.”

Robinette’s Apple Haus and Winery is located at 3142 Four Mile Road in Grand Rapids and offers hayrides, a corn maze, apple product tastings, a market and restaurant, mountain bike trails and a large jumping pillow. For more information, call (800) 400-8100.

For more information about Detroit Eastern Market, visit the website www.detroiteasternmarket.com. For more information about the Michigan Apple Committee or to check out unique apple recipes, visit the website www.michiganapples. com or www.miappletrail.com.