2014 17/10

Michigan Apple Secrets Revealed

I’ll admit it, when it comes to fresh produce, we are pretty spoiled here in Michigan. Every season brings a new bounty of amazing fresh fruits and vegetables. And, where in more places you have to buy those local fruits & vegetables at a farmers’ market or roadside stand, we can actually find many locally grown goodies right in our grocery store! I totally take that for granted!

But I never realized how much “work” is put in to making those apples magically appear in the produce section of our grocery store. Or the fact that the apples always look good at the grocery store. Or the fact that I can still buy delicious Michigan grown apples in February or March (way past the harvest season) and they still taste amazing.

Well, get ready to have those Michigan apple secrets revealed!

Last week I had the opportunity to join a few other bloggers and the team from Michigan Apples on a little Michigan Apples Fieldtrip. {I LOVE grown-up field trips!!}

First, we stopped at Sietsema’s Orchard, a small family owned orchard who is creating a culture around apples with their in-store brewed cider and hard cider and their farm-t0-table dinners. They are using the tranquility and beauty of their orchards to allow people to host events in their space. And it’s amazing! They definitely have a good “grow-local, stay-local” vibe going on!!!

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Next up, Younquist Farms. {This is where the secrets start to be revealed!} Younquist Farms is a larger family owned farm. Still dad & son running the whole operation, which is the way you’ll find most apple orchards/farms in Michigan. And it was evident in the first 3 minutes of talking to them how passionate they are about what they do. And I think that’s the first secret — Have a passion for what you do and it will show in the end product.

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Younquists run a very well oiled machine at their farm! Which is no surprise since Mark and Jordan (father & son) are 5th and 6th Generation apple farmers!! From hiring the best workers who understand the delicacy of the apples to working with the team at Michigan Apples and crazy smart entomologists, Younquists are doing what they can to work with and against nature to produce the best apple crop they can. Sometimes it’s a gamble, which means sometimes they end up with an entire block of apple trees that produce apples that no one wants or sometimes they create something absolutely delicious!

secret 2 :: When picking apples, keep the stems. Removing the stems results in an “injury” to the apple. 

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secret 3 :: Farmers like Younquist use different ways to trick pests like moths to disrupt their mating cycle which means less apple destroying larvae. This also means they are using less pesticides on their trees!

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secret 4 :: Michigan produces an average of 20 million bushels of apples every year. Making them second biggest apple producer in the US. 

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Our third stop on our tour was Jack Brown Produce. Jack Brown is full of history, which is kind of the awesome thing about the apple industry here in Michigan. Lots of history! If you ever stop by their facility, just ask about Ma Brown! That’s a lady I would have loved to have met!!

Jack Brown Produce works with different orchards from around Michigan to help package and distribute their apples. But it’s not as simple as toss some apples in a bag and done. Not. At. All. First there are these crazy huge storage bays in a warehouse that are all scienenced up the wazoo to slowly remove oxygen and add nitrogen to the air to put the apples to “sleep”. I won’t even begin to try to explain this because it’s completely crazy and awesome, but that’s how they keep our fabulous Michigan apples fresh for the off-season months.

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When the apples are ready to be packaged, they go through this extensive process to determine their color, size and quality. Every apple has its purpose but it’s Jack Brown Produce’s responsibility to make sure the right apples are getting used for the right thing. If an apple is small, has a slight blemish, or the color isn’t just right, it might be sent off to the juicers or applesaucers. Still great apples but not exactly the ones the stores want displayed in the produce section. They even have machines that can look inside an apple to see any imperfections of problems! Again, crazy science and thought being put into this!

secret 5 :: The Michigan apples you buy at the store will go through an average of 8 different inspections before it reaches you!

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secret 6 :: All in-store apples have a waxy coating on them because, during the cleaning process, the apple’s natural wax is stripped off along with any dirt or pesticides. The waxy coating simply protects the apples from the harsh lighting in the store. 

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Isn’t it amazing how many people are looking out for and caring for the apples we’re munching this time of year? I know I have a whole new appreciation for them!

secret 7 :: If you live in Michigan and you are eating anything other than Michigan apples….you are dead to me. 

Thanks to Michigan Apples for inviting me on this tour and for each of the orchards and Jack Brown Produce for the information, delicious food, drinks and, of course, APPLES! 

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