Five Reasons Why Michigan Apples are the Flavor of Fall

Crunching into a crisp apple, sipping delicious freshly-pressed cider or scooping up a slice of homemade apple pie – these experiences are fall traditions in Michigan. To share just some of the many great things about apples grown in the Great Lakes state, the Michigan Apple Committee details five reasons why Michigan grows the “Flavor of Fall”.

Around mid-August, you really start to crave the crunchy, juicy bite of a fresh Michigan apple. By the end of August, apples are coming off trees and we’re ready to find them at the grocery store, farm market, cider mill or U-pick orchard.

It’s not just the crunch we crave, either.  As the crisp fall air sets in, with its cool breezes and changing colors, we gather together for fall traditions. In Michigan, the fall involves the local U-pick orchard, cider mill or farmer’s market.

In the spirit of these time-honored favorites, the Michigan Apple Committee has put together five reasons why the Michigan apple is the “Flavor of Fall.”

1. It’s in our own backyard. Michiganders know what we have here is something special. There are more than 200 orchards, U-pick farms and stores across the state where we can enjoy Michigan’s bounty, and plenty of fun family activities and events for all ages.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

2. An apple a day. We all know the saying, and here’s the thing – it’s true. Scientists continue to find more health benefits to regularly eating apples. They are low in sodium and calories, as well as high in fiber and antioxidants.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

3. It’s a family thing. With hard cider for adults, fun activities for the kid, and cider and donuts for everyone, there are plenty of reasons why Michigan’s agri-tourism locations are standing room only in the fall. We’re brought together by the delicious apple and its products.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

4. Importance to our state. Michigan has a strong and diverse agriculture industry and apples are the largest and most valuable fruit crop in the state.  Michigan’s state flower was even named the apple blossom because of the region’s reputation as a supplier of apples. As the third-largest apple producing state in the nation, there were 24 million bushels, or about 1.008 billion pounds, of apples harvested in Michigan in 2014.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

5. Where Apples Love to Grow. Michigan’s cool fall nights and warm, sunny days contribute to the delicious flavor you experience each time you crunch into a locally-grown apple. Not only that, the Great Lakes and Michigan’s climate allows for ideal growing conditions. These factors, plus 850 dedicated growers, make Michigan-grown apples the best-tasting apples you’ll find.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

Michigan-grown apples are definitely Pure Michigan and so is the experience you’ll have with your family, whether you’re gathering around a homemade pie, sipping some award-winning cider or strolling through a local orchard.

For more information on the Michigan apple industry, visit michiganapples.com/healthy-living.

What do you love most about Michigan apples?

Five Michigan Crops to Cook With this Fall

Autumn in Michigan provides amazing produce for many of our seasonal favorite recipes. From ripe apples, pears, pumpkins and many more, it’s easy to support local growers in the Great Lakes state while enjoying some delicious and healthy food. Guest blogger Christina Carson from Awesome Mitten shares five crops to consider cooking with this fall.

With the crisp air of fall making its way back into Michigan, it’s hard not to get excited about the harvest season and all it brings. While some of the summer crops are starting to fade, the fall season offers a cornucopia of amazing local produce throughout the whole state.

A lot of folks don’t know that Michigan has the second most diverse production of fruits and vegetables in the country, beaten only by the ever-prevalent agriculture system of California. This means we have a near endless variety of amazing produce to choose from while supporting our own agricultural economy and local business owners.

Here are five fall Michigan crops that excite me the most. A few are expected favorites of everyone for the fall season, but I’m also including a few lesser-known crops that I encourage you to seek out and try.

1) Apples

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson.

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson

No article on Michigan’s fall crops would be complete without a mention of apples, of course. Michigan is the third largest producer of apples in the country, with an average of about 23 million bushels every year. This makes apples the largest fruit crop in Michigan. So no matter where you are in Michigan this fall, go ahead and find your way to an apple orchard – pick some apples, drink some cider and appreciate this amazing crop!

While an apple by itself may be a perfect snack, the options for cooking with apples are vast. Classic desserts like the apple pie and apple crisp should not be overlooked, but I challenge you to look past the pies and crisps this season. Put apples in your salads, roast them with carrots or stuff halved winter squash with sausage and apples before roasting for about an hour. You’ll know it’s done when the squash and apples are soft and the sausage is cooked.

2) Parsnips

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson.

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson

While often overlooked, parsnips might be my favorite fall vegetable. Their sweet white tubers don’t show up until the ground has been thoroughly frosted. The frost helps them convert starch to sugar and create that joyful flavor I can’t get enough of. They may not be a favorite of most, but you’ll find them in abundance at markets and stores throughout the state once the ground freezes.

Parsnips are best slow roasted, to bring out their natural sweetness. I like to chop them into cubes or fries, before tossing with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary. Roast them up at 375 degrees until soft inside and browning on the outside, about an hour depending how large you’ve chopped them.

Maybe you’ll become as hooked on them as I am.

3) Winter Squash

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson.

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson

Winter squash and pumpkins are surely one of the telltale signs of fall, and there is so much more to these delights than the pumpkin spice flavor. Slow cooking winter squash  in the oven for an hour or two is a great way to cozy up to the fall weather.

The varieties of squash available in Michigan are hugely diverse, especially if you buy them from a farm that enjoys growing lots of variety. While difficult to find because the seed is expensive, fairy squash is my absolute favorite. The perfectly smooth texture and sweet taste make them great for squash desserts or silky smooth pureed squash soup.

If pumpkins are more your thing, make sure to pick up some pie pumpkins and explore making your very own pumpkin puree this fall. Far tastier than the canned puree, all you have to do is halve your pumpkins and scoop out the seeds. Then set the pumpkins cut side down on a baking sheet. I like to put a little water in the sheet pan to keep them moist. Bake at 375 degrees for about an hour. Once the pumpkin’s meat is very soft, scoop it from the skin and puree!

4) Pears

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson.

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson

While apples may be the celebrated fall fruit crop, Michigan grows some phenomenal pears as well.

While not  grown on a massive scale, many apple orchards dabble in pears. Two of my personal favorites are the round, apple-looking Asian pear and  the rough, brown-skinned bosc pear. !

Perfectly ripe pears are a great snack on their own, but they also shine served sliced with cheeses. Pears can also serve as a substitute in just about any apple recipe you can think of or, if you’re feeling adventurous, poached. I highly suggest you slice up some pears and make yourself a simple pear crisp. I guarantee you’ll love it.

5) Watermelon Radishes

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson.

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson

In my mind, these radishes are a bit of magic. They show up in markets when the ground gets cold and almost resemble turnips instead of an actual radish. Smooth white orbs don’t look like all that much while they’re sitting on a farmer’s market table, but once you cut into these radishes, I can promise you’ll be hooked. The centers reveal a stunning bright magenta center, like cutting into a particularly colorful watermelon.

Watermelon radishes have a bit of a bite to them, but nothing too powerful. I find them best suited as a stunning salad topper, or sliced into chip-like slices and served on a veggie platter with hummus or another veggie dip.

What is your favorite Michigan fall recipe?

774908_10100241229705605_1160233728_oAbout the Author: Christina Carson is a northern Michigan girl through and though – addicted to the Lake Michigan coastline, our incredible local food system, and the mitten’s homegrown musicians. I share my passion for beautiful, delicious and joyful food through my blog and photography business – Toot Sweet. Keep an eye out for my monthly Michigan recipes on Awesome Mitten and follow Toot Sweet on Facebook and Instagram.

Five Ways to Fall in Love with Autumn in Michigan

Welcome to the first day of fall in Pure Michigan.  The autumn season brings many great experiences to enjoy – hiking or biking through brilliant tree tunnels, strolling on still warm beaches and crunching into that perfect orchard apple. If you aren’t quite sold on the harvest season, here are five things to love about fall in Michigan.  Share with us your favorite fall activity or memory by commenting below.

Finding the perfect pumpkin

As Halloween approaches, so does the search for that quintessential pumpkin that will make the perfect jack-o’-lantern or a steaming bowl of pumpkin soup.

Pumpkins are typically harvested in Michigan from September through October.  With many pumpkin patches and farms offering activities like corn mazes, wagon rides and fresh foods from farmers markets, you can make an afternoon out of it.

Photo courtesy of Visit Ypsi.

Photo courtesy of Visit Ypsi.

Jumping in a pile of leaves

Each fall, kids look forward to making the biggest pile of leaves that they can for the sole purpose of making the big jump.  You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy jumping in a pile of leaves or the crunching sound of them beneath your feet.

Trails become covered in freshly fallen leaves during the fall and you can enjoy the sounds of the crunching foliage on one of Michigan’s many hiking or biking trails.

Photo courtesy of Beth Price Photography.

Photo courtesy of Beth Price Photography.

Apple picking season

Michigan is known for its fresh apples during the autumn harvest season.  There are more than 9.2 million apple trees and 850 family-run farms in the state.  There is something special about biting into a juicy Michigan apple that you plucked from a tree branch yourself from a U-Pick farm, or trying out some new recipes with the various varieties of Michigan-grown apples.

Learn more about U-Pick farm, apple tour or cooking inspiration here.

Robinette's Apple Haus  Winery.

Photo courtesy of Robinette’s Apple Haus Winery.

Taking a scenic road trip

Pack up your car for a day or even a long weekend.  The open road is a perfect way to get an up close and personal tour of Michigan’s fall foliage.

Michigan’s well-known fall color routes include M22, Brockway Mountain Drive and Tunnel of Trees, but there are so many scenic routes around the state just waiting to be discovered.   For more information on color tours, visit http://www.michigan.org/fall-color-tours/

Photo courtesy of Instagram user @luc719

Photo courtesy of Instagram user @luc719

Football season

The fall season ushers in the kickoff of football at colleges and universities all around Michigan.  A crisp Saturday afternoon on campus brings students, alumni and fans together to cheer on their team. Consider taking a trip to Ann Arbor to catch a game at iconic Michigan Stadium, better known as The Big House, or the ever-loud and exciting Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. No matter your affiliation, fall football in Michigan is hard to beat.

Photo courtesy of Thomas Gennara Photography.

Photo courtesy of Thomas Gennara Photography.

For more ideas on how to enjoy the fall season in Michigan, visit www.michigan.org/fall, where you can download the Pure Michigan Fall Travel Guide.