Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Perfectly Imperfect Apples at Avalon Orchards

The beauty of this fruit is that it is not perfect.
You can tell they are organic.
Perfectly imperfect apples.

Avalon Orchards is an organic u-pick apple orchard located in Innisfil, Ontario. They have been pioneers in the growing of naturally disease resistant varieties of apples such as Nova Scotia Spy, Liberty, Freedom, Redfree, Prima and Nova Scotia Macintosh appropriate for the organic growing. These varieties are naturally immune to apple scab and other diseases making it easier for them to grow organically.

The orchard is located in a beautiful rural setting with spectacular views of the countryside and woodlands. They are open to the public each year to give people the opportunity to pick and eat an apple right off the tree. You are also welcome to wander through the orchard and explore their woodland trails to see the beaver in the creek and the great blue herons standing stilt-legged at the pond.

With the initial goal of establishing a sustainable organic operation, they planted their first 700 trees in 1988, and now have 10,000 trees at various stages of production. Both their apple growing and cider pressing process have been certified organic for several years with Pro-Cert.

Avalon Orchards was initially established as an organically grown apple orchard and they continue today to operate within Canadian Organic Production Systems General Principles and Management Standards. Their certifying agency is Pro-Cert Organic Systems Ltd. (Pro-Cert), Canada's foremost national certifier of organic food products with some 1,700 producers, processors and traders from across Canada and the United-States of America.

Each year they are inspected to ensure compliance with both this Canadian program and the USDA organic program. Organic production is based on principles that support healthy practices that increase quality and durability of the environment. 

Organic growing at their orchard focuses on:

• No use of synthetically- produced chemicals or fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, or any other pesticides or genetically modified products

• Managing weeds, pests and diseases using biological and mechanical control methods and cultural practices approved for a certified organic operation

• Selecting varieties of apples that are naturally highly disease resistant

• Protecting the environment, minimizing soil degradation, decreasing pollution, and optimizing biological productivity.

•Maintaining long term soil fertility by optimizing conditions for biological activity within the soil.

All their apple varieties have been naturally developed to have a high level of disease resistance and immunity to problems like apple scab. They include:

Freedom: Mid season orangish red fruit ripens in late September and has a unique spicy flavour. It is great to eat and also has a good texture for apple pie making.

Goldrush: A new variety to their orchard, it's the infamous green apple they have been looking for. Ripening in October its actually not green, but yellow-bronze, with a crisp spicy taste. A great eating apple, it only gets better with storage!

Liberty: One of their most popular apples, Liberty is dark red conical shaped and ripens in mid September. Its flesh is very white and crisp and the flavour and quality are excellent. They can never grow enough of this delicious apple.

Novamac: Similar to a McIntosh but firmer textured. This popular apple ripens about the second week of September. In their view, it is the most delicious Mac you will ever taste!

Novaspy: Definitely their most popular apple, ripening in October. A variety of Red Spy, it is somewhat smaller than the Northern Spy, with a red blush on a greenish-yellow background. The fruit is excellent for both eating and processing and stores all winter at the orchard.

Priscilla: Maturing the end of September, they have only one row of this small sweet apple that is loved by many of the children who come to the orchard. Flesh is a pale creamy color with a sweet aromatic somewhat licorice-like flavour.

Pristine: Another new variety to Avalon, trees have started to bear fruit.. It is a very early ripening yellow apple that resembles Yellow Transparent in appearance, but is much firmer, less acid, and better eating. The fruit is yellow, very smooth, and attractive. It keeps well on and off the tree for several weeks. The fruit is tasty and quite firm and crisp for being so early. It ripens in August, just before Redfree.

Redfree: This is an early season deep red apple ripening in late August. It is an excellent eating apple with sweet white flesh and reminds many of their visitors of the old Snow variety. It's the tree in their orchard that wants to grow out, not up and it always gives them a challenge at pruning time.

Trent: A dark red late maturing apple which is very firm and juicy. It's flesh is cream coloured with a greenish tinge and it stores very well.

Galarina: A new addition to their orchard is Galarina and is not yet bearing fruit. 'Galarina' is a 'Gala' type apple. It is very attractive, has a pleasant taste and an excellent shelf-life. Galarina', is a progeny resulting from a cross between 'Gala' and 'Florina QuerinaĆ¢. Galarina' fruit mature at the end of September to early October and about 1 to 2 weeks after Nova Mac.

Reinette Russet: This scab free variety, developed in Quebec is another new addition to the orchard. Promising to be much like other Russets, it will ripen in mid October. The flesh is greenish-white, juicy, and the flavor is very sweet and good with russetting on the skin. 


Normally season starts at the end of August and lasts until the middle of October. There is no admission charge to pick at their orchard except for a smile and a promise to be caring with their trees and their environment.

Their schedule of varieties for picking depends on Mother Nature each year but normally begins with sweet Redfree and Nova MacIntosh and ends with the very popular delicious Red Nova Spy in October. Each week during harvest season they record the varieties they are picking, so please give them a call. They ask that you please bring your own bags, but they do have apple bags for sale at the orchard, if required.

Pets are not allowed in the orchard, but you are welcome to walk them leashed on their trails. They have picnic tables and washrooms available to their customers and there is a store, with a range of local products and produce open during picking season. Hope you can experience this orchard!

Avalon Orchards provides tours during the weekdays from September to the end of October. They welcome schools, seniors and other organized groups. The tour lasts about 45 minutes and includes a wagon ride through the orchard, a small bag of apples for each person, a brief talk about how apples are organically grown and how to pick an apple, and a short woodland walk. They wrap up the tour with questions and answers and everyone is treated to some fresh apple cider! While they require at least 20 people for a tour, we can often combine smaller groups.

Please call them at 1-705-458-9902 or email us  for further information or to book your group as the tours are very popular. They are located at 3150 5th Line Innisfil, ON, L9S 4P7. CANADA. 

Patti Friday: Reporting from inside 'The Art Dept.' at the international 'Embassy of Ideas'

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