Ah, Autumn. I feel you nipping at my heels, pushing me towards my winter boots and scarves and coats. I see you in the rust-edged leaves and bushes heavy with blackberries. I see you in the crisp new pages of a notebook, full of anticipation and hope. Being a September babe means I am always ready to embrace Autumn and probably explains my excitement at new stationery but my all-time favourite way to ring in the season is to get home to Armagh pick fresh apples.
Being from Co. Armagh means that I have the fortune of knowing folk who run an orchard and you better believe I make the most of it. The countryside of the orchard county comes to life this time of year. Farmers work tirelessly to fill their bins, sending them off to cideries or local supermarkets. Then there is I, galloping through the corridors of trees like some sort of harvest addict, camera in one hand and a basket almost too heavy to carry in another.
This year I came down to the orchards for the sole purpose of picking Katy apples. In previous years I’ve always made it down in time for picking the Bramleys, the most common apple variety in the county, but I’ve never been in time for Katy apple picking. Usually the Katy apples are ready towards the very end of August or the very beginning of September, about a fortnight before the Bramleys and I’ve always been disappointed to have just missed the timing.
This year I had my personal apple correspondent, Rebecca from A Clothes Horse, who gave me the heads up when the Katy apples were ready. Rebecca married in to the Glass family who have a beautiful orchard just outside Loughgall, a village and area famous for their apples. She let me know they were about to be picked and that I should get my skates on and get down before they were all gone.
By the time I got to the orchard there was only one Katy tree left – these pickers work fast! Rebecca told me the rough location of the last Katy tree so we went on a scavenger hunt to find it. As you can see, the bright red apple is fairly hard to miss! We were in a sea of Bramleys when all of a sudden this biblical tree appeared with apples so red they almost didn’t look real.
After a taste test I could confirm that not only were they real but they were freakin’ delicious. Super crunchy and juicy and not at all poisonous. I picked a few apples, not wanting to hog them all and then proceeded to take as many photos as I could because I didn’t know if I’d ever be this lucky with the season again.
So here you are. I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I loved taking them! If you’d like to visit the orchards for yourself then I would definitely recommend getting down to Armagh for the Food & Cider Festival next weekend (19-22nd September). There are loads of events on for the family including orchard tours, cooking class, cider workshops and even a painting masterclass in an orchard too! Visit the event website here for more details.
Happy Autumn friends and let me know if you’ve any ideas on how I can use a basketful of apples – recipes welcome!