IF summer berry picking is a top tradition, then autumn apple picking scores A-plus.
It’s all in the timing.
While berry picking is brilliant because Stanley raspberries are beyond compare and the $2 tasting ticket is one of the greatest certified pleasures of living in the North East, it also coincides with the countdown to Christmas.
Even if you’re not stressed about lagging behind on your gift-buying list once again, your fellow pickers in Rows 46 and 48 are unwittingly sharing their own tales of woe and worry, loud and clear.
Though you could never pick anyone out in a line-up on account of the high hedges between you and them, you know certain chaos is coming to their Christmas table if Aunt Ruth brings trifle instead of the summer puddings she’s been assigned in the master food plan.
My mission is to pick enough berries to freeze for baking until the end of winter and to avoid both sunburn and getting caught up listening to fellow pickers plot their own Christmas meltdowns.
Apple picking was a different story.
Stanley business Europa Gully Orchards opened its orchard to apple pickers for the first time this autumn after its Royal Gala trees were more abundant than other seasons.
Royal Galas. $2/kilogram. New autumn tradition. What’s not to like?
With a preference for tart varieties of apples like Pink Lady and Granny Smith, I am still pretty sweet on Royal Galas.
I piled two baskets and the same number of daughters into my car quicker than they could think to negotiate a stopover visit to that Beechworth Sweet Company Lolly Shop.
At the orchard down the end of a dirt track we met our friends from Wodonga and two rows of apple trees studded with hundreds of plump, blushed fruit.
The trees had produced more apples than they could sell at farmers’ markets and the public had been invited to pick from these trees two Sundays in a row.
The youth in our tribe met the orchard staff, tasted a nashi and picked half a basket of apples before they moved off to vlog under the chestnut trees.
About a dozen families picked apples into baskets and buckets in a scene in which English celebrity chef and food writer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall would not have been out of place. Fearnley-Whittingstall is a big fan of Abundance, a voluntary organisation in the United Kingdom that picks unwanted fruit and vegetables from the city's gardens and public spaces, and gives the lion's share to projects such as Sure Start children's centres and Salvation Army shelters for homeless people. The best fruit is given whole, and the less appetising is turned into chutney, jam and juice.
With our baskets filled to the brim, all weighed and paid up, we headed back to Beechworth with only the inevitable discussion about the lolly shop to come.
“What could you possibly want at the lolly shop?” I say.
“We have all of these beautiful fresh, sweet apples.”
Naturally, the youngest wanted the tartest of treats: Sour Squirms.
Later our eldest posted a photo of apple picking under the caption: We went apple picking and took more photos than apples!
Turns out one daughter has tart tastebuds and the other likes playing around with words.
Apparently the apple never falls far from the tree.