In the wee small 9am hour of Saturday morning, my friends and I piled into the car with our GPS set to Princeton, NJ. An afternoon of apple-picking, noshing on cider donuts and sipping fresh apple cider were our only goals for the day.
An abundance of apples
Two Beyoncé albums and an Adele singalong later, we arrived at Tehrune Orchards! The greeter warmly welcomed us, supplying tote bags and friendly advice on where to find the best apples. Walking through the gates, we came upon such a pretty sight! Rows and rows of apple shrubs* stretched out for acres. The bright green leaves provided a lovely contrast to the colorful fall foliage surrounding the orchard.
(*I will admit the shrubs confused me. I thought apples grew on TREES, not shrubs. My mental vision for the day had me climbing ladders and stools to access the branches. However, a quick conversation with one of the locals answered that question. It seems modern orchards started growing dwarf trees to make their venues more family friendly. Shorter trees meant little hands wouldn’t need to reach (or be lifted) quite so high to claim their fruity prize. Thought let’s be honest, the harvest costs for dwarf trees are much lower compared to traditionally sized ones. #truth)
We soon spied a tractor hauling folks around the property. I immediately reached for my wallet to search for some cash. Yet, as it passed by the “FREE WAGON RIDE” sign caught my eye. Woohoo! I grabbed my friends and jumped aboard. I may or may not have stepped over a tiny person to secure the corner seats (#noshame).
The ride lasted about 15 minutes, stopping here and there to pick up other sun-baked walkers. I had a blast taking silly pictures and attempting to snag apples from the branches passing by (totally failed).
Shopping at Whole Foods on a weekly basis has ruined my expectations of apple aesthetics. There the apples are practically perfect in every way. In the real world, apples feature a world of blemishes, odd shapes and unexpected coloring. We traipsed through row after row in search of beautiful, shiny apples to carry home. I soon learned perfection doesn’t exist in nature, so my apple tote collected only a few specimens.
Once everyone had reached their fill of apple harvesting, we checked out and headed to the main farm. The time had come for cider donuts part of the day!
Drinking and Dining at the Farmstead
Apparently all of New Jersey had the same “let’s visit an orchard” idea. The farm ranneth over with weekend warriors and their mini-mes. We battled our way through the tourist hordes to reach the home-made treats. Fresh donuts and cider would soon be ours. (I’d been craving both for weeks.) I rolled up to the counter only to encounter pre-assembled bags of donuts! What madness was this? Not only that, the bag had a list of unpronounceable ingredients six miles long.
When I interrogated the cashier, she admitted that the dough arrived pre-mixed each morning and the bakery simply fried, sugared and packaged them. You could hear hear my heart shattering. Further investigations revealed a similar situation with their “home-made” pies and jams. What next? Caramel apples made with stevia? Apple cider made from concentrate? I needed a drink.
Fortunately, the on-site winery offered an answer to my prayers. The 150-year old original barn hosts a wine tasting facility, where two popular bars extend through the space. Eight dollars and a smile lets you wet your whistle with five of their twelve varietals. Red wine puts me in a coma, so I stuck to the whites and fruity options. Though Tehrune Orchards has won numerous awards, none of the wines I tried shouted take me home tonight (cue music). Only the blueberry wine proved memorable – mainly because it tasted like a liquid version of a Blue Razzberry blow-pop (do they still make those? best lolly ever!)
Once the last sips passed our lips, we hopped in the car, cranked up the tunes and headed for the Turnpike. Food, friends, and fun – such a lovely way to pass an afternoon!
Have you ever been apple-picking? Where would you suggest I go next year?0