New York: Home to More Than Just The Big Apple

Mention New York and inevitably someone will make reference to the Big Apple. Manhattan aside, upstate New York has more than a few apples of its own. The Empire State ranks second in the nation in the production of this popular fruit. Where are many of those delicious apples grown? Many of them are produced right here in the region of New York surrounding Colgate University. New York’s history of apple production began back in 1875, when nearly 20 million apples were grown. A recent study in 2001 showed apple production of about 24 million bushels, slightly below the overall average yearly production of about 25 million bushels. Needless to say, the production of apples yields great economic benefit for the state, with revenues in 2001 up to $121 million. Apple production in New York not only has economic benefits, but it provides an obvious source of food, as well as a pastime for New York residents and visitors. Apple orchards are prevalent throughout the state, and Colgate is located in a region of New York that is a popular place to grow – as well as pick – apples. When looking for an outdoor activity for a brisk fall afternoon, apple picking would be a logical choice. If you’re up for a 30 minute drive, Windy Hill Orchard in Oneida County currently has a system in place where visitors can pick their own apples or browse at the orchard’s farm store while apples are picked for them. “You pick or we pick, as they say,” explains Melissa Cassulis of Windy Hill Orchard, who, along with her sister Lauren, sells her apples each week in Hamilton at the farmer’s market on the village green. If you’re looking for a closer alternative, right here in Madison County is Honey Hill Orchard, which also offers a roadside stand at which to buy these locally grown apples. Another option is Fantasy Fruit Farm, which is located in nearby Chenango County. Before heading out to an orchard, it’s important to know the different kinds of apples, which are widely grown here. The top varieties of apples grown in the state of New York are McIntosh, Empire, Red Delicious, Cortland, Golden Delicious, and Crispin. Perhaps the most familiar variety, the McIntosh apple was discovered in 1811 by John McIntosh and has since become known as the apple with the most distinct scent and sweet flavor. It is commonly eaten, but can also be used in cooking. Often confused with the McIntosh apple is the Red Delicious. However, a Red Delicious is not used for cooking. And although it is grown in this region of New York, Red Delicious apples are also produced all throughout the nation. It is currently the most extensively grown apple in the United States.Also among popularly grown New York apples are two varieties, which were first developed here in New York. The Empire apple and Cortland apple were both introduced at the Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, which was established by the state of New York in 1884. Empire apples are the product of Red Delicious and McIntosh apples. With their tart flavor and crisp, creamy flesh, they can be used for both eating and cooking. Cortland apples are similar to Empire apples, but they tend to be sweeter and hold a greater resistance to browning. Cassulis commented that, although many customers buy Cortlands to eat, she feels they are best used for baking pies. But don’t despair, if you’re not skilled enough to make a Cortland apple pie yourself, Windy Hill Orchard stand has plenty for sale!Commonly known as “green apples,” Golden Delicious and Crispin apples can be easily identified by their light green color. A popular apple for eating, Golden Delicious apples are known to be sweet and juicy. In contrast, Crispin apples are just that, crisp. They also are often spicy and used for cooking.Now that you’re familiar with the wide array of apples grown in this area, head down to the village green on Saturday mornings and put your apple-picking skills to the test at the Windy Hill Orchard stand, where you can buy not only freshly picked apples, but pies, jams, fudge, assorted baked goods, and apple cider. The farmer’s market will be open every Saturday from now until the first weekend in November. For more information on the apples of upstate New York and the hours of local orchards, visit