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Celebrate the apple

Apple Day

Bayview Farm & Garden is having its annual Apple Day celebration Saturday, Oct. 20 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

There will be a tasting table with samples of locally-grown heirloom and unusual apples. Residents are urged to bring their own unusal apples to share.

Island-grown apples will be available for purchase. Hot cider and treats will be served.

People will also be able to press their own cider. There will also be a cider press and someone with pressing expertise available to the public on Oct. 20 and 21. Bring fresh, clean apples and containers.

Since the cider press is very popular, anyone who wants to use it should call (360) 321-6789 to reserve a time.

Bayview Farm & Garden is located at just off Highway 525 at 2780 Marshview Avenue near Langley.

Rock’n Apple Ranch

Roy and Joyce Engle’s Rock’n Apple Ranch is on Hunt Road off Crescent Harbor Road. The turn onto Hunt Road is near an old stone barn. Look for the apple sign.

Washington Apple Commission’s Web site lists numerous recipes for Roy Engle’s “favorite all-around apple” — the Jonagold. Go to www.bestapples.com

As Roy Engle walks among the 1,200 dwarf trees that surround his house, he stops to pick what looks like a Russett potato hanging from a branch.

“It’s perfectly ugly,” he admits, feeling the rough and splotchy skin.

But take a bite, he says, and taste a “perfectly delicious” apple. The flavor is rich and unique, unlike anything a shopper is likely to find in a supermarket. Hudson’s Golden Gem, a unique apple found a century ago growing on a Oregon farm, is just too weird looking for commericial grocers.

So true apple lovers have go to small orchards like Roy and Joyce Engle’s Rock’n Apple Ranch near Crescent Harbor. “I have a lot of people who really love them and come looking for them year after year,” Engle says.

The Golden Gem is one of dozens and dozens of unique, heirloom, new and unnamed type of apple trees that grow on Whidbey Island, which has a near-ideal climate for growing.

In celebration of the island’s apples, Bayview Farm & Garden in Langley is holding an Apple Day festival next Saturday, Oct. 20.

People who grow unusual or heirloom apples are invited to bring some for the tasting table. There will be Esophus Spitzenburg, Pitmason pineapple, wealthy, Grimes golden and Holstein apples. In addition, Engle plans to bring some of his 60 or so varities of apples for people to sample.

Local, island-grown apples will be available for purchase. Hot cider and treats will be served on Apple Day.

Bayview Farm & Garden will also have a cider press available to the public on both Oct. 20 and 21. Residents are invited to bring fresh, cleaned apples and containers. People with their own apple trees can find out what kind of cider their apples make or they can buy apples from a local orchard.

The secret to making good apple cider, Engle says, is using a variety of different apples, each with their unique accents, to the mix.

“A blend is what really makes a terrific cider,” he says.

The Engles can’t keep their cider in stock. People travel from all over the island to buy the flavorful blend of apple juices the Engles make with their fruit and their own press.

The Engles and their hired picker, Gary Robbins, filled boxes with apples Thursday afternoon so they can press apples over the weekend. It’s been an especially bad year for his orchard, Engle said, because of springtime wind storms that blew blossoms right off the trees.

“One morning the orchard floor was covered with flowers,” he says.

Engle knows more about apples and their history than perhaps any one person should. He gives tours of his orchard, pointing out the qualities of each apple.

The Baldwin, for example, is a medium-sized red apple that he says was the most popular commercial apple in the nation a hundred years ago. They made the New England orchards famous. They aren’t sold in stores anymore because of the brownish coloring around the stem, but he says they have “one of the best flavors there is.”

The Mutsu is a cross between a native Japanese apple and a golden delicious. “It’s one of my favorite apples just to eat,” he says.

The little Spartan is a cross between the Macintosh and the old Newtown Pippin. The winter banana, another hybrid, is a nice green type. The Calville is a ribbed French dessert apple.

Not all types of apple trees are suited to the Whidbey Island climate. The ancient Black Gilliford and the Dutch Swaar, for example, don’t produce very good-tasting apples.

Engle says his “favorite all-around apple,” however, is the Jonagold apple. The large, juicy apples are red highlighted with gold when ripe. When he traveled the world working for Boeing, Engle says he tasted Jonagold apples across the globe.

“Nothing ever tasted as good as the ones that are grown right here,” he says.

Over the years, Engle has helped spread the propegation of apple trees, particularly heirloom and hard-to-find varieties, across the island by raising custom trees for customers.

He’s sort of a “Johnny Apple Graft.” He takes a branch from an apple tree and grafts it onto dwarfing root stock, which keep the trees from growing more than 10 to 15 feet tall.

“We’ve put out lots of kinds of different kinds of trees all over the county,” he said.

He’s also helped spread an appreciation of apples in all the splendor of their thousands of variety of flavors, colors and shapes.

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