Friday, September 13, 2013
Who wants old apples from New Zealand?
September is here, and we’ve got sapphire skies, new notebooks, fresh school shirts and orchards full of apples. But our local super market, Giant Eagle, is still carrying apples from New Zealand and Chile, instead of Pennsylvania. How can this be, when an apple tree in my neighborhood is so loaded with apples it looks like it’s dripping, and I was eating apples right off my great uncle’s tree in Central PA back in July? How could it possibly make sense that our grocery store apples come from the Southern Hemisphere in September? I was so stunned I contacted Giant Eagle and also the Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Program, an apple growers group. Both responded by e-mail right away. Julie Bancroft, Executive Director, PA Apple Marketing Program, clued me in that it actually is a tad early to be finding local apples at the grocery store. (They are, however, available at Whole Foods and Soergel Orchards in Wexford.) “We are very early into the apple season and are really only picking about three varieties that you would find at your local retailer (Ginger Gold, Gala and Honeycrisp, and just starting on McIntosh). Farmers markets may have a few more varieties available. Most PA varieties are harvested in late September and even more so through October. “Consumers have come to expect year-round availability of their favorite varieties. The reality is that even with cold storage, not all local varieties are available year round. So, while a retailer may prefer to be able to locally source apples and other produce for that matter, they will source based on availability in order to meet consumer demand.” Of course she’s right about customers being spoiled by year-round fresh produce; I’ve certainly enjoyed my share of juicy melons on snowy January mornings, all of them from tropical climes a plane ride away. But gosh, it’s hard to buy local and in-season when you can’t find what is in season. Fortunately, Giant Eagle tells me that PA apples will appear very soon. From Giant Eagle: “This time of year, we are transitioning into new crop apples. Right now, we have McIntosh, Paula Red and Gold Delicious apples from Pennsylvania. As new varieties become available such as red delicious, jonathans, galas and Red Rome apples, we will be sure to have them at all locations.” Julie added this helpful tip for knowing that what you buy is from PA: “If you are unable to identify apples as being from Pennsylvania, I would encourage you to select apples labeled "Eastern Apples" as they are from family-owned and operated farms on the Eastern Seaboard including Pennsylvania. “ Good to know. Here's an article about how it's supposed to be a great apple year.