Harvesting Apples In The World’s Salad Bowl

Last Saturday, I volunteered with Village Harvest again, at one of their apple harvests. This is actually the last apple harvest of the season.

The harvest was at a privately-owned orchard south of San Jose in Monterey County. Fun Fact: Monterey County is nicknamed “The World’s Salad Bowl” due to its large agriculture industry. On the way to the orchard, I drove past many farms growing various lettuces and brassicas, as well as other orchards of both apples and other kinds of fruits. I also drove through the city of Gilroy, CA, which is the Garlic Capital of the World. It really does smell of garlic – I could smell the garlic before I saw the signs. (Side note: Gilroy, CA hosts the Gilroy Garlic Festival which was cancelled this year, obviously, but is scheduled for July 23-25, 2021. Count me in! Apparently, you can get garlic ice cream there….I’m intrigued…)

On to the apple harvest:

The orchard was quite large – at least 100 trees, I’d estimate, if not more. There were four varieties of apples: Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Newtown Pippin, and Fuji. There had already been two harvests of this orchard earlier in the season, and two more had to be cancelled due to poor air quality from the fires. During the first two harvests, they picked 3,000-5,000 pounds of apples per harvest. Last Saturday, our goal was to finish harvesting the entire orchard, and to make up for the missed harvests. We were hoping to harvest at least 8,000 pounds of apples!

There were about 30 volunteers there that day. We started harvesting shortly after 9. The harvest was scheduled to go until 12:30, but the organizers told us to stop harvesting just before 12. There were still some apples on the trees, but we had filled the bins and then some. I don’t know what the final tally was, but it must have been close to 10,000 pounds of apples. The picture below was taken around 11am.

These apples were headed to the San Jose food bank.

And, of course, the volunteers got to take home apples that had touched the ground. I came home with two big bags of apples.

I made apple chutney from the Moosewood Cookbook with some of the apples (delicious! will definitely make again), and I’ll be having apple-oatmeal every morning for the foreseeable future. Yum yum!