Harvest Time in Apple Country
North Carolina is the fourth largest apple growing state, and the vast majority of that fruit comes from the valley just east of Hendersonville in a micro climate district known as the Isothermal Belt, because warmer days add weeks to the growing season. From the end of August to the end of September, growers feverishly gather sixteen different varieties of the nutritious fruit.
A trip from my house to Apple Valley, as it’s called, takes less than hour, and I had to go around 4,300 foot Little Pisgah Mountain, the tallest peak between the Piedmont and Asheville, south of Interstate 40.
After Little Pisgah, I drove over Bearwallow Mountain, the second tallest peak, emerging at Grand Highlands, an upscale development that overlooks Apple Valley, 2,000 feet below.
Driving down narrow roads into the valley, suddenly the world changes, revealing an idyllic setting more like Europe than the Southern Appalachians.
Ancient apple orchards cover the lower slopes with gnarled, drooping trees, laden heavy with fruit ready to be picked.
The mountains to the north ensure steady rainfall throughout the growing season.
You can smell the sweet scent of fallen fruit, fermenting underneath the rows of trees.
All through the orchards, large crates were filled with fruit awaiting pick up by large trucks that would transport them to the many Apple Houses located mostly along U.S. Highway 64.
It’s always a treat to stop at the different Apple Houses to shop and to enjoy their decorations. This one featured giant pumpkins and bounties of the harvest.
The most popular Apple House is called Grandad’s, and finding a parking spot is always difficult. It’s a family place where the kids can play on a number of attractions, and Mom and Dad can shop for apples, cider, pies, jellies, honey, and just about anything else relating to apples.
Once you’ve finished shopping, you can relax in a comfortable rocking chair, enjoying the beauty of the distant mountains and the large fields of corn surrounding the barn.
It’s a great way to spend an afternoon doing what people have been doing in this valley for over 200 years. A short drive takes you back over the Eastern Continental Divide, through Chimney Rock Village, and to picturesque Lake Lure, where 4,000 foot Mt. Shumont dwarfs the boats resting in the distant marina.