When I was a kid growing up in India, the concept of “farm” was just about as vivid and clear to me as the internet would be to a Roman philosopher. I knew I loved reading stories about farm life and idyllic suburbia, but much of it was abstract to me — just like integral calculus. When your imagination runs wild like horses and you feed on just the text books, your mind becomes a veritable jungle that imaginatively interprets stories and spits out images, Inception style.
I had been introduced to the concept of farm life and apple picking through idyllic books like James Herriot’s Dog Stories and children’s classics like Little Women. You can imagine that in the coastal city of Chennai, India, there’s not an apple tree for miles (maybe mango and coconut trees for sure, but not apple trees).
One happy dad
The delicious discovery of picking juicy, ripe apples straight from the elegant leaves was a pleasure I discovered when I moved to the United States. It was so very Cider House Rules in the sense of a strange, beautiful discovery….there was something really adventurous about NOT buying apples in the grocery store but finding a more outlandish, labor-intensive but fun way to get it.
My hubby, Matthew, and Butterscotch, our apple-hunting pooch
I’d been apple picking before, but Rhinebeck, NY was a sweet treat. My parents (who were visiting from India), my husband and I had visited the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome that morning, and decided to round off our vintage day with a very suburban tradition.
The apples at Cedar Heights Rhinebeck Orchard were just beginning to ripen. There were Galas, Cortlands, Macintosh, Empires and Red Delicious, all neatly arranged and labeled beautifully. We picked up two full bags of apples with our gallant orange apple “claw.” The total price? A mere $10!
Cedar Heights is easily accessible by car (it’s three miles east of Rhinebeck village in Duchess County in the Hudson Valley). While I was a little disappointed there was no baked goods store open where I could get some freshly-pressed apple cider, I was very impressed by how well-kept the orchards were, and how peaceful everything was. We did arrive during a season when the apples were just starting to ripen, but there really was no one there except another family.
Can we say this is a well-preserved secret? Surely, yes. At the end of the day, I was drunk on apples like a horse who had just won the Preakness, and was reminded of lines from Robert Frost’s well known poem, After Apple Picking:
My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree Toward heaven still, And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill Beside it, and there may be two or three Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
It is definitely without question, one of the most idyllic and delicious ways you’ll spend your day.
If you’ve picked apples (or fruit, of any kind) before and want to share your experiences, do drop me a line and let me know where!
– Charu Suri