Branstool Orchards is in the midst of one of their best apple seasons ever, by Jake Fernberg, Photography Courtesy of Branstool Orchards
Apple picking is perhaps the quintessential fall activity for so many reasons: it’s a great way to spend an afternoon, picking apples gives greater understanding of where our food comes from, and there’s no beating the taste of a freshly picked apple. Utica’s Branstool Orchards is in the prime of their apple season and is a great place to enjoy Ohio’s fleeting autumn.
Branstool Orchards is under an hour outside of Columbus, but the 35-acre orchard feels sufficiently distant from city life. The orchard began in 1983 with the planting of peach trees, and Marshall, the man who planted those trees decades ago, has considered peaches his “bread and butter” from founding to this day. But after planting apple trees in 1994, Branstool’s apple crop has expanded to 11 acres of planted trees and over 40 varieties of apples. This proved a timely development, as a lack of peach crops last year and a small peach crop this year has focused the spotlight on apples.
Marshall tells me that this is the best all-around apple season Branstool has ever had. This is the largest bounty they’ve had, and that bounty has resisted disease and insects more than normal. Marshall also suggests that it’s the best tasting crop he’s ever had.
Branstool’s 40 varieties are a good mix of more traditional apples like Fuji, Pink Lady, and Blushing Golden apples as well as types new to Branstool like Florina, Galarina, and Suncrisp. Marshall points to those three new types as ones “customers seem to be loving.” Branstool is also well known for growing uncommon varieties like Rubinette and Tsugaru, which are harder to find. It’s also the point in the season where the Branstool team begins to make apple cider with the apples grown on the property, which is freshly pressed twice a week.
While winter is approaching, there’s still plenty of time—Marshall estimates about three weeks—for great apple picking and plenty of excellent apples left. Branstool Orchards is located at 5895 Johnstown-Utica Road in Utica, Ohio. Learn more at branstoolorchards.com.