Mirror Mirror which apple is the tastiest of them all?
Looking for a little adventure? Bundle up the kids for a day trip to Shields Orchard which is an easy 1.5 hours drive or 91km from Sydney and located on the main road of Bells Line of Road.
I hear that 2022 has been another wet year with Bilpin exceeding the average rainfall of 1352mm. Plenty of apples to pick, more than the orchard would usually have at this time of year and Bill and Julie are keen to have all the apples picked.
Shields Orchard has a crop of sweet Pink Ladies and Braeburns. They are currently discounted until the crop is all picked.
Here's a bit of history for you.Did you know the apples we know as Pink Lady were first developed in Australia in 1973 by John Cripps?
He crossed a Golden Delicious tree with a Lady Williams and the result was beautiful pink apple with simultaneous tart but sweet flavour.
It began being sold in Australia in 1989 under the trademarked name Cripps Pink. It was the very first trademarked apple. The apple made its way to America where it was trademarked again this time with the name Pink Lady. In the United States, the apples must meet specific standards including colour, sugar content and firmness in order to be marketed under the Pink Lady name.
The Braeburn apple is a native of New Zealand and was first discovered in 1950. The fruit has a crisp firm flesh with a perfumed flavour. It is considered a dessert apple with a wonderful and perfect balance of sweetness.
Lots of Granny Smiths on offer, not the usual tart ones that you may come across but sweet. Perfect for apple dishes, I'm thinking apple pie, apple crumble or poached apple cake.
Did you know that the Granny Smith originated in Eastwood, Australia in 1868? Maria Ann Smith propagated the apple from a chance seedling and was a prominent figure in the area and went by the nickname "Granny Smith" in her advanced years.
Sundowners are late-ripening but perfect for the picking now. Sundowner is also an Australian variety called Cripps Red and also known as the ugly brother sharing parentage with the more well known Pink Lady. A very sweet apple balanced with some tartness.
The orchard sprawls over six hectares, mainly growing apples, some stone fruit, grapes, figs and potatoes. Even though it's coming to the end of the season, there are plenty of apples to pick.
You can spend the whole afternoon discovering this delightful orchard. It is recommended to ring ahead and meet with Bill and Julie to get a rundown on what apples are ripe for the picking. With budding chefs in the family, the kids are just as keen to see where our food comes from and eating seasonally when produce is at its best.
Farmer Bill Shield provides a wealth of knowledge as to the number of bees in existence, and why it's important to have flowering plants all the time to provide a food source for bees who in turn pollinate the flowers so we get to pick apples each year.
With caution signs in place, there are only a few simple rules to follow. Watch where you are walking due to uneven surfaces, supervise the kids when picking (for an apple to land on one's head isn't pleasant), pay for what you pick and use the rubbish bins provided to keep the farm clean.
You can taste the fruit as you go and pay for what you pick. Apples are on the menu this week. So far it's been apple tart, apple muffins, apple crumble and the next request is a tarte tartin.
I'm looking forward to making another great batch of apple jam. Also on offer at the shed are shelves of preserves, apple cider, apple vinegar, apple juice and apple sauces. There are picnic tables available and toilet facilities.
Hill Billy Cider is also down the road with their full range of drinks which include Crushed Pear, Scrumpy, Apple, Non-alcoholic Apple (which the kids absolutely love) and Vintage – from 100 per cent crushed fruit, with no added sugar or artificial flavours. Don't forget to try the award-winning Hillbilly Cider's Sweet Julie made from the fruit from Shields orchard.
Reconnect with mountain surroundings with an apple or cold apple cider. With plenty of seating and tables, pack a picnic and soak in the mountain air and enjoy a glass of cider.
Don't forget to ring ahead to let Bill and Julie know that you'll be coming. Pick Your Own is available between 10 am & 3 pm, Fri, Sat & Sun & Mon.
Entry is free with parking available at the front of the shed.
There is ample signage leading up to Shields Orchard but if you are driving from Sydney, the orchard is located on your right, so give plenty of warning to the cars behind when your turn right into the car park in front of the shed.