There is nothing like getting that first fall apple in Leelanau County. And, out here, with countless orchards, farmer’s markets, and falling leaves, there’s no end to the celebration of fall!
Here’s a look at what apples are ready and where, along with tips on the “best of the best” when it comes to apples in Leelanau.
Honeycrisp are in at VerSynder Orchards in Lake Leelanau.
Kevin and Kat VerSnyder are up to their eyeballs in apples in Lake Leelanau!
A couple slices of a Niedwetzkyana apple. Isn’t it pretty?
The couple offers tips on the best apples this season:
Most popular for eating: Honeycrisp, Ludacrisp, EverCrisp and Crimson Crisp. “EverCrisp and Ludacrisp are our newer varieties, but we also love Crimson Crisp. These are favorites for flavor and storability.”
Their favorite for baking: Niedwetzkyana (Kyrgyzstan). “It has a perfect acid/sugar balance and a drier flesh so the pie isn’t as wet. The flesh is a lovely red hue which presents nicely in baked dishes.”
The apple harvest is usually over by Nov. 5 or so, they noted. Right now, besides the beautiful bounty of apples, they have Asian Pears, which Kat said has “nutty flavor and is INCREDIBLY juicy!”.
New this year, is that the VerSnyders are offering a U PICK for EverCrisp apples starting around Halloween or shortly thereafter. “This is something new and exciting for our farm this season!” Kat said.
Here, the earliest varieties of apples harvested at Bakker’s Acres last month: Vikings and Pristines.
Bakker's Acres apples are available at their self-serve fruit stand at 2677 Setterbo Road, north of Suttons Bay, as well as at the Traverse City Farm Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and at the Leelanau Farm Markets in Suttons Bay on Saturdays.
You’ll also find pears, plums, and dried cherries this time of year from Bakker’s Acres – but the star of the show every fall? Apples!
Here, Lynn Bakker offers her tips on all things apples:
Pies and applesauce (and don’t forget the apple butter!):
“Spys are the traditional pie apple, because they stay in shape and stay firm when you bake with them,” Lynn said. “They also pick up the seasonings, cinnamon and sugar that you put in your pie.” She also recommended using Jonagold apples, as they also stay firm when baked in a pie, but are sweeter than a Spy.
There’s a handful of apples that work for most everything: Macintosh, Empire, Jonathan and Spartan are all varieties used in pies, and they will soften as they are baked, she noted. “All of these are also good for fresh eating, and for applesauce. Every variety has a unique flavor, with MacIntosh varieties having the traditional tang apples are known for. These are all good for apple butter also.”
And one more to note - Wolf River apples. “These are gigantic apples that are great for pies and applesauce because there are fewer to peel!” In addition, Lynn said many of the local cider makers use their apples in their products.
Traditionally these apples are good for eating fresh, according to Lynn: Golden Delicious, Ginger Gold, Zestar, Jersey Mac, Paula Red, Gala, Cortland, Jongold, Fuji, McCoun, Ida Red, and Mutsu, a big, firm, greenish apple.
“We also have the Chestnut apple, a kid-sized apple, perfect for the lunch box,” she said.
In addition, Bakker's Acres is one of the few growers of a new variety called SweeTango, “which has an addictive crisp, sweet flavor with a bit of a tang to it, great for fresh eating.”
While Bakker’s Acres is not a U Pick, they will be busy picking into late October, with some later varieties being picked as it snows!
“Many of our apple varieties will be available at our fruit stand till Christmas time, as we have a cooler to store them to keep them at the peak of deliciousness.”
If you take a day to tour Leelanau County, Lynn says get ready for the epitome of freshness. “They will taste their best because they were picked at the peak of ripeness, and not while still green for shipping. These apples did not spend hot days or 1,000 miles on a truck from somewhere else. Plus, purchasing local produce supports a local family farmer!”
Gallagher’s Farm Market
Gallagher’s sunflower maze for the 2021 season.
Gallagher’s is a destination farm market – families make sure to stop in every year for their apples, fruits, veggies and delicious donuts (come October, you MUST try their pumpkin donuts with cinnamon and sugar – a local legend!). This year, they are offering a sunflower maze, as well as their usual kiddie hay maze. Get your apples, donuts and cider, and sit on a picnic table out behind the market to enjoy them with your family – along with the pigs, goats and chickens on the farm!
Look for all things local in their farm market – jellies, jams, syrups, honey and more, along with their fresh daily bakery products. (Oh! They are also known for their homemade pizza bread – it sells daily!)
Consider this stop the quintessential “fall experience” in N. Michigan beauty at the base of Leelanau County. Take pics with the farm animals, conquer the maze and tuck into delicious Michigan apples.
Sleeping Bear Orchards
This self-serve stand along M22 in Empire is a tiny slice of heaven. Stop in for apples and whatever else is in season. Right now, Honeycrisp and Zestar apples are stealing the show (along with beans, watermelon, peaches and more)! This is tucked in on a quiet corner just outside of town, don’t miss it!
A landmark stop in Suttons Bay – the roadside farm stand of Bardenhagen Farms! The farm is going into its 6th generation of Bardenhagen farmers. The farm was homesteaded back in the civil war era, which puts the farm at a little over 150 years old!
While they are not a U-pick farm, they do have a farm stand to visit to get a taste of their bounty, and they are available at local grocery stores and through the MI Farm Co-op.
Right now, Honeycrisp and Gala apples are in the farm stand, along with table grapes, nectarines and plums.