There’s nothing more American than a big juicy apple. Some of you, if you know of their origins, may snidely remark, “Apples aren’t even indigenous to North America.” And that’s entirely true, but it’s not their beginnings that makes this multi-purpose fruit truly American; it’s the legends and folklore surrounding this yankee-doodle-dandy slice of America. So apple picking was on my mind today, as the air is turning cooler and autumn is less than two weeks away.
“Wait a minute,” you might say, “What is this legends and folklore bit?”
To that I say, “Allow me,” I’ll very briefly give you a genuinely American tale. You’ve probably learned about it in elementary school, but I’ll refresh your memory.
John Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed, is an American folk hero. Unlike many folk heroes, this apple tree planting, bible thumping, nature loving and humbly dressed man was actually a living and breathing son of a Revolutionary War veteran. His legend basically states that he roamed the central eastern states and parts of the Midwest planting apple trees and preaching the Gospel to native Americans. Although many legends pit Mr. Appleseed as a penniless vagabond, I’ve read that our boy Johnny was an enterprising man, using nurseries to create homesteads and selling the land for profit. Any way you put it, the man gave the apple cider industry a boost in early America.
So, even if Mr. Chapman never made it to Wisconsin, I’m going to give a little insight for those that are looking for a good apple orchard in Green Bay
Here’s My take on the Oneida Nation Apple Orchard
Johnny Appleseed was admired by the indigenous tribes of the lands he domesticated, if not admired at least respected. Although I’ve mentioned that he never set foot in Wisconsin, I found an awkward tie in, being that my choice is owned by the Oneida Nation. And as I roll into the small gravel drive, I sense a definite midwestern charm. This place bolsters that small rural perception, inciting imaginations of an American pioneer taking advantage of the lands. I, as the consumer, feel that early agrarian vibe because the orchard is surrounded by miles of nature-or at least it appears that way from my vantage.
I walk into a quaint shed, painted red-very much a Midwestern farmer’s structure. As I saunter in, I’m greeted by a man behind a counter. He’s pleased to see me and warns, “Only certain varieties are ready for picking right now. And the ones you can pick are going to be a bit tart.”
I shrug, “Sounds good, which ones can I pick.”
The man bounds from behind the counter and leads me to an aerial photo of the orchard. This makes things simple. He points out the rows I can pick from, and I ask for a bag. He obliges and I set off into the orchard.
The grasses are bit long as I decide which apple is right for me. When I set off in an orchard, I’m always reminded of a scene from the Wizard of OZ. The gnarled archaic looking trees entice a sense of adventure. I feel as if I’m strolling through a well organized ancient forest. In truth, I believe this orchard was planted in 1986.
I discover, as I reach the first row, that the gentleman’s in depth directions were a bit much. Although I appreciate the clear and concise information, signs declaring the species of apple are absolutely visible at the first tree of every row. Basically, if you don’t know your apples, which I don’t, there are plenty of failsafe features to help you along.
I pick a couple Cortland, Macintosh and one other species- I forget the name. All together, there’s over twenty varieties of apples and approximately 4,000 trees to choose from in this 40 acre orchard- at least in midseason.
In the spot I’m in, I’m blown away by the fullness of the trees. These pruned plants are bountiful, (using a Revolutionary Era term) I’m wondering if the branches break from the mass of fruit these woody arms support.
I pick till I’m content and settle up inside. I should make mention that the price for any species is seventy-five cents a pound. I filled my bag and it only set me back four dollars and fifty cents. I make a minute’s worth of small talk with the man at the counter and then set off back towards the nearby city of Green Bay.
I’ve also read that there is produce to choose from, yet I don’t see it today. Of the many choices, squash, sweet corn and pumpkins make me yearn for such an add on. There’s also supposed to be black berries and raspberries to shop. That’s probably later in the year.
In closing, while it’s in the open green of Northeast Wisconsin, the Oneida Nation Apple Orchard is close enough to Green Bay to make a brief and pleasant jaunt into the countryside. With Apple prices of 75 cents a pound, picking apples is a cheap endeavor. Mix in some fresh produce to shop and you have an agrarian experience worth killing a late morning or early afternoon for.