Last Friday, September 26th, was Johnny Appleseed Day. Coincidentally, it also happened to be the day we decided to make our first trip of the season to our favorite apple orchard, Eddy Fruit Farm in Chesterland, Ohio. Apples are one fruit that my husband does not bring home to me from his market because he cannot sell a box of apples that has ten missing. I’m quite happy to buy them actually, especially when I get to pick and eat gorgeous ripe fruit straight from the tree, with help from my babies, the apples of my eye.
Eddy Fruit Farm has been run by generations of devoted family members since way back in 1869. That’s not too long after John Chapman, AKA Johnny Appleseed, was making his way through Ohio and the midwest in the late 1790s and early 1800s planting apple trees along the way. The Eddy farm now grows thirty-five different varieties of apples, as well as pears, peaches, plums and grapes. My family was excited to pick apples at the Eddy farm on that idyllic fall morning.
We arrived early and made our way up the gravel road where we were greeted by farmer Tom who asked what we were hoping to find. I told him a crisp, sweet apple for eating and baking. He nodded with a grin as if every other picker says the same thing. “Are you up for an adventure?,” he asked. “Definitely!,” I replied. “It’s a bit of a walk, but if you follow that path there, it will take you to the Macoun apples,” he told us. “They are just starting and they have low fruit that will be easy for the kids to pick. You’ll be the first to pick those trees.” I hadn’t heard of Macoun apples before, but I trusted his expertise. I asked him if he was familiar with my husband’s wholesale produce business as I knew the Eddy family bought some vegetables there to sell in their store. He told me his brother manages all of that while he stays in the fields, doing the hard work. We chuckled and shook hands goodbye.
The kids and I trudged through the tall grass and soon discovered the apples he had mentioned. Indeed, we were the first early birds there picking. The trees were filled with large ripe fruit. Morning dew was still glistening on the apples in the sunlight. We had visited this farm with the girls’ preschool classes in years past when farmer Bart, taught us to twist while pulling the fruit from the tree. The girls knew just what to do and got right to work.
We quickly filled our basket with gorgeous fresh apples. Since farmer Bart always let the kids choose one apple to eat in the orchard, I figured he wouldn’t mind if I let the kids do the same. It didn’t take much convincing. In fact, John hadn’t been waiting for my approval. He had already devoured his first piece of fruit, thrown it to the ground and was reaching for another out of the basket. Looking around at other apples that had fallen from the trees, I figured no harm done. My Johnny Appleseed was really just helping to grow more apple trees. The Macouns were a great recommendation. Crisp and sweet with a touch of tartness. Perfect for both eating or baking. The kids were quiet as we all enjoyed a healthy morning snack, as fresh as they come, straight off the tree.
Our basket was full and so were the kids’ bellies, so we decided to make our way back toward the farm store to pay for our fruit and have a look around. Before heading home, we stopped to make a wish, discover a ladybug and greet a new furry friend along the way.
Later on, when I learned that it had been Johnny Appleseed Day, I decided we should find out more about him. My little John and I picked up a few books at our next visit to the library. He was in fact a real person. His name was John Chapman and he was born on September 26, 1774 in a small town in Massachusetts. He was the son of an apple farmer who fought in the American Revolution and had a sister named Elizabeth (as does our John ironically). At the age of 23 he decided to travel west to plant apple seeds in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. He even owned land in those states and established nurseries there. Apples were one of the few crops that could be grown and harvested easily and eaten in one form or another all year round in the wilderness settlements of early America. While he did not establish all of the original apple orchards in America, he did play an important part in bringing apples to the frontier. Johnny Appleseed was a good natured man, filled with kindness and humanity, had an independent spirit and was a generous friend to all, especially animals. Like my John, he apparently mostly walked bare foot. He died in Fort Wayne, Indiana in March 1845, but his story, like the apple seeds he planted, live on. Today as I read to my children about Johnny Appleseed, his good character set a great example of the kind of person we should all strive to be.
With a new appreciation for our beloved apples and the man who helped bring them to us, the kids and I used our fresh fruit from the farm to prepare one of our favorite apple desserts, apple crisp! I’ve created a recipe that is healthier than most traditional apple crisp recipes. It includes honey instead of sugar and I also used applesauce in place of butter, to cut out even more fat and calories. I’m happy to share it with you.
- 4 apples
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 3/4 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 3 Tbsp. melted butter or applesauce
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- Vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 375. Cut apples into thin slices or bite sized chunks. Mix with lemon juice, cinnamon and honey. Spray six ramekins or one pie plate with non-stick spray. Divide apples into baking dishes. In a separate bowl combine crumble topping ingredients. Divide crumble evenly over apples. Place ramekins on baking sheet. If the tops appear to be browning too quickly, cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool slightly. Top with vanilla ice cream for an extra special treat. Serves 6.
We are so thankful for delicious, healthy apples. Here is a little blessing you may know as well, in honor of Johnny Appleseed; the original and my own. Oh, the Lord is good to me, and so I thank Him for giving me the things I need. The sun, and the rain, and the apple seed. The Lord is good to me.