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Family Adventure: Discovering Apples at Their Core

Do we really know where our food comes from? I certainly have a lot to learn. Last weekend, I took my boys to Syracuse, New York to visit family. It unintentionally turned into an adventure exploring the roots (no pun intended) of the fruits and vegetables we so easily find in our kitchen. 

Spending a weekend visiting family in upstate New York, including a visit to an apple orchard and a family farm, gave my city boys a chance to food at its origin.

Under a gray sky and in crisp, fall weather, we boarded the flat wagon pulled by the giant John Deere tractor at Beak and Skiff Apple Orchards. The driver’s shirt read “Are the Honeycrisp ready?” Honeycrisp apples are pretty much the best apple ever, right? I suspect the orchard employees hear that question about a hundred times a day.

are-the-honeycrisp-ready little-boy-picking-apple-from-the-tree

We didn’t get Honeycrisp, but we brought home loads of Cortlands, my second favorite apple. Within about fifteen minutes of arriving at the section of the orchard ready for picking, my boys had stuffed two bags full of apples. I quickly found out that it’s a good thing I really like Cortlands, because I’ll be eating them until Halloween…

Taking my boys apple picking has been on my List of 100 Dreams for a while now, so I loved that I got to check it off my list. But I also appreciated that my former city slickers spent the entire weekend with my mom, grandmother and other members of my mom’s family exploring a whole lot more about the food we eat than they’d ever seen before.

apple-orchard Spending a weekend visiting family in upstate New York, including a visit to an apple orchard and a family farm, gave my city boys a chance to food at its origin. bag-of-beak-and-skiff-applesSpending a weekend visiting family in upstate New York, including a visit to an apple orchard and a family farm, gave my city boys a chance to food at its origin.

Though not necessarily by design, over the course of the weekend, we collected fresh eggs from my aunt and uncles chicken coop, picked apples straight from the tree, dug up potatoes, carrots and beets from my aunt and grandmother’s garden, ate raspberries from the bush, and got an up close look at dairy cows on a large dairy farm.

My mom’s family lives across a host of smaller towns outside Syracuse, New York. A vast change of pace from our former city living in downtown Chicago, and still pretty different from suburban Philadelphia, the more rural living experience gave my boys a short but fun glimpse into where some of our food comes from.

red-shed-with-orange-pumpkins

I already spend a bit of time with my boys in the kitchen cooking and baking. Knowing how the food gets to the table definitely seems to get them a little more interested in what they are eating (at least some of the time). Because so much of our food is produced in large scale facilities, it’s harder for a lot of our kids to understand where all this food comes from and really appreciate the seed to table transformation (and all that goes into it).

I probably shouldn’t limit that lack of knowledge to kids either. I remember a while back one of my boys asking how some fruit grew (strawberries, I think). Admittedly, I didn’t know the answer. A bush? A vine? It was high time I figure out some of this stuff and explore with my boys. I suspect I’m not alone.

In our new house, complete with a good sized garden, we have already had a couple opportunities for the boys to plant seeds and see them grow into vegetables. I loved seeing their excitement when they started to see leaves and blossoms. (I admit I was pretty pumped to see the fruits of our labor as well.)

Who knows what will actually come from exposing the boys to food and kitchen skills early, but I hope it helps them develop an appreciation for fresh, healthy food and wholesome meals. Having a chance to visit family in an area where there’s a bit more space and time to experience food from the beginning is so refreshing too.

I can’t wait for our own fruit and vegetable garden adventures and look forward to heading back to Syracuse again. Maybe next time the Honeycrisp will be ready?

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