Everybody’s Darling

“Honeycrisp has stolen everyone’s thunder,” quips David Butler, co-owner (with Lindsey Butler) of scenic Skytop Orchard in Flat Rock, a multi-attraction Upick stop for locals and tourists that offers hayrides, cider doughnuts, and a full array of orchard products. He’s talking about an interspecies rivalry between the short-lived early-fall fruit (sweet and crispy, as its name suggests) and its fellow varieties that come later in the season. But Butler, who certainly knows his apples, likes Gala best of all. “It’s sweet, and it lasts longer,” he points out. “With Honeycrisps, you might have a week or ten days, and in the South, they come early and go quickly.”

Galas, on the other hand, ripen in August and run through early or late September for the U-pick season, and can stay in the orchard’s on-site store even longer. Skytop has blossomed with the region’s agritourism explosion, and many fans of the place, now in their second generation, monitor the arrival of their favorites. Butler reports an early growing season in 2017, thanks to significant rain that quenched last year’s drought. Combined with late-summer heat, that means an ultra-seasonal experience: high-quality produce that peaks fast. (Check the website for a ripening schedule.)

Skytop Orchard, 1193 Pinnacle Mountain Road.  828-692-7930. The North Carolina Apple Festival happens on Main Street Hendersonville September 1-4; ncapplefest.org

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