Apples – Local, Fresh, Unwaxed

They’re local, they’re fresh, they’re unwaxed and uncoated, they’re packed with nutrition, and they’re right here in Maitland ready for you! They’re Tilse Apples, they’re from the Upper Hunter and they’re ONLY $4.00/kg (and I hope that’s the last “they’re” you will have to read on this page). Oh … and they’ve been picked this week!

The apples will be available throughout February, March and into April (at least). Picking usually occurs from February to May so stay tuned for ongoing freshly picked apples.

Our offering this Earth Market is a continuation of our work from Sunday, 3rd March when a group of Slow Food members and volunteers spent the day picking 200kg of apples at the Tilse Apple Orchard. The apple picking was an initiative borne out of a fortuitous conversation between Steve Tilse (one of the orchard owners) and Slow Food Hunter Valley Leader, Anne Kelly and Earth Market Project Officer, Amorelle Dempster.

Our initial picking day was meant to provide apples for both the Earth Market on the 7th March and the Maitland Taste Festival the following weekend. However, our Earth Market sold out in under an hour (testimony to the support our locals provide to our farmers) and we had to get another load for the Maitland Taste Festival.

Located at the junction of the Hunter River and the Omadale Brook, Tilse Orchard is a spectacular oasis that has weathered the financial ups and downs of Australia’s often fickle economic market-place. Apple growing, like many other types of farming in Australia, does not pay highly. The cost of picking, low prices from supermarkets, and the high level of rejection for undersized or imperfect fruit have taken their toll. The problems are compounded by the fact that irrigation in the orchard has stopped due to shortfalls in water availability (although there is some comfort in the fact that the water issues come almost at the end of the season) – although since initially writing this, we have had some recent rainfall.

A quick check of two websites owned but the two major supermarkets on the 3rd of March showed prices for apples varying from $2.70 (for juicing apples) to $7.90/kg. The majority of the apples were in the $6.00 to $7.90/kg range. Today, as at the 2nd April, the prices range from $2.50/kg (for juicing apples) to $7.00/kg.

To maintain the orchard, the family have diversified into other areas and the orchard is now best known as an events venue (complete with accommodation) and for its cider.

Anne Kelly, Leader, Slow Food Hunter Valley, was part of the picking crew on Sunday. She said “there are hundreds of magnificent trees and they are bowing under the weight of the fruit”. She said the apples are now starting to drop and feral pigs are eating the fallen fruit at night.

Tilse grows three varieties of apples – Jonathan, Red Delicious and Granny Smith. The Jonathan apples were harvested during February leaving the Red Delicious and Granny Smith apples for the Slow Food crew.

If you like local, seasonal, fresh fruit that is packed with nutrition (and helps support local farming), then these apples are for you.