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Canada: Apples hit Niagara a week early

Good things really do come in small packages - at least they do if you`re an apple from Niagara. With the harvest of nature`s prescription drug a week old, apple fans are feeding on fruit that`s small but sweet, thanks to the hot, dry summer. And more than a week early.

That`s good for people trying to stave off any visits to the doctor by gorging on the Paula Reds and Ginger Golds showing up in local farm markets. But it also has some who are still stuck in peach season and therefore, summer, just a little confused, Peter Feenstra said.

Not everyone is keen to usher in a harvest synonymous with fall. `Typically, consumers are geared to a time frame,` the Beamsville grower said. `We do some retail as well and our customers go `What? Apples already?` and it`s the middle of a heatwave. It`s a good thing we don`t have a huge number of early varieties.`

Feenstra isn`t inclined to think the pared down size of this year`s apples is so sweet, either. Turns out, when you make a living packing apples as Feenstra does, another adage is proved true. `Size really does matter. Don`t quote me on that,` he said with a laugh.

Especially when you want them to fill trays and bins, instead of just bags, which tend to be the packaging of choice for small apples. `Everyone and their uncle produces small-sized apples, so there`s no money in that. Big fruit fills bins ... This year, that`s not going to be there,` Feenstra said.

Size aside, Leo DeVries predicted a harvest that will be anything but rotten to the core at his Fenwick fruit farm. `All the varieties are looking good. Being a dry year, as long as you had irrigation, everything is good,` said DeVries, who also began harvesting his Bartlett pears ahead of schedule.

`Everything is a week early this year,` DeVries said. So, which variety is the apple of Feenstra`s eye? `They`re all my favourite when they come off the tree,` he said. `There`s nothing better than an apple fresh off the tree.`

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