Apple pies, apple cider and apple donuts – these are things Northern Californians typically associate with the famed Apple Hill in El Dorado County.
Aside from the agritourism side of Apple Hill, some often forget that the area’s dozens of farms and ranches also provide produce to other places across the region.
UC Davis Health is one of the beneficiaries of the sweet fruits grown at Apple Hill. One of the farms, Larsen Apple Ranch, supplies the health system’s kitchen with the apples it uses in farm-fresh dishes.
In fact, apples from Larsen Apple Ranch were used in the appetizer UC Davis Health’s Food and Nutrition Services team dished up at the Tower Bridge Dinner during Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork Week last month.
Check out these fun facts about Larsen Apple Ranch and their apple production:
- Apple Hill is packed on the weekends, but did you know that most of the visitor hot spots don’t run year-round? Like many of the family-run farms, Larsen Apple Barn (where visitors buy goodies) is only open to tourists from September until about the second week of December.
- This farm is truly a family business that was started in the early 1900s as a pear farm. When things started going bad for pear production, the Larsens' farm almost shut down in the early 1960s. Because of this, the family switched to apples and wanted to create an apple farm experience.
- Now, more than 1 million people per year pass through the Larsen Apple Ranch’s property, although few people are let into the orchards themselves. The family also has a cool historical museum on the property for visitors to check out some of the old equipment.
- The trees at Larsen are about 50 years old. Most apple trees take about six to seven years before apples can be picked during harvest.
- Apple harvest at Larsen begins in about September and typically lasts through Thanksgiving with the 20ish different varieties becoming ripe at different times.
- About 5,000 pounds of apples are picked at Larsen Apple Ranch each day during harvest.
- Part of what makes El Dorado County so perfect for growing apples is the elevation. There are virtually no hot nights making the apples last longer on the trees. Cooler nights make the colors on the apple brighter and a longer growing season leads to better flavor.
So next time you’re up at Apple Hill this fall, check out Larsen Apple Barn to sample the great flavors grown right up the hill and served at UC Davis Health.