STURBRIDGE, Massachusetts — New England is experiencing a bumper crop of apples this year, and Old Sturbridge Village celebrates the taste and history of an old-fashioned apple harvest during its annual Apple Days Festival, the first two weekends in October: October 3-4, and October 10-12, which is Columbus Day Weekend. Visitors can taste nearly-forgotten heirloom apple varieties, help the farmers pick apples 1830s-style, try their hands at cider making, and see the ox-powered Cider Mill in operation as it grinds and presses apples.
Village historians will cook with apples over the hearth, talk about apple preservation, and give tours of the root cellar to show how apples were stored. Village gardeners will lead orchard walks and recount the amazing origins of some of today's popular apple varieties. They will also discuss the importance of bees for apple pollination and visitors can tour the Village's beekeeping exhibit and see the Queen Bee, drones, and worker bees in action in the observation hive. For all times and details: 800-733-1830; www.osv.org
In the 1830s, apples were used fresh, stored in cellars, dried, or pressed into cider, making them an important food source all year long. Among the finest storage apples were Baldwins and Roxbury Russets, which could keep for months. Children had the important job of checking the apples stored in barrels in the root cellar, making sure that "one bad apple" did not "spoil the bunch."
According to Village historians, there were once thousands of apple varieties in North America dating back to the 1600s and 1700s. By the early 1800s, local farmers developed hundreds of unique varieties especially suited to the New England climate. These heirloom apples had distinctive flavors, but today's supermarkets carry only a few apple varieties in comparison, and they are chosen not for taste, but because they ship well, have a long shelf life, and have dependable harvests.
Heirloom apples also had memorable names, often relating to their flavor, where they were discovered, and their shape. Old Sturbridge Village's orchards include these vintage apple varieties: Hubbardston Nonesuch, Esopus Spitzenburg, Sheepnose, American Mother, Roxbury Russet, Blue Pearmain, Grimes Golden, Golden Russet, Baldwin, and Rhode Island Greening.
October is also prime foliage viewing season, and USA Today recently named the Village as one of the best spots in New England to view autumn color. The Old Sturbridge Inn and Reeder Family Lodges, owned and operated by the Village, offer special Fall Foliage Packages that include accommodations and admission to the museum; for details visit www.osv.org/inn or call 508-347-5056.
Old Sturbridge Village is one of the country's oldest and largest living history museums, celebrating life in early New England from 1790-1840. The Village offers free parking and is open from 9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. seven days a week. For times and details of all Village activities visit: www.osv.org or call 1-800-SEE-1830.