Nothing says September like a basket full of crisp juicy apples.
Even though summer-like temperatures persist, cooler days are coming and Todd and Darcie Haakinson, owners of Hawk’s Orchard, are ready for the season.
Located at 9034 N. Serns Road in Milton, Hawk’s is a hobby orchard and only open weekends in September until the apples run out in late October. Hours throughout the season are 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Darcie Haakinson said they currently have two varieties available.
“Zestar and Gingergold apples to start,” she said. As the season unfolds, they’ll add more of their 14 varieties.
“It’s kind of like a farmers’ market. We sell what we have ready (that) weekend,” Haakinson said.
While Haakinson expects a good crop, she says the trees have been stressed this year by the lack of rain. They planted some new trees but since they are a hobby orchard with both of the Haakinsons working other jobs, watering has been a challenge.
“There are about 2,200 trees,” she said, “so it’s quite a task to water them all the time.”
Ideally, apple trees should get an inch of rain per week.
“We were well below that,” Haakinson added.
As a result, some apples might be a bit smaller and some trees may not produce as much fruit. But it’s hard to predict.
“It’s just like farming,” Haakinson explained. “You just never know.”
To prepare for opening weekend, the Haakinsons picked, washed and bagged apples, made caramel apples and pressed cider. And, of course, baked apple cider donuts.
The apple trees at Hawk’s Orchard cover just over three acres of the 10-acre property. Apples are picked by hand, most by the Haakinsons themselves, but also with the help of family and friends.
Timing can be tricky. They check the apples regularly, looking for good color and whether the apples have started dropping from the trees. Once that starts happening, they apples need to be picked.
Zestars is one variety that ripened early and started dropping. Haakinson hopes the remaining will hang on and get a little more color before they must be picked.
Although customers often come looking for the popular Honey Crisp apples, they are often surprised to find new favorites.
“A lot of people really take to the Zestars,” Haakinson said. “They are a nice combination of sweet and tart.”
She said Gingergolds are also nice and crisp.
“Each one has great qualities. It just kind of depends on what you look for.”
McIntosh apples are a little more tart and good for eating, baking and apple sauce. Cortlands, Jonagolds and Idareds are all popular, too.
Haakinson hesitated before mentioning another popular one, Snow Sweets, because they sell so quickly. These usually come sometime in October. The trees are delicate and don’t produce as many of the apples, which are known for their firm snow-white flesh.
“People have tried them and loved them and we usually sell out of that one in a day. They are really good,” Haakinson said, describing their taste as a nice balance between sweet and tart, almost buttery.
In the past, the Haakinsons put out samples so people could try different varieties to find what they like. But since that’s not feasible now, due to COVID-19 protocols, customers can ask staff and they will do their best to describe them to help the customer choose.
Other treats filling the shelves include honey from Rustic Road Pure Honey in Milton and a variety of Stump’s Hot Olive products, including Bloody Mary Mix, brussels sprouts and mushrooms. Sweets from Guth’s Candy Store in Waupun are available, too.
Haakinson said she is particularly fond of the caramel topping. She suggests drizzling it over sliced apples, or on top of apple crisps with, of course, a scoop of ice cream.
“It’s really good,” she says.
To stay on top of what’s available and when apple season at the orchard looks likely to end, check out Hawk’s Orchard Facebook page or call 608-247-6301.