Fall in southwestern Quebec is a special time. Not only does it mean cooler nights and shorter days, it’s also when Mother Nature shows off. In most years by mid-to-late September the leaves start changing and by early-to-mid October, nature’s symphony of fiery color is at its peak.
Aside from leaf peeping one of the most popular family-oriented activities at this time of year is apple picking, and Montrealers are very lucky to have two main regions to choose from: Rougemont and Oka, both within a 45 minute drive of the city.
In either region, there are literally dozens of orchards to choose from that are open to the public and cater to families.
After all, what could be more fun on a nice sunny fall day than getting out of the city with the ones you love to spend a few hours picking all the fresh fruit you can eat?
The region we go to every autumn is Oka, located off the western end of Highway 640 northwest of Montreal. In the past few years we’ve been to a half dozen different orchards there, but the one we keep going back to is a place called Jude-Pomme; a play on the French term for Apple Juice – Jus de Pomme.
I find the Cortland and Lobo hold up well in the oven for my fall baking and McIntosh are tart and crispy making them ideal for a healthy snack.
Arrive before 10:30 on weekends to avoid the crowds.
On the way in there’s an information area where they explain the differences between all of the varieties, and allow you to sample them free of charge. This is a great way to help you decide what you’ll want to pick before you head out into the orchard.
Once you’ve decided which varieties you want, you’ll purchase bags at the entrance. A twenty pound bag of apples is $15.00 – smaller bags for pears and plums are $8.00 and $6.00 respectively.
A twenty pound bag of apples may seem like a lot, but for families with several kids, and those who like to bake, you may want to consider more than one. And yes you can mix as many different varieties into each bag as you wish – though be aware, some are easier to tell apart than others.
Of course the perfect fruit have a tendency to hide high enough on the trees to be just out of reach, but don’t despair, there are plenty of ladders available to help you get to the ones you want.
The place is huge with several thousand trees spread out over the property, but everything is clearly marked and there are plenty of staff on hand to point you in the right direction.
They run the operation with families in mind and offer live music, tractor rides through the orchard,
and there are plenty of picnic tables and grassy areas to sit down and enjoy a family lunch together.
Though there is a restaurant onsite, visitors are welcome to bring their own food, and you’ll find outdoor stands near the entrance that offer locally-made products such as honey, cheese, and maple syrup.
The gift shop/bakery also sells fresh apple juice, cider and sparkling cider, preserves from various farms in the regions, and of course lots of baked goods. Everything looks and smells so delicious you won’t know where to stop.
Located at 223 rang Sainte-Sophie in Oka, Quebec, Jude-Pomme is open seven days a week from 9:30 am until 5:00 pm.
Here’s a picking calendar on their website to give you a rough idea of when to go depending on what you’d like to pick: http://www.judepomme.com/JUDEPOMME.html
Now that we have all of these apples at home, stayed tuned for a follow-up baking post real soon.