If you haven’t already made plans for Sunday, Oct 2, consider a trip to the 17th annual Salt Spring Island Apple Festival. Inside Fulford Hall, just minutes from the Fulford Harbor ferry terminal, you will find over 350 varieties of organically grown apples, each with a descriptive label. Ever wondered what kind of apple tree you have? Experts will have a booth set-up ready to solve your mystery—just bring an apple!

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After browsing the collection, enjoy lunch options like cob oven pizza, smoked pulled pork, and local cheeses. The Pie Lady will also have over 20 different freshly baked apple pies as well as other apple flavored baked goods.

Once you’ve filled your stomach, all 18 of the contributing orchards invite you to visit and explore. One of the best is Apple Luscious Organic Orchards, run by Harry Burton. On five-acres in the south end, this orchard has 200 apple varieties, including 14 red fleshed. Burton won’t have every single apple tabled for tasting, but you can expect to taste dozens.

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“My emphasis has been on the best tasting connoisseur apple varieties in the world, both heritage, new, and red-fleshed, like Hall’s Pink,” says Burton on his website.

Burton considers his organic orchard “wild.” This means he mows only a small circle around each tree and encourages the growth of blackberry bushes, nitrogen-fixing plants like vetches and clovers, and other weeds, such as his seven-foot-tall thistles.

“I believe this wild growth is beneficial,” says Burton. “It brings up nutrients from deep in the earth, provides lots of organics in the top soil, and becomes a living mulch to hold in moisture.”

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Burton loves to answer questions, and will be just one of many experienced farmers ready to give advice on growing apple trees. There will be apples and trees for sale in case you taste one you really enjoy.

“It’s apple heaven here,” says Burton. “Come and have a look!”

– Robert Morris