Apple is never America’s top fruit, but it is grown literally everywhere. That explains why autumn is always associated with these round, red things. For most Chinese, apples are just one of the most common items of supermarkets; however, for Americans, apple-picking is a ritual that is celebrated across the nation. Although China’s apple production way surpasses the States, the culture around the fruit is definitely more prominent closer to the Atlantic. Perhaps this has something to do with the Garden of Eden?

Not to mention the popularity of apple-themed desserts, cider is one of the most popular beverages during the harvest season. It’s quite interesting how apples are taken so seriously here, maybe climate constraints of producing better tropical fruits leave apples the responsibility of being the ubiquitous cooking ingredient.

When I visited a friend in Cornell University, it occurred to us that we should visit the college’s very own orchards, whose existence can be justified by the school’s prestigious agricultural department. In general, Cornell is a wonderful place to be during the fall. Situated on a slope, layers of hues from different trees, such as green, yellow, orange, and even light purple, look whimsical from afar. Besides the quality air that I was breathing while walking around campus, it was more than refreshing to escape the bustles and hustles of the Big Apple and head out to a tranquil, serene location.

The orchards consist of countless rows of apple trees and a one-story store that was surrounded by a parking lot. Inside the building, the varieties of apples we found were astounding. There are 17,000 known apple varieties in North America. Even though we only saw around 20, the thought of being exposed to apples of dissimilar colors and sizes fascinated us. Interestingly, there were two baskets of yellow ones set aside for free tasting. The reason of no charge was that customers could suggest a name for this particular special crisp, slight tar strand. Due to its bright yellow pigmentation and pleasant sourness, I put down “duckling” as it name.

Normal supermarkets only sold limited varieties of apples, like the most known Gala and Fuji. Nevertheless, at the Cornell Orchards, it was an eye-opening experience in terms of getting to know the breeding history and the taste profile of this fruit that I had given much thought to. Moreover, it was definitely thought-provoking to hear stories about apple farmers and researchers that carefully documented the development of apple farming in the U.S. and prioritized finding new varieties.

I did not bring anything back to the city with me besides a bag of Ruby Frost. There were eight of them but it only cost me $6.50. You would not believe how delicious they were. Tears were shed and eyes were widened. Sometimes the joy of life exists in simple things. When in New York, I recommend making the trip to Ithaca to experience real apple-picking.

This article was written by Kangjie Liu. Please send an email to to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Kangjie Liu

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