This weekend we took a trip to Sebastapol – it’s the beginning of apple season, starting in August with Gravenstein apples, special to Sonoma County.
There are over 40 different varieties of apples that grow in the county, including “Winter Banana,” “Northern Spy,” “Sierra Beauty,” “Honey Crisp,” along with familiar “Macintosh,” Granny Smith,” “Red Delicious.”
At Luther Burbank Experiment Farm we came to see how apples are made into fresh apple juice.
In the late 19th century, Luther Burbank bought land to create the Experiment Farm, his dream of plant breeding – creating new varieties of fruits, vegetables, flowers, nuts. California was the perfect place for this experiment, due to such a fertile climate.
At the farm on Saturday and Sunday, 9am to 3pm, August through October, kids can watch apples made into juice, then taste apple juice “fresh off the press.”
Volunteers from Slow Food Russian River organize this apple pressing event every year.
To make apple juice, apples are tossed into a motor-powered “mulcher” that chops up all the apples. The mulched apples are collected in a tall container, then hand pressed with a big screw to squeeze out the juice, that flows into a bucket below.
The local high school teacher brought a mix of Asian pears from her garden and Gravenstein apples for the pressing. Other families came with boxes with mixture of apples – the kids had fun tossing the apples into the mulcher.
Bring a picnic lunch, there are picnic tables under the shady trees, then wander around the Experiment Farm to see all the different kinds of fruit trees in bloom (don’t pick the fruit, fruit is used to make jam), and trees over 100 years old, planted by Burbank.
August is also time for the Gravenstein Apple Fair in Sebastopol.
U-pick apple farms in the area are open August to November.
Check out Apple Trails for a list of farms (apples ripen at different times).
Sebastopol is perfect for a family weekend – Year round farmers market in the city plaza, the Barlow Market District, large parks and playgrounds.
If you rent a house, there are three excellent supermarkets (Community Market, Whole Foods, Safeway) in town.
Tip: Don’t forget Russian River Valley vineyards are just north of Sebastopol.
Where to stay in Sebastopol – For a hotel, we usually stay at the Fairfield Inn, and family vacation rentals with 2 night stay are also available.