Alabama-grown apples? Believe it or not, it can be done. “I have a horticulture book from Auburn that was published in 1933, and there is one paragraph in that book about growing apples in Alabama,” said Wes Isom, a third-generation farmer who runs Isom Orchards in Athens with wife Marlene. “Basically, it says you can’t grow apples in Alabama. And they were pretty close to being right about that.”
Alabama’s climate isn’t ideal for growing apples, which require cooler temperatures and lower humidity than the southern state generally provides. But in Alabama’s northern counties where elevation is higher, farmers like Isom make it work.
“It just limits the varieties we can grow, but we still have a lot of options — Golden Delicious, Gala, Granny Smith, Fuji, Gold Rush and Pink Ladies,” Isom said. “We adapt to our situation, and we grow a great-tasting apple. The flavor is unique because of our red clay soil.”
Isom’s apples are sold locally at their roadside stand, in addition to regional farmers markets. Locals flock to the orchard for fresh pressed apple cider, apple cider slushies and apple jelly.
Although Alabama-grown apples are worth a trip to the northern part of the state, U.S.-grown apples are widely available, and cooking with them is easy, delicious and nutritious.
Apples are used in all kinds of dishes, from desserts to soups to salads. The fruit pairs well with pork, and products like applesauce, apple cider and apple butter make getting an “apple a day” easier than Alabamians might think.
Even though apples can be used in different ways, Marlene likes to keep it simple.
“I think a sliced apple with peanut butter is pretty darn good,” she said.