Mainz: German orchard offers visitors a bushel of apple-picking fun
One of my fondest childhood memories was spending fall afternoons picking apples at my grandmother’s farm in Virginia. After spending a day at some orchards near Mainz, Germany, I discovered it’s just as much fun as an adult.
Appel Happel is a family-owned farm that allows you to grab a wheelbarrow and spend some time strolling through their orchards to pick apples and pears to either enjoy on the spot or to take home.
Every year from the end of August to Oct. 31, Appel Happel opens its gates to visitors wanting the opportunity to pick fruit from the farm’s trees.
You can take your own bag to stash what you pick (the farm store can weigh your empty bag before you start picking since you will be charged by the weight) or use one of the farm’s wheelbarrows or boxes at no charge.
Before heading into the rows of trees, stop at the information board at the entrance. It shows the rows of apples that are ripe to pick and tells the taste characteristics of each type. Just keep in mind the German words for ripe (reif), sweet (süss) and sour (sauer) and you should be good to go.
Also set up outside the farm store next to the orchards is a table that allows you to taste the varieties of apples that are currently ripe. I was glad this was available, because I never realized how many types and tastes there are.
After setting my sights on the Cox’s Orange apple (sweet and sour) and the Birnen pears, I set out into the orchards. There are signs at the entrance to each row, telling you what types are there and when they should be ripe.
I spent a couple of hours relaxing and strolling through the rows, taking in the scenery and occasionally reaching up for that “perfect” piece of fruit.
“These apples taste better than ones from the store, and I like picking them ourselves,” said Mainz resident Julia Zeise, who vistied with her husband and two children. “For the children, it’s nice to see where the apples grow.”
Appel Happel is designed with families in mind. There is a child-sized trampoline outside the orchards and a picnic area where families can watch the children play while enjoying some fresh fruit or the farm’s delicious apple juice.
You definitely don’t want to leave before trying the apple juice. Each batch tastes different, depending on what type of apples are used. I couldn’t believe how good it was, like putting a straw right into an apple.
Mondays to Saturdays, you can get a taste of the farm’s juice for free. It’s the customers’ “salary” for picking the apples themselves, joked Ilonka Happel, who along with husband Stephen owns the farm.
Happel said she thinks part of the farm’s appeal is the recent trend of people wanting to eat more healthily. “The whole organic thing has taken over, especially in recent years where the grocery stores have been selling some bad stuff,” she said.
The farm store is open all year and features fresh fruit from the farm along with homemade jams and jellies, fruit wine, apple cider, honey and much more.
On the QTDIRECTIONS
From Wiesbaden Army Airfield, take B455 and get on Autobahn 671 toward Darmstadt. Exit onto A60 toward Bingen and continue for five miles. Take exit 20 for Mainz-Lerchenberg and turn left at the end of ramp. Take the immediate right ramp onto ZDF Strasse, then a left onto Marienborner Bergweg. The farm is at No. 33; you’ll see signs for Appel Happel.
The orchards are open to the public from the end of August to the end of October from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 3-6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. They are open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday in September. The farm store is open year-round from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 3-6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday except Wednesday, when it is open for the afternoon hours only. It is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. The farm also hosts an apple festival Oct. 2-3, with entertainment and pony rides and chocolate apples.
There is no entrance fee. The charge for picking apples and pears is 1.20 euros per kilogram (2.2 pounds) picked, with reduced rates for larger quantities. I walked away with 10 apples and eight pears for 3.50 euros. In the store, a liter of fresh apple juice costs 1.45 euros or 1.30 euros if you bring your own bottle.
There are apples and pears from the orchard, fresh produce, jams, jellies, fruit wines and honey from the store. There is also a restaurant behind the apple orchards that serves traditional Austrian food.
The website (German only) is www.appel-happel.de. The farm’s phone number is 06131-35905; staffers speak varying amounts of English.