L ike asparagus in the springtime, apples are a sure sign that autumn is near.
Leon and Edwina Boyd know that all too well. The couple started Hurricane Hollow Apple Orchard in Putnam County in 1989 after Leon retired from the Singer Sewing Company in Murfreesboro. Why apples? “I guess my mother had a big influence on that,” Leon explains. “She always wanted an apple orchard and always had apples for us children. I guess it just stuck with me.” His roots also had an influence on the name of the orchard. “Hurricane Hollow was the area Leon grew up in, about a half mile from our orchard today,” says Edwina. “Back then, old timers used the word ‘hurricane’ instead of ‘tornado,’ and they were known to happen in these parts.”
Leon says apples were also a good choice for the orchard because of the climate. More delicate fruits like peaches or pears can be damaged by the threat of frost. To determine his varieties, Leon talked to grocers, other growers, and consumers to see what characteristics he should look for in his apples. “Everyone I talked to said people wanted ‘juicy and crisp apples’—every single person,” he says laughing.
The couple has added new varieties every year. Their current listings include Gala, Jonalicious, Jonathan, Pink Lady, Cameo, Honey Crisp, Yellow Delicious, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Macintosh, Stayman-Winesap, Mutsu, and others. One of Leon’s favorite varieties right now is the Stayman-Winesap, available starting in mid-September. “It’s an apple unto itself. It’s just so sweet and juicy—the flavor is out of this world.”
The Boyds also grow some antique varieties like Wolf River, which has become one of their most popular. “I’d say four of ten people come out just for that apple,” chimes in Edwina. “They’re great for drying, applesauce, and apple butter. And they’re huge—they can weigh in at two pounds.” She adds that they are sometimes called“horse apples” because they get so large.
I asked Leon his favorite way to enjoy apples. I was referring to his preferred method of cookingpreparation (stewed, baked into pies, as applesauce, etc.), but before I could further clarify, he enthusiastically answered, “While picking!” He says he can’t help but munch on the ripe fruit when he’s in the field. And he certainly has lots of opportunities for munching: He and the occasional helper harvest all the apples from 2,000 trees on twenty acres each season.
While Leon is picking—the hillside terrain isn’t conducive to U-Pick—Edwina and their daughter work the farm shed where they sell apples and cider, which a friend with a still makes for them.
Having grown up in Ohio, I’ve always thought of apples as a more Northern fruit. However, Leon says the Middle Tennessee corridor is particularly well suited to apple production. The season is longer than up North so apples ripen weeks earlier. Plus, we’re just orth enough to allow the right “chilling time” for the trees to over-winter, which forces their buds each spring. “There’s just something about this region,” he says. “We produce some fine apples.”
The farm shed is open August through mid-November every day from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Edwina suggests calling first to see what varieties are in season.