ELLSWORTH — The apple trees are producing sweeter fruit than usual because of this year’s drought, but despite the lack of rain it should be an average year, growers report.
“The flavors are really good,” said Brett Johnston, owner of Johnston’s Apple Orchard in Ellsworth. “The apple sugar is more concentrated during dry years.”
But, the fruit is smaller because of a lack of rain.
“Normally this time of year, they’ll grow a quarter inch a week,” said Johnston. “But there’s no water.”
Johnston only remembers one other year in 60 years that it’s been this dry.
“It’s the driest year I’ve seen for a long time,” he said. “The trees are actually doing alright.”
“I can’t complain,” he added. “It could be so much worse. We’re hoping for a good, long season.”
Renae Moran, professor of pomology at the University of Maine, said she hasn’t heard much from growers other than business at farm stands and pick-your-own orchards has been busier than usual.
It’s pretty easy to social distance at an apple orchard.
“They are complaining about the drought, but we expect harvest to go on as normal,” said Moran.
The professor said she has seen more than the usual “pre-harvest fruit drop” in her orchards at Highmoor Farm in Monmouth. That’s a result of the drought. Johnston said he expects the same.
Johnston’s is open for pick your own daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., weather permitting. The long-range forecast looks like the weather will be permitting for quite a while.
Wight’s Apple Orchard on Route 46 in Bucksport is opening Saturday, Sept. 19, at 9 a.m.
Wight’s will be open daily “until people stop coming,” usually around Nov. 1, said owner Philip Wight. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“It’s good what we got,” Wight said of the crop on his 15 acres. “Some are of good size and some aren’t. Another couple weeks, they’ll be bigger, I hope.”
Wight’s grows nine varieties, including Macs, Cortland, Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious, Macouns and Northern Spy.