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Published September 25, 2009, 02:23 PM

Explore the wonders of fall’s harvest bounty

There’s enough to do in Minnesota this fall to plan a week’s vacation or fill up your weekends, so don’t miss the chance to take in the wildly colorful scenery and the abundant harvest of Minnesota grown agricultural products.

There’s enough to do in Minnesota this fall to plan a week’s vacation or fill up your weekends, so don’t miss the chance to take in the wildly colorful scenery and the abundant harvest of Minnesota grown agricultural products.

Many orchards, pumpkin patches and other farms have a variety of activities such as hayrides, corn mazes, walking paths, fall festivals, petting zoos and more!

Minnesota is bursting with apples from many orchards, including the 104 locations listed in the 2009 Minnesota Grown directory. You can pick a peck of the popular Minnesota varieties, such as Honeycrisp, Haralson and Zestar as well as many others.

Apple picking is a great activity for family members of all ages and some orchards feature smaller trees that make apple picking easy for kids. Don’t want to pick your own? There are plenty of pre-picked Minnesota apples at an orchard, farmers’ market or grocery store near you.

Come October, the pumpkin takes center stage at Minnesota’s pumpkin farms. For some, finding that perfect pumpkin at the pumpkin patch can be just as fun as decorating or carving it. The Minnesota Grown directory is a great resource to find pumpkin paradise, with 141 listings.

This is also a great time of year to plan a tour of one of Minnesota’s many wineries, including 20 locations featured in the Minnesota Grown directory. Bring your family to see how wine is made, discover the beautiful vineyard scenery and learn more about Minnesota’s award-winning wines. Some wineries have wine tasting events, grape stomping, tours, picnic areas and more. You can also learn more about grape varieties, such as those developed by the University of Minnesota — which boasts one of the top wine grape programs in the United States.

The 2009 Minnesota Grown directory lists more than 730 orchards, berry patches, garden centers, markets and other places where you can buy direct from the farmer. You can get a free printed directory by calling 1-800-657-3878.

If you visit the online directory at the Web site, www.minnesotagrown.com, you’ll find 20 more listings that were added after the printed version was issued last spring.

Make sure it’s MN grown

The next time you shop for those popular Honeycrisp apples, it pays to be selective, because not all Honeycrisp are created equal. While these apples were developed by the University of Minnesota and are abundant in Minnesota, they are also grown in states with warmer climates, resulting in a different taste.

For example, Honeycrisp apples grown in western states can be found in our local grocery stores and markets but Minnesota growers say the home-grown apples have superior taste because they were grown in a cool climate, as intended.

University of Minnesota apple breeder David Bedford, part of the team that developed the Honeycrisp, says the variety must be planted in a cool climate to produce the best-tasting fruit.

“Cool weather is key to the great taste of the Honeycrisp,” says Bedford. “So when it’s grown in warmer climates, the quality deteriorates. “When harvested at the right time, the Honeycrisp grown right here in Minnesota have the highest quality and best taste of any that I have eaten.”

There are plenty of places to find Minnesota grown Honeycrisp apples. You can pick them up at farmers’ markets throughout the state and many growers pre-pick the Honeycrisp variety to sell at their orchards.

In the grocery store, be sure to look for the Minnesota Grown sign next to the Honeycrisp apples or ask your grocer to verify where they were grown.

Check the 2009 Minnesota Grown directory for the orchard or farmers’ market nearest you by visiting the Web site at www.minnesotagrown.com.

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