BEST APPLE ORCHARD (1999)
Fall. Minnesota. Apples. Any questions? Well, yes: Like, are there any among the 40-some apple orchards listed in the Minnesota Grown directory (visit www.mda.state.mn.us, or call (651) 297-8695) whose trees aren't drenched in toxic sprays four or five times during the growing seasons? Answer: Only one that we could find--and as luck would have it, it's hidden inside one of the metro's loveliest and least appreciated parks. The Carpenter Center still resorts to one pesticide spray, applied in July, but otherwise battles the bugs through a variety of ingenious "Integrated Pest Management" methods. You can't gather your own (picky pickers waste at least half of an orchard's crop, notes center director Jim Fitzpatrick), but who needs the extra labor when there's so much else to do? Spend your time exploring the center's extensive nature trails or--on the last Sunday in September--taking in the fall apple festival's full program of entertainment and education. Then just pick up as many five-pound bags as you can carry: All the standard varieties are represented, along with a few old-timers bearing names like Chieftain and Oriole.