Awe’s apple orchard leaves people addicted

Photo courtesy Laura Bulgrin
Photo courtesy Laura Bulgrin

Many students, especially those spending their first fall in Wisconsin, want to experience the state’s famous apple picking. After all, it is one of the best ways to taste these local fruits and see the colors of the season. Milwaukee and surrounding cities offer many options, but most are aimed toward families with young children.

Fortunately, Awe’s Apple Orchard in Franklin, Wis., 8081 S. Lovers Lane, offers 22 varieties of apples and pumpkins and is only a short drive from Marquette. Paula Awe owns the orchard with her husband Don. Unlike other orchards, she said, they do not offer hayrides or children’s activities, but focus more on the produce and their delicious bakery.

“People like our orchard because we are not overly commercialized,” Paula Awe said. “We’re as close to organic as possible.”

She said they use integrated pest management, an alternative to pesticides, as well as techniques like oil sprays to protect the apples from excess moisture.

Awe said the orchard was first planted in 1948. In the 1970s, the couple converted the farm to house standard-sized trees, about 15 to 18 feet high, which dwarfed variety apple trees.

“In the space of 100 trees, we now have 1000 trees,” Paula Awe said.

Pass through their windy driveway and you can see many of the shorter varieties with fruits in shades of green, yellow, red and even purple. The most popular apples are the Courtland and Honeycrisp varieties followed by the Haralson and Janagolds.

Awe described the Honeycrisp as tart, sweet and juicy — a combination that pleases many taste buds. She said the Prairie Spy, an older variety of apple, is more tart but a good apple for baking.

Awe’s Apple Orchard offers a pick-your-own option. Grab a white-handled bag from the indoor apple store and head to the apple trees outside. Colorful ribbons mark each tree according to variety. These apples are sold for $1.50 per pound, and there is a $10 minimum. Awe said bags are often shared, but everyone participates in the picking because it is a fun experience. The bags hold 10 pounds of apples, which is less than you think. They’re probably one-third the size of a standard paper grocery bag.

The orchard is also known for its pumpkins.

“We raise specialty pumpkins just like we raise specialty apples,” Paula Awe said. Knuckle Head pumpkins stand out from the bunch for their warty, bright orange complexions, a combination between a pumpkin and a gourd. Cinderella pumpkins are squat, beautiful and a rosy-orange color, reminiscent of the carriage described in the fairy-tale.

On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Paula Awe bakes a variety of treats that have visitors traveling far and wide to buy. The most popular are the Awe’s apple cider donuts. Soft and not overly greasy or sweet, this cake-style confection is delicious and keeps for up to one week, but she said most eat them too quickly to see the expiration date.

Barbara Dahlman, an employee at the orchard, called the donuts an addiction. Don Awe said they have to make 150 to 200 dozen per weekend to fulfill demand.

“Usually they buy one and don’t get out of the driveway and they come back for more,” Paula Awe said.

One can also find goods like apple cider, pumpkin butter, mustard and caramel apple-making kits. The caramel used at the orchard is made in copper kettles by End of the Trail Candy Shoppe in Waupun, Wis.

The orchard is open seven days a week.