Celebrating Heritage Apples in The Fraser Valley

By Kathy Mak

When it comes to apples, most of us are familiar with the supermarket’s uniform and shiny varieties. Beyond the stores in the Lower Mainland, there’s a range of local apples that are not only celebrated for their flavours but for their historical connection – referred to as heritage apples. For the love of these local apples, the annual Heritage Apple Day (October 1) festivities recently took place at the Derby Reach Regional Park in Langley.

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This 12th Apple Day festival was a free event held on the site of the original Fort Langley (1827), which is the current Derby Reach Regional Park. In 1839, a new fort was built 4 km upstream from the original and is the present day historical site of Fort Langley. Today, the 12km Fort-to-Fort bike trail links the two fort sites, including a loop at Brae Island Park and the village of Fort Langley. This trail is also part of the Trans Canada Trail and the Canyon to Coast Trail along the Fraser River.

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European settlers of the first Fort Langley planted apple orchards and some of these trees are still standing within the Derby Reach Regional Park.

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Heritage Apple Day is hosted by the Derby Reach/Brae Island Park Association and Metro Vancouver Regional Parks. The event is generously supported by volunteers, Tourism Langley and Pacific Parklands Foundation.

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At the heart of the festival is the sampling table with 17 different varieties of heritage apples, grown by local orchards. Visitors have the opportunity to learn about the origins and uses of each apple, plus taste their unique flavour and texture. There are heritage apples with origins from: British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Oregon, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Netherlands, and England.

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Originally from British Columbia, the crisp, juicy and sweet Spartan apple is part of the 1926 Macintosh X Newton family of apples. It’s ideal for cooking and eating.

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Grimes Golden apple is originally from West Virginia and the parent of the Golden Delicious apple. Flavour profile: spicy, perfumed, coriander-like flavour, crisp.

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At the site of the oldest orchards in British Columbia, where the original Fort Langley was located, a new orchard with young heritage apple trees have been planted near the Houston House (1909).

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BC Fruit Testers Association also participated in the festival with a large display of apple varieties from around the world.

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Eating apples at the festival was made more fun with a handheld spiralizer that sliced, cored and peeled apples.

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The festival was filled with family-friendly activities and displays; but the ‘hay’ play area was the biggest hit with all the kids.

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The Langley Community School Fiddlers entertained the crowd.

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There were historical re-enactments during the festival, including the importance of the voyageur canoers that transported goods up and down the Fraser River for the Hudson’s Bay Company.   These voyageurs typically wore red toques on their head and colourful wool sashes around their waist.

More Information:

Derby Reach/Brae Island Parks Association

BC Farm Fresh (where to find heritage apples)

Fort Langley National Historic Site

Tourism Langley