Fall is underway and the boughs are creaking under the weight of more apples than you could possibly bake, crunch, stew, or can. Just the smell of a ripe apple brings on a Proustian flashback to autumnal English orchards.
Especially heavenly when baked into pie, it’s undeniable that apples are the ideal fruit. Unfortunately, the vast majority of apples in any supermarket are mediocre at best. Imported from around the globe, these varieties are selected chiefly for their shelf life, disregarding notions of flavour or environmental impact. No matter how tasty it is, the idea of my fruit having more air miles than me is troubling. There’s a whole host of strange and brilliant apples out there, like October’s delicious Cox’s Orange Pippins, which are sidelined by those homogenous bland things in the fruit section of Provigo.
The solution to this is to go out and pick your own. But if like me you don’t own a car (and you shouldn’t: you’re a student in a medium-sized city with a centralized population) getting to an orchard can be problematic. It was with this in mind that I researched the best ways to pick your own apples near Montreal using public transport. Here’s what I discovered.
Your first option is to go on an “apple escapade” operated by the Agence Métropolitaine de Transport (AMT). This is certainly the simplest way to PYO. Just call (514) 287-7866 to book a place, and then turn up at the train station. AMT will shepherd you straight to the orchard, and then take you home later that day laden down with bags of apples. The total cost of the adventure is $29.50 – a steep tag for students, but one that includes the train fare and the price of a five-pound bag of apples. The last of these outings takes place on October 9 and the train departs from Gare Centrale (895 de la Gauchetière O.) at noon, returning at 5 p.m. It’s easy and hassle-free, but the strict schedule also gives the whole thing the feel of an overly-prescribed day out, sort of like a school trip but without the novelty of leaving school for the day.
Instead, I suggest you make your way to an orchard independently. Try visiting Le Pavillon de la pomme (1130 boulevard Laurier, Mont-Saint-Hilaire. To get there, all you have to do is ride a five dollar commuter train from Gare Centrale to Mont-Saint-Hilaire, crossing over the Victoria Bridge (spectacular) and through the suburbs of Montreal (snore). Five stops later you’ve arrived, and from the station, it is a mere ten-minute walk to the orchard. Le Pavillon de la pomme has over a dozen varieties of apples to choose from, and sells them at a ridiculously low cost. On a clear sunny day, this is an unbeatable way to spend an afternoon.
Another option is to go to Verger Senneville. The nearest commuter rail station is Sainte-Anne-De-Bellevue, from which it is about a 30 minute walk (see Google Maps for directions) to the orchard. This hike takes longer than the one at Mont-Saint-Hillaire, but it makes up for it by taking you through a bird sanctuary and some really quite picturesque countryside. Verger Senneville is open weekday afternoons and all day on weekends until mid-October, so hurry up and enjoy it while the season it lasts.