They can be tangy, sweet, sour, tart, crisp, soft, and shiny. Apples are much more than a fruit falling from a tree. They may be considered Mother Nature’s candy. Apples in the grocery store may be coming all the way from states such as New York, Washington, and Michigan. However, why buy an apple from across the country when you can eat delicious apples grown in New Mexico? In northern New Mexico is the town of Dixon, and just three miles to the west you will find the community of Cañoncito where the Martinez Apple Orchard grows.
It began two generations previous with Delfin Martinez and his wife, Beatrice. Delfin was in the middle of a game of black jack with Beatrice’s uncle. Delfin won the bet and acquired 15 acres of land containing an abundance of apple trees. Here the Martinez Apple Orchard was established. The orchard has since grown to 18.5 acres of land growing fruits such as apples, cherries, and peaches. The orchard is a family owned operation and is led by Delfin’s son, Fred Martinez, with his wife Ruby. Being a family run orchard, I had the delightful opportunity of speaking with Fred Martinez’s nephew, Frankie Martinez. He was able to explain the operations of the family apple orchard in some depth.
The orchard currently has about 9 different varieties of apples to choose from. There are Macintosh, Romans, and Jonathan apples. They also have Golden delicious and a Jonagold apple which is a hybrid of Golden Delicious and Jonathan apples, yum! Also being grown are Gala apples and Granny Smith. Frankie told me they even have a tree that produces what they call a Banana Apple.
“We rarely sell this one. It is very sweet and soft. It really almost tastes like a banana. Ha-ha! It tends to ripen very early in the summer. However, our most popular apples are Golden Delicious and Red Delicious. Golden Delicious are personally my favorite. They are a lot sweeter with a bit of a tangy taste to them. They usually have a nice crunch to them as well. Macintosh apples are also really good; they are a little more on the bitter side. Depending on how ripe it is, they can be either very crisp or a little more mushy.”
“Does Martinez Apple Orchards sell any value added products?”
“Yes we do, depending again on the time of year. Toward the middle of October there is the Dixon Art Tour. The whole town is set up for this studio art tour. Visitors come and tour different houses with local art on display. For this event my mom, aunt, and cousins make apple pies to sell. We also prepare the usual cider and caramel apples.”
“Which apples can I expect in a caramel apple? Are some better to use than others?”
“We usually make our caramel apples with Granny Smith because they are a little more bitter. The tarter the apple, the better it is for baking.”
“What is the usual day like when working on the apple orchard in season?”
“The way we work is by starting with of a group of people picking apples all day. We have a tractor for loading, and when we have filled it up we take it to our shed to start sorting. Most of my family are the ones doing the sorting. This takes a long time and sometimes we’ll stay up as late as midnight. We have a machine that my grandpa bought which polishes the apple to make them look presentable. It rotates the apple all around which allows us to see if there are any bird bites or insect holes. The apples that are still good but don’t look as nice are turned into cider. We then continue to sort the apples by size into large boxes. In the end the hard work is worth the reward I’d say.”
“How is the apple orchard kept alive through the winter?”
“The early spring is actually when we really have to take care of the trees and prevent them from freezing. This is when many of the trees are blooming and are most vulnerable. It’s a real hassle. My uncle has an alarm which notifies him when the temperature is low enough to cause the trees to freeze. We have large torches set up about every 40 yards. He lights these to keep the trees warm. We also have a large wind machine which circulates the air on top of the trees to keep it from staying dormant and cool. As the spring season begins to warm and the trees begin to bloom, we have a bee keeper come to allow the bees to pollinate the orchard. In turn, the bee keeper collects all the honey that was made. ”
“How may I plan on buying your apples?”
“We sell a lot of our produce at local farmers markets. We are most prominent in Taos, Española, Santa Fe, and Los Alamos. We do not travel to Albuquerque as much, but it is possible to find us there every now and then. For special events we will also sell in Angel Fire and Red River.”
“We will also sell large orders for those who want to buy from us. Sometimes we have our regular customers driving all the way from Texas to buy our apples. This last year was also our first year selling to the Albuquerque Public Schools (APS). We started by selling around 1,200 bushels or more to APS. My uncle is willing to take the necessary trips to Albuquerque to supply the amount being bought. If our customers stay happy, we will likely continue to sell to APS.”
I always look forward to the moment of biting into the Martinez Apple Orchard’s Golden Delicious. It is sweeter and more delicious than any apple I have bought from a supermarket. If you ever wish to try a new and refreshing apple you may travel to Dixon to be greeted by pleasant family with an amazing orchard full of fresh fruit.
-Posted by Lynnea