Christine O’Maley spends a lovely day picking apples with her Mum at the base of the Blue Mountains, NSW
There is a place you can take your little Adams and Eves where picking apples is not a sin.
Unlike the biblical Garden of Eden where an apple purportedly sent all of humanity spiralling into a world of sin, Bilpin – known as the Land of the Mountain Apple – on Sydney’s north-western outskirts, actively encourages apple picking free of consequence.
Only an hour’s drive out of Sydney, over the bubbling Hawkesbury River and into the Blue Mountains region, we feel a world away from the city.
From the moment Richmond Road rolls into Blacktown Road we feel we could be anywhere in country NSW.
The transition from city to country comes as we pass Farifax’s Rural Press office, which sits between rolling green and gold paddocks.
Our grumbling stomachs lead us to stop for a bite in North Richmond Village.
When we alight from the air-conditioned car we are instantly reminded that the world gets a lot hotter in these parts. It’s the middle of March but it feels like a dry summer’s day.
We figure we’re too far from the sea for fish’n’chips but we are driving through rich farmland so we check out what’s on offer in North Richmond’s Vegi Patch and Continental Deli.
In true laidback country style, when we order some sandwiches with fresh deli meat and salad, the shopkeeper heads off into the grocery aisle to pick fresh ingredients off the shelf.
“Did you want iceberg or loose leaf lettuce?’’ she asks before settling on our greens.
The result is some of the freshest and cheapest sandwiches we’ve ever sunk our teeth into – $4 for pastrami with tomato and iceberg lettuce.
Unfortunately there are no picnic tables or shady spots to eat so we retreat into the cool of Gloria Jeans and refuel with a coffee before carrying on.
Once we have ascended Bellbird Hill (and hear the signature call of the eponymous native bird) we can just about taste the juicy apples Bilpin has become famous for.
A few orchards along the scenic Bells Line of Road offer apple picking. We stop at the Bilpin Fruit Bowl.
With toilet facilities, play equipment, a picnic area, fruit shop, café and pick-your-own apples, it seems to have everything we need.
Armed with all manner of carry bags (I’ve decided a sling over is the most appropriate for today’s activity but Mum, as per usual, trumps us all with her stylish basket) we wander into the Fruit Bowl.
A woman at a set of scales points us in the right direction and within a few steps we are face-to-face with rows and rows of apples. The trees are no more than a few metres high and covered from top to bottom in clumps of fruit.
There is no climbing involved, as we had previously suspected there might be, and the trees are situated within an easy pace of each other.
There are so many apples to choose from and most look so enticing it’s easy to see how Eve was tempted into picking the perfect apple.
Of course they aren’t all perfect, but that simply makes for a more organic and real experience.
We stroll up and down a few aisles of Royal Gala apples merrily picking here and there. To make sure they taste as good as they look, we wash a small one and each take a crunchy bite, which explodes with juice in our mouths. They taste better than they look.
A few rows over we come across a different variety with a purple tinge. We later learn these apples are your stock-standard Red Delicious but pre-supermarket polish, they look almost unrecognisable.
They taste better than ever. Picking them off a tree with your own hands is obviously as fresh as you can get.
My friend and I had visions of frolicking through fields of orchards in our sun dresses but with the trees planted so close together under a protective tarp it’s not quite like we imagined.
When we’ve all picked to our hearts’ content we head out of the apple aisles back to the woman with the scales. Between four of us we have picked 6.5kg of Royal Gala and Red Delicious apples and at $3 a kilo, far less than supermarket prices, our bounty comes to a total of $19.50. And there is no entrance fee or parking costs.
As we drive home past quaint roadside cafes and a mountain retreat selling alpacas, we start to salivate over the treats we will soon make with the fruits of our labour.
“Apple crumble,’’ mum suggests.
“No, apple pie,’’ I reply.
It’s been a day out for her birthday but we all decide there is no better way to top off our adventure into the country than with a classic home-style apple pie.
Bilpin Fruit Bowl is located at 2093 Bells Line of Road, Bilpin NSW. (02) 4567 1262; www.bilpinfruitbowl.com.au
Harvest times at Bilpin Fruit Bowl are from the first week in December until the end of January for stone fruit (peaches and nectarines) and first week of February until the end of March for apples. During harvest time it is open on weekends between 10am and 4pm and is also open on public holidays from Dec through to March.
No entry fee is charged but visitors pay for whatever fruit they pick. No bookings necessary.