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Pick your own pumpkins at Mellano Farm Stand Fall Festival weekends in Oceanside in October. Courtesy photo
ColumnsJano's Garden

Jano’s Garden: Apples? Pumpkins? You get to pick

It is apple season, and soon all our favorite fruit and vegetable markets will be filled with luscious apples. But which ones to choose for a snack and which to choose for cooking?

According to “America’s Test Kitchen,” in their delightful cookbook, “Foolproof Preserving,” the best cooking apples are Jonagold, Pink Lady, Jonathan and Macoun, while Golden Delicious, McIntosh and Rome are all acceptable. Debates have raged as to whether to cook the apples for applesauce with or without the peels. Their best test results tipped the scales in favor of including the peels.

I had the pleasure of working at one of the largest cider mills in Upstate New York, and many of the employees contributed to the “Fly Creek Cider Mill Cookbook,” by Brenda and Bill Michaels, filled with over 100 recipes for the versatile fruit. This informative cookbook is still available online at

Here is my recipe for the busy cook who would rather let the apples cook overnight than sit over the cast iron pot until the apples are perfectly cooked.


• 5 lbs. apples (use any mentioned above)

• ½ c. sugar

• ¼ tsp. salt

• 2 cups water, 2 cups fresh apple cider

• 2 cinnamon sticks

1. Core and chop apples into large chunks. Leave skin on.

2. Preheat Crockpot and add all ingredients, starting with 2 cups liquid.

3. Set time for two hours, on HIGH, and check after two hours, adding liquid as needed.

4. Continue to cook on LO until apples are soft and liquid evaporates, usually one hour.

5. When cool, store in jars. For those who don’t like peels, use a food mill or strainer to remove peels.


Here in Southern California, apples grow best inland in the towns of Julian and Ramona. The Julian Chamber of Commerce has a website filled with suggestions for picking apples as well as pears, plums and crab apples. Families can also share in the fun of hayrides, tractor rides and even camel rides! Contact them at, with the u-pick season underway.


Along with apple picking this fall comes pumpkin picking. The Mellano family has been operating their large farm in Oceanside for over 30 years and will be hosting their first annual Fall Festival each weekend in October.

The family grows all their own pumpkins, vegetables and flowers and plans fun-filled weekends to include tractor rides, music and walks through the corn maze and sunflower fields. Their farm stand will be filled with fruit and vegetables grown on the farm and homemade products such as jams and honey.

According to Michelle Castellano, “My grandfather started the farm in 1925 and we have continued to grow ever since. Although we have been a flower farm for many years, we expanded our production to include fruit and vegetables last year during COVID. We were not allowed to sell flowers last year and had to increase our production of vegetables last year to keep on our farm staff.

“Our family has also worked together to plan events such as the Fall Festival to increase the popularity of the farm.

“We love to have families hop on a tractor and ride out to the pumpkin patch. Everyone can choose their own pumpkin and take it home to decorate.”

Their farm is located at 5750 River Road in Oceanside and can be reached at (760) 517-8383 or on Facebook. Call for farm stand hours of operation.

Since the farm is located in a fairly rural area on the edge of Oceanside, customers will not have to fight traffic to get there!

Please support your local farms by visiting and shopping local this fall!

Jano Nightingale is a horticulturist who teaches classes at the Carlsbad Senior Center Community Garden and can be reached at [email protected]