Fresh apples from local orchards are in abundance this time of year — Winesap, Rome, Granny Smith, Mutsus. They come in all colors from deep reds to pinks, greens and yellows. I like apples that are crisp and tart with a sweet edge.

This year's crop is a mixed bag, though, says Jane Wheeler of Wheeler's Orchards in Dunlap, Tennessee. A late spring frost decimated the Ginger Gold and Arkansas Black crops. But, Wheeler says, "This is the year for our Golden Delicious and Rome Beauties to shine."

In addition to Goldens and Romes, Wheeler's Orchard has groves of apples that are a cross between several well-known varieties, such as Blushing Golden, a tart apple; and Jonagold, a cross between Jonathons and Golden Delicious that has a mellow, sweet flavor.

The Goldens and Blushing Goldens are already being picked; Winesaps, Red Delicious, MacIntosh and Liberty apples will arrive this month, too. Romes will begin to be harvested in early October, as will Granny Smiths, Fujis, Braeburns and Hardy Cumberlands, so apple lovers have a long season ahead to enjoy.

Area farmers markets are brimming with local apples now, so make sure you take advantage of the season and bring a bushel home. Keep them in the fridge and they'll last quite some time. Apple pies, sauteed apples, turnovers, breads — there are as many ways to use them as there are varieties grown by area farmers.

Wheeler's apples can be found at St. Alban's Episcopal Church farmer's market (7514 Hixson Pike) every Saturday during apple season, as well as at Main Street Farmers Market (1804 Chestnut St.), which happens 4-6 p.m. Wednesdays.

This cake gets raves every time I serve it. It's one I make and take as thank-you gifts year-round, when needed. But it's perfect right now for an autumn dessert and absolutely delicious for a sweet finish to a chili dinner in the winter. The oil in the cake, as well as the juice from the apples as they bake, makes it extremely moist. And is there any better icing than cream cheese frosting? Oh my. Make sure you get a piece before it's gone. And if there's any left over, it's delicious with a cup of coffee at breakfast.


Fresh Apple Cake

1 cup oil

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

3 cups peeled, chopped apples

Cream cheese frosting:

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

1 box (1 pound) powdered sugar

1 stick butter

2 teaspoons vanilla

Measure oil into large bowl; add sugar and eggs, and mix until well blended. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon; add to creamed mixture, beating well. Add vanilla. Fold in nuts and apples.

Pour mixture into greased 9- by 13-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool completely and frost with cream cheese frosting.

To make frosting: Combine all ingredients and blend well. Spread over cooled cake.

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Anne Braly