When her small Medford orchard opens each fall to U-pickers, Clover Leonard hopes to reverse the reputation of one "bad" apple.

When her small Medford orchard opens each fall to U-pickers, Clover Leonard hopes to reverse the reputation of one "bad" apple.

Golden Delicious trees make up a third of Leonard's orchard off Ross Lane. But the variety is no liability to Leonard who extols the apple's virtues — so long as it's been tree-ripened.

"You want to eat those at the peak," Leonard said.

Contrary to their name, Golden Delicious apples from many supermarkets are mushy and tasteless, she said. She blames months spent in cold storage.

"That's an apple that's gotten a bad rap," Leonard said.

Picked straight off the tree, however, a Golden Delicious shows its true character — crisp and flavorful, Leonard said. Many loyal U-pick customers agree.

"They're just good," said Tandra McCoy, 41, of Eagle Point. "You can't beat it."

McCoy harvested bushels of Leonard's Gravensteins last month but will return for next week's Golden Delicious harvest. Leonard said her apples will last through October, when Fujis and Newtown Pippins are ripe. Call 772-2389 for hours.

Although not organic, the orchard that borders Griffin Creek is "sustainable," Leonard said. Some spraying for pests is done and chemical fertilizers are used, she said.

Otherwise, Leonard, 57, and her 71-year-old husband, Larry, couldn't justify the 3-acre orchard, purchased in 2002 from a neighbor.

"We try to do just what's minimally necessary to get a crop," Leonard said.

Last year's "humongous" crop of about 10 tons allowed the Leonards to donate about 3,000 pounds to the county's emergency food bank, ACCESS Inc., and the pre-school program Head Start.

The Leonards wholesale to several local retailers, including Southern Oregon Sales Pear Station, Fox Run Farm and White Produce in Medford and Farmers Market in Phoenix. But they encourage U-picking, an activity that seems to draw more seniors than any other age group, Leonard said.

"They're the ones who ... grew up picking apples," she said.

Yet plenty of parents like McCoy bring their children, who don't have to climb to reach apples on the 30-year-old orchard's smallest trees, Leonard said. Picking quickly turns into a competition for the biggest or prettiest apple.

"I really want kids to know that apples come from trees," Leonard said.

Near harvest's end, Leonard slashes the price of 45 cents per pound about in half and sets up an apple press. Customers can make all the fresh-squeezed apple juice they want. An avid home-canner, McCoy manufactures quarts of applesauce and pie filling every fall. Her family of seven enjoys fresh Fujis and Pippins all winter.

"It's a way to make ends meet," McCoy said. "You don't have the preservatives ... and you don't have the apples sitting in cold storage for months."

Apples keep well if placed in a single layer and stored in a cool garage or basement, Leonard said. For even better results, wrap apples individually in newspaper, she added.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail slemon@mailtribune.com.