As you approach northern Finström, something happens to the landscape. On both sides of the road towards Geta there are rows upon rows of apple trees in large billowing fields.
In the early part of the summer the trees are white with apple blossom; in the late summer they are red with fruit; and in the late autumn they are dazzling with autumn leaves against the grey light.
About five million kilograms of apples were produced in Finland in 2012. Three million of them – or 62% – came from Åland. A total of 270 hectares are cultivated by 44 apple producers. Today more than 70 percent of apples cultivated in Finland come from Åland. Most Ålander apples are sold on the Finnish market.
Climate suited to apples
The climate, especially in Finström, Geta and Vårdö, favours the cultivation of apples – the springs come late and there is less risk of frost when the trees come into flower, the summers are sunny and the autumns are long and warm.
Jan Mattsson of Finström Vestanträsk grew up on a farm that cultivated apples and had been a family farm since the 1700s. He has 80,000 apple trees on 33 hectares of land.
“Apples have been cultivated at Grannas since the early 60s. In 2000 we started cultivating new varieties and using modern cultivation systems – the cultivation of apples has increased rapidly since then. We started manufacturing juice in 2007,” says Jan.
Harvest time and varieties
During flowering you thin out the unripe fruit, keep an eye on noxious insects and hire in bees from local bee-keepers – a collaboration that benefits both parties. Feel free to sample the excellent Åländer honey.
In the summer new trees are planted from seedlings that come primarily from Belgium and Holland. The trees are replanted every 15–25 years.
Harvest time starts around 20 August and lasts a couple of months. At that time the work force increases to 35 people. What is harvested in the autumn goes straight to the shops, whereas the winter fruit goes into storage.
“The ten or so main varieties include July Red and Transparent Blanche summer apples, Jaspi, Discovery and Summer Red autumn apples, and the Lobo, Aroma, Santana, Gloster, Rubinola and Zari winter varieties, which are allergy-friendly,” tots up Jan.
At the Grannas factory the apples are scanned and sorted on the new tailor-made conveyor. Then they are packed into boxes and bags.
A tenth of them are second-class industrial fruit, which together with apples bought from other farmers are made into juice. The juice is packed into 3-litre ‘Bag in Box’ containers or into small plastic bottles that are sold in shops.
The manufacture of juice started one year when Grannas had frost at the flowering stage and the apples acquired appearance flaws.
The idea of “Bag in Box” packaging with vacuum-packed bags came from trade fairs and large hotels’ packaging in Europe. Grannas produced a household-friendly variant that can be stored at room temperature and, once opened, can be kept in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
You will find Grannas apple juice in shops in Åland and Finland.
Apple producer Peders Aplagård in Kökar Österbygge has a farm shop and restaurant.