By Mary Heyl

Although apples are a delicious treat any time of the year, there’s something about fall that makes them taste even better, and it’s not just your imagination! September and October are prime apple picking months, and like all produce, apples taste best when they’re in season. With colder temperatures and the holiday season on the way, sweet apple desserts are probably on your mind, but there’s a lot of other fun ways to enjoy the official fruit of New York State.

That’s right, the apple is New York’s official fruit, and for good reason! New York is one of the largest apple producing states in the country, second only to Washington State, and grows and markets more commercial varieties of fresh-market apples than any other region in the United States. According to the New York Apple Association, New York has almost 700 growers and over ten million apple trees that produce enough apples each year to bake 500 million apple pies!

Maybe baking 500 million apple pies is not on your to-do list this month, but if you are planning a few apple recipes, keep the following tips in mind. Not all apples are ideal for every recipe, although most are good for just plain old eating. When baking desserts with apples, it’s a good idea to select varieties that are known for their crispness and firm texture so that they don’t become mushy when baked. Of course, Granny Smith apples are known for these qualities as well as their tart flavor, but there are other delicious New York varieties that are known for their crispness and slightly tart flavor such as Cortlands, Galas, Romes and Crispins.

If you didn’t get a chance to eat all your apples before they got soft, it’s no problem! Save these overripe apples for apple sauce, which is even more delicious when you combine a few different apple varieties. If you’re shopping for apples specifically to make sauce, go for McIntosh apples, which cook down quickly and have that classic sweet/tart flavor!

Simply peel and core your apples (5 or 6 pounds for a large batch of sauce) and chop into somewhat even 1 to 2 inch pieces for even cooking. Add a cup of liquid (water, apple juice, or apple cider) and cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes. For a chunkier sauce, use a potato masher to break up the pieces or puree the sauce with an immersion blender for a smoother texture. Add sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. Enjoy your apple sauce all winter long: can your apple sauce or freeze it in zippered bags.

Thinking of using your apples for home décor? Whether sprucing up a wreath or creating a nice fall table-scape, there’s nothing like real apples to give your décor an authentic flair. Red Delicious apples are obviously a tasty snack, but this variety of apples looks great for a long time, as they maintain their uniform color and stay firm—great for decorating.

Did you know that apples are 25 percent water? This is why they’re such a satisfying snack and the reason why they float! Try out Martha Stewart’s fun decorating idea for floating apple votives! First, fill a small steel tub with water. Place a few apples in the water and select the ones that float the best—mark the topsides of these apples. Place a tea light over the dot and trace around it with a paring knife. Carve out the circle, which should be as deep as the tea light is tall. Make sure to squeeze a few drops of lemon juice on the cut surface to keep it from browning. Insert a tea light and float the apple in the water. Light all your candles and enjoy your unique floating apple votives—all the fun of bobbing for apples without getting wet!