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Gvarv, the apple capital of Telemark

It’s no surprise that the small village of Gvarv in Telemark, a two-hour drive from Oslo, has been named Fruktbygda (The Fruit Village). Despite having just over 1,000 inhabitants, its half million fruit trees ensure that the area cultivates 3,000 tons of apples and 1,000 tons of plums and sweet cherries a year. In fact, one in four apples grown in Norway comes from this region.

Gvarv is regularly the warmest place in Norway during summer, thanks in large part to the big, beautiful Norsjø lake and the surrounding mountains which create the perfect microclimate for cultivating some of the best fruit in the country. Telemark apples, Telemark sweet cherries, and Telemark plums are all protected geographical indications, just like the grapes in Champagne.

Now, exciting breweries, cider makers, and quaint farm shops are popping up around every corner. You're in for a tasty vacation in the Fruit Village!

As the 'apple capital' of Southeastern Norway, Gvarv even has its own apple festival, which is held on the last Saturday of September each year. Join in on the harvest celebration where you can sample local food, art, crafts, song and dance. But the festival's main attraction is its farmers' market.

The fruit farmers in Gvarv take great pride in their fresh products. Meet the dedicated people who harvest the fruit and transform it into delicious treats, and get inspiration on what to see and taste.

From apples to beer

Apples, plums and sweet cherries are neatly distributed over 100 acres of land on Lindheim farm. Autumn is the busiest time of the year for the Lindheim family, and the other fruit farms in the village. 

The farm has been in Ingeborg's family since 1720. In 2013, when Ingeborg took over the fruit farm from her parents, she saw new potential in the old apple trees, as well as the cherries and plums that were first planted in the 1990s.

"We continued the production of apple juice, but expanded into making ciders and brewing beer as well", says Ingeborg.

Ingeborg and her husband, Eivin Eilertsen, set up their brewery in the old barn from 1954. Downstairs, under the new section of the barn, you’ll find the beer and cider cellar. Here, the cider is fermented and stored in oak barrels.

The Lindheims get their inspiration from Belgian brewing traditions, as well as modern craft brewing from the West Coast of the USA. They add fruit such as apples, rhubarb, plums and cherries from the farm as an ingredient in their beer. They also experiment with exciting flavour combinations, like combining fresh raspberries with salt and coriander. 

The harvest varies from year to year, which gives all their beverages a unique seasonal taste, like wine. 

"Since we produce several kinds of beverages, we have the opportunity to play with different apple varieties. We also use crabapple, which is normally used as a pollinating fruit. This is an apple that’s too sour to eat straight from the tree, but it’s perfect in our beverages," says Ingeborg.

You’ll find a lot of new, up-and-coming cider and juice makers in Telemark. 

Among them is Lien Gård, by the Norsjø lake, which sells ciders, honey, and jams. At Nedre Røste Gård farm in Hjuksebø, a 25-minute drive from Gvarv, you can see how NeRø Frukt og Sider make their organic apple cider. Sideriet in Lunde makes its ciders made from fermented Discovery apple juice, which give them a fruity and dry taste. 

All of these farms are part of the exciting Norwegian cider and apple juice boom

Visiting a beautiful farm in Gvarv is a soul-soothing experience. The view of the flowering orchard in May, when the trees are in bloom, is lovely. In summer, the farm shops and stands are filled with seasonal fruits and vegetables, such as cherries, strawberries and raspberries, followed by plums, apples and pears later in the season towards the autumn.

"The scent of freshly pressed apples is amazing," says farmer Kari Nyhuus Holtskog.

Nyhuus Gard has been growing apples since 1920. Kari Nyhuus Holtskog and her husband Halvor Holtskog are third generation fruit farmers, and run this idyllic farm as well as the Nyhuus Art Gallery, also on the property.

The gallery actually occupies the former stables, barn, and pig sty. Here, you can experience Norwegian and Nordic contemporary art during summer, and enjoy the view of Lifjell mountain and Norsjø lake while sipping the farm's own award-winning apple juice from its farm shop (always open!).

At the Nyhuus farm, they grow many different kinds of apples, including Summerred, Discovery, Aroma, Rubinstep, Katja, yellow and red Gravenstein, Åkerø and Elstar, to mention a few.

According to the local fruit farmers, apples can taste very different, even though they look similar. 

"It’s the same with apples as it is with grapes and wine. Not all red wine tastes the same, just as not all red or green apples taste the same," says Halvor Holtskog. 

The Red Gravenstein apple, for example, is a juice apple with an acidic taste and a firm consistency, while the Åkerø apple has a mild flavour and is more aromatic.

Even though the fruit farms of Gvarv are located close to each other, their products can taste completely different, even when the same varieties of apple have been used. We invited the Nyhuuses to accompany us to the Lindheim's farm to celebrate the harvest and sample a taste of this year's apple juice made from Aroma apples.

"The Aroma apple is a well balanced apple. It is very good as a main ingredient in apple juice or ciders, and can be combined with the Katja apple or the Discovery apple, for example. So it’s a nice all-rounder," explains Halvor.

"I always say you can taste the difference from orchard to orchard," continues Halvor.

The time of the harvest can also affect both the taste of the apple juice, as well as its colour. At the Lindheim farm, the apples were harvested quite late this year.

Kari really enjoyed her neighbour's juice. "Your apple juice was a tiny bit sweeter than ours, so it will be perfect with food. It's so fresh." 

From orchards to vineyards

If you want to experience more of this fruit country, why not spend a romantic night in a converted oak barrel, at one of the world's northernmost vineyards?

At Lerkekåsa, you can learn about the process of making wine in a Nordic country (!) and end your day with a good night's sleep among the vines.

"We had no experience with wine production when we bought this place in 2018. Everything we know, we learned from the previous owners and the other fruit farmers in the area," say owners Odd Eugen Wollberg and Lill Gjestad Wollberg.

The vineyard is situated lies 100 metres above sea level in a sunny area facing Norsjø lake. Where apples and vegetables were once cultivated, you’ll now find different varieties of grape instead, used to make both red and white wine. Although the couple have several varieties of grape, their main crop is Solaris rapes, which originally hail from Northern Germany. The grapes make a fruity white wine, with a level of acidity and sweetness that varies according from season to season. 

The couple also makes fruit wine, made from local apples. 

Although Gvarv is mostly known for its apples, plums, and cherries, the couple believe the local climate is also perfect for making splendid Nordic wines.

More things to do in Telemark

Norsjø Ferieland is one of the most popular holiday parks in southern Norway. Here, you can test your surfing skills your skills on artificial waves. Bø Sommarland, one the biggest and most popular water parks in Norway is only a few minutes' drive from Gvarv.

Numerous hiking opportunities await in the nearby Lifjell mountains.You can also try your luck at spotting the mythical “Seljordsormen”, the Seljord lake monster, from the cool observation tower in Seljord

Gaustatoppen, one of the most popular hikes in Southern Norway, is also nearby. Hitch a ride with a quite remarkable remnant from the Cold War-era: a tramway and cable car that goes all the way to the top – inside the mountain!

The starting point for the hike is a 1.5-hour drive from Gvarv. Make sure to also stop by the Heddal Stave Church, close to Notodden.

Things to do in the Fruit Village

Visit a quaint farm shop in Gvarv or enjoy other fun activities in the area.

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