Fall is all about picks: Fantasy Football draft picks, beautifully non-filtered Instagram pics, and of course, top-notch apple picks! For the past four years, apple picking has been a cherished tradition of mine that I look forward to with glee. Nothing says “Fall” like suiting up in my overalls and sunhat, and running to climb the branches filled with nature’s sweetest candy. Even if I forget about my earnings on the kitchen table for weeks afterward (which I usually do), apple picking is an experience that only comes once a year and should be taken full advantage of. So before you become orchard-bound this fall, check out some of these tips that will hopefully make your trip as beneficial and bountiful as possible!
- Research before you go. There are many different orchards throughout the country with many different trees (and apples) to offer, and different policies. If you like to snack and pick, there are quite a few organic orchards where you can eat the apple straight from the tree! Also, some orchards are not pick-your-own, and some offer apples and pumpkins for picking.
- Time your trip accordingly. As special as apple-picking season is, it is surprisingly short. The best time to go, or when the majority of apples will be at their ripest, is between mid-September and early October. Too early will yield only a small variety of apples, and too late leaves you with the “forgotten” apples that have been dropped, bruised, stepped on, and / or rotted.
- Know where to pick. Apple trees ripen from the outside in, so the ripest picks will be on the outermost branches. You can always tell an apple is ripe by how easily it comes off the branch, or by how firm it is. Color is also a great indicator, but not always accurate.
- Pick with care. They may be tough, but apples are in no way invincible! The best apples are picked with the perfect amount of TLC, lovingly twisted and pulled from the branches. Shaking branches is highly discouraged, as it will cause the apples to drop and potentially bruise, and also stops the other, unripe apples from maturing. Once picked, be sure to continue handling them with care, and try to avoid tossing your picks towards more potential bruising in your bag. When storing, look for a cool environment and only wash just before eating to avoid exposure to some moisture.
- BYOB. This doesn’t mean what you think! Although, some smaller orchards and farms might not have refreshment stands, so it can never hurt to bring lots of water to stay hydrated in the hot apple-picking sun. However, in this case I mean to suggest Bringing Your Own Bag. Just like grocery shopping, the farm may provide bags, but every bag brought means there is one less bag wasted.
And there you have it: the ABCs of apple-picking, and one of my favorite past-times. The memories you will make will far outlast the pies that you bake, but they will both have you counting the days till your next trip.