One of the things I look forward to each fall is going to the orchards to pick apples. It seems that it’s either something people love or something they “just don’t get” (why pick apples when there are perfectly good ones available at the store?). For me though, it’s always a day of fall fun! It would be a great way to spend time with the grandkids! If you’d like to go apple picking, here are some tips to help you have a great experience!
Determine what you’ll be doing with the apples.
There’s no sense in picking apples if you aren’t going to eat them. Take some time to determine what you’ll be doing with the apples – packing them in the kids’ lunchboxes? Making pies, apple butter, chunky apple sauce or cider? Apples can also be dried out for a Halloween decoration, or of course put on a stick and dipped in caramel or chocolate for a classic fall treat. It’s good to know which apples are best for which use. Fun Fact: Indians in the Northwest Territory in Canada smoked wild apples to preserve them for the winter (I would love to taste one of those!)
For this Autumn Apple Cake, I used Honey Crisp, which is one of my very favorites.
Find out which varietals of apples are available in your area. You may want to visit your local grocer or farmer’s market ahead of time to purchase and test out several of the available varietals so you know which ones you and your family prefer.
Find the perfect apple orchard.
There are probably more apple orchards that allow picking than you think. Orange Pippen is a website about all things apples, pears, cherries and plums – they discuss varieties and give you a list of orchards that offer them for sale. There are 2237 orchards listed in the United States and 115 in Canada. Orchards in the UK are also listed.
We’re fortunate to live next to Washington’s beautiful Green Bluff area which is an unincorporated farming community with plenty of PYO (pick-your-own) orchards and vegetable gardens. There are also hayrides, PYO pumpkins, gift shops, restaurants with fresh homemade items, wine and mead tasting (a fermented beverage made from honey) and a few animal petting areas.
Learn the correct way to pick an apple.
The apples on the outer parts of the tree will be ripe before those in the inner branches. An apple is generally ripe when the stem of the apple is easily removed from the spur of the branch. To properly pick an apple, roll the apple upwards off the branch and give a little twist-and-pull motion. This motion helps to maintain the integrity of the tree. Pick apples from the bottom of the tree first and be careful not to poke your eye with a branch (a common injury).
If you see a tree with quite a few fallen apples, the apples may be a bit past ripe and won’t store quite as long. Picking the apples slightly on the tart side and ensuring they aren’t bruised will help them to last longer.
Try to go picking earlier in the day.
Picking apples when the air is cooler will help them stay fresh longer. You might also beat some of the crowds! Dress in layers so that you’ll be prepared for the cooler temps and the warmer ones as the day progresses. It goes without saying that you should wear comfortable shoes that can weather the uneven grounds of the orchards.
Leave the technology in the car.
While you may be tempted to bring your mobile phone along for some quick selfies, studies show that the more time you spend taking photos of an event, the less time you have to enjoy it. I still bring my DSLR though because the orchards are too beautiful not to capture.
How to Store:
Be careful when placing the apples in a bag or box so as not to bruise them. Separate the bruised ones from the others if there are any as it’s true: one bad apple will spoil the whole bunch. If the apples are wet (if it was raining when you picked them), dry them off; otherwise, leave the “blush” on them until ready to consume. They will last longer that way. Store in a cool, dry area. Of course, you can also store them in the crisper portion of your refrigerator. They can cause other items to ripen faster (they produce ethylene gas) so try to keep them separated.
Apple picking is a great way to bring family and friends together for a day of autumn fun! Do you have apple orchards in your area? I’d love to hear which orchards are your favorite!
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