When September nears, the air turns cool, the leaves begin to change and many are itching to don their flannel plaids and participate in a quintessential autumn activity. Welcome to apple picking season! This traditional pastime is just the thing to get you in the festive spirit. So grab your boots, a jug of delicious apple cider and a sturdy basket—it’s time for your apple adventure. Here are a few helpful tips to get you started.
Before Your Trip:
Find an Orchard
The first step is to find a pick-your-own orchard nearby. The apple varieties available for picking, as well as the peak time for apple picking season, will depend on where you live. But for the most part, September to early October is prime picking season. Orange Pippin is an easy-to-use directory to find an orchard near you. Or, check out our list of the best place to go apple picking in every state.
Bring the Kids
Get the kids off their phones and out into the crisp autumn air with an apple-picking excursion. Start an annual tradition that the whole family can look forward to every year. Plus, many orchards provide additional activities like hay rides, cider pressing, a gift shop or sometimes even a small petting zoo!
Apple Picking Tips:
Work from the Outside In
For apples that are ready to eat (or dunk in caramel), pick from the outside of the tree. Apples on the outer branches ripen first, so work your way in as the season progresses. Remember, once you pick an apple it stops the ripening process—so for the best taste, make sure the fruit is ready to be picked.
Pick, Don’t Shake
To properly pick an apple, roll the apple upward off the branch and give a little twist. You’ll know the apple is ripe if the stem is easily removed from the spur of the branch. Don’t pull the apple straight away from the tree, and never, ever shake the branches. Why? Even a gentle shake can cause a heap of apples to fall to the ground. Without a net, this can give the fruit (or your company) major bruises. Plus, it can cause unnecessary food waste.
Whether you opt for the orchard’s plastic bags, a reusable tote, or a wooden basket, be sure to store and stow your apples with care. Gently place them in your carrying container to avoid bruising. Bruised apples rot faster and will cause the other apples to rot as well. Here’s how long your fresh produce will last.
What to Do Next:
Use Up Your Apples
After you’ve picked a bushel or two of apples the next question is, what to do with them? Fill your kitchen with the aroma of fall by baking your favorite apple desserts or whip up a batch of apple butter. But apples aren’t just for sweet treats; incorporate them into your dinner plans with cinnamon-apple pork chops or curried pumpkin apple soup!
Throw an Apple-Picking Party
Ready to really get into the spirit of things? Make a day of it and throw an apple picking party. Bring your friends and family and plan a picnic while you’re there. You’ll need a blanket, beverages and plenty of delicious snacks. Plan to bring food that will complement the freshly picked apples like ham and brie sandwiches, and, of course, caramel dip.
When you bring your bounty home, store your apples correctly to extend their shelf life as long as possible. For apples that will be eaten right away, you can keep them in a bowl on the counter for a few days. (A bowl of fresh fruit is the perfect way to freshen up the kitchen!)
Otherwise, store them in the refrigerator, preferably in their own crisper drawer. Apples produce ethylene gas, a natural plant hormone, that causes other fruits to ripen faster. So it’s best to keep them separate.
Ready for even more old-fashioned fun? Go back to basics with these timeless cooking tips we learned from grandma.