If there's any trademark of autumn, it's apple picking. When the weather shifts, the orchards open and people of all stripes head in search of produce. If you're unfamiliar with apple picking, it's great fun, but there are some important things to know. Check out our pointers in this handy guide to a favorite fall activity.
Apple picking season usually starts in early September, though this will depend on where you live. The season typically ends by late October, but again this may vary based on your location.
If possible, aim to go early in the season. September typically has fewer crowds than October, as well as better apples. Even if it doesn't feel as much like autumn as October, September is a perfect time to pick apples.
There's one important caveat, though. The season can shift slightly based on the type of apple. For example, Honeycrisp apples ripen early, followed by Golden and Red Delicious. By the time October rolls around, you might only find Fuji and Granny Smith apples. Check with the apple orchard to see what they're growing and when they expect the fruit to ripen.
Fun fact: almost every state in the U.S. has apple orchards! You can do a quick search for apple orchards near you, or see Pick Your Own for a directory of orchards.
While nearly every state has at least one apple orchard, some areas are better than others. For example, Michigan is an amazing spot for apple picking in the Midwest. And on the West Coast, Washington has an exceptional number of apple orchards.
Don't forget about New England and the Mid-Atlantic region. Massachusetts, Maine, New York, and Virginia all have plenty to offer for apple picking. With the choices in these states, you'll have options for where you want to go. Remember that the best apples may not be at the most "fun" or "developed" orchard. While tourist orchards have plenty to do, it's the small family-owned farms that often produce the best fruit.
There are a lot of opinions on what defines a great apple. But here's a generally agreed upon rule: don't grab the apples from the ground. These fruits are often damaged during the drop, attracting bugs, including yellow jackets, that burrow inside. Additionally, fallen apples can grow toxic fungi as they lay on the ground. In short, they're not worth the trouble.
Now you know to go for the apples still on the tree. There's a technique for this and, spoiler alert, it doesn't involve shaking the tree. Instead, look for firm, unbruised apples and give them a gentle twist. If they release easily, they're good to go. If they offer significant resistance, let them wait a bit.
As a note, apples near the outside of the tree will ripen first. No need to dive into the thick inner branches if there are easier apples to reach.
Perhaps the most common issue encountered when apple picking is a surplus of apples! Many people return from the orchard with more apples than they know what to do with. We know this problem well and made a post just for it. Check out five apple recipes that encompass the best fall flavors.
As autumn sets in, it's time to go apple picking. Whether you're at home or at one of our resorts across the U.S. and Canada, we guarantee there's an orchard near you. Send this post to your apple picking pals and plan a trip for yourselves!