Apple Picking Guide
It's that time of year when apples taste the sweetest and farms open to the public for apple picking. It is one of those fall activities for which everyone should set aside a crisp day and leave behind the cheap toys and chores to celebrate the season. Here's a quick guide to picking the best apples this fall to put you in the mood.
According to the University of Illinois, the only apple native to the United States is the crabapple. Underwhelmed by the crabapple, 17th century English colonists in Massachusetts brought over cuttings and honeybees from the United Kingdom to start orchards of familiar apples. Today, 2,500 varieties of apples are grown in all 50 states, with the top apple producers being Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, and Virginia.
Generally, you can tell if apples are ready to be picked if some of a tree's fruit has started falling to the ground. Do not gather the fallen apples; they bruise when they hit the ground. Just use them as an indicator of ripeness. Apples should easily come off the branch when you pick them. But you have to do this gently, pulling it to one side, and holding the surrounding apples so they don't fall. Treat them like eggs; bruising causes apples to rot faster. Quick tip: If apples are growing close together, earwigs start to feed between them. Make sure to check them before carefully putting them in your bag.
Apple picking starts at different times in different parts of the country. Also, different varieties of apple ripen at different times. Often, you can start picking as early as the last week of August. If you're eager to pick something, some farms allow you to pick other fruits and vegetables that are ripe. Apple picking continues through the end of October and into November.
Get to know the wide variety of apples so you'll know what's available when you go picking. For instance, Ginger Gold starts ripening in late August, so you can expect to pick those the last week of August. McIntosh apples won't be ready until September. For a Pink Lady, you'll have to wait until late October. If you want apples to eat raw, Gala apples are considered the best ready-to-eat apples; they're ready for picking in early September. For baking, Granny Smiths are consistently ready in late October. If you want to get started baking earlier, Cortlands are ready mid-September and they make excellent pies. The best for both baking and eating raw is the Honeycrisp; they're ready mid-September.
Even if you're not into apples, going apple picking is the quintessential fall weekend activity. The apples are only one of the attractions. Some farms have hayrides and open the grounds for fall walks and nature hikes. Apple cider is on hand so you can sample the fruit in other forms, and many places offer a variety of gifts and drinkware you can take home. Whether you have an apple pie planned or you want to see the leaves change color, a trip to the farm is an ideal fall activity.
When you have your apples home and ready to bake, shop The Lakeside Collection. We have all the right ideas and baking tools to make the best pies, tarts and crisps for your fall celebrations.