It is my favorite time of the year... AUTUMN! Cooler weather, soups, hot drinks, flannel shirts, boots, and the topic of this post... APPLES!
Now I know everyone jumps on the Pumpkin Spice bandwagon, but let me tell you now... Apples have it beat! Apple pie, apple cider, apple crisp, apple turnovers, apple fritters, hard apple cider, etc.
So this past week, I got to do another tradition with my family - Going to the Apple Orchard! My family has done this every year for as long as I can remember. We all load up in my Grandfather's truck and head to the orchard for a couple bushels of apples.
Its really become one of those things that I know I'll do with my own kids some day.
Several orchards will let you go and pick your own apples and it's really a great time for the kids and also, a fun thing to do if you're short on ideas for a day date!
Here are some tips to keep in mind if you've never been before:
- There are orchards in nearly every state - Google can help you find ones nearest to you and so can org or Orangepippin.com, which also flags organic orchards.
- Apple picking season is short - Most start taking people at the beginning of September and it’s all over by the late October.
- Go early - Arrive when the orchard opens to avoid the crowds and get there early in the season for a better selection of perfectly ripened apples.
- Everything you've heard about apple cider donuts is true - They’re available at many apple orchards and you’re going to want to try them. A lot of orchards also make their own apple cider by the gallon or half gallon, and its definitely worth picking some up (in my opinion).
- Pick from the outside in - Grab the ones on the outside and lower branches, which ripen first and are the easiest to get.
- Skip the ones on the ground - These could be bruised or cut or infested with bugs, or they could contain toxic compounds developed from fungi that grow on fallen apples.
- Don't shake the apple tree - Do your happy apple-picking dance, but don’t go shaking that tree to get the apples down. For one thing, more will drop than you’ll want, so it’s wasteful. And we already told you what can happen to the ones on the ground. Also, apple trees are generally smaller and carry a lot of weight in fruit; shaking could potentially damage a tree.
- Apple varieties have their own mini seasons - Ask at the orchard to find out which apples have ripened at the moment. It’s varies by region, but the general pattern is: McIntosh and Honeycrisp ripen during September, Golden Delicious and Red Delicious are good to pick at the end of September, and October is best for Fuji and Granny Smith.
- Bring reusable bags - They’ll have paper ones, but bring canvas bags or a crate to be more environmentally friendly.
- Different apples are best for different recipes - Here’s your quick guide:
- For pies and baking - Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Cortland, Braeburn
- For eating - Honey Crisp, Mutsu, Fuji, Gala
- For applesauce - McIntosh, Jonagold, Macoun, Golden Delicious
But most importantly, HAVE FUN!
Source for tips: Delish
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