For some, fall in the northeastern US means fall foiliage tours through quiet country lanes. But for the dedicated connoisseur of Autumnal Fruitiful Yummitude, it means heading out to a favorite orchard for apple picking.
Not counting millions of mongrel crossovers on ancient farmsteads, 2,500 varieties of apples are grown throughout the United States, 100 of which are are grown commercially in 36 states. Of those states, the top apple-producing states are Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California and Virginia.
Those 2,500 varieties of apples provide a huge diversity of flavor and textures from the firm tartness of a green Granny Smith to the opulent full-flavored sweetness of the classic Red Delicious. Nutritionally, apples are fistful-sized pharmacies, providing almost 20% of the USDA’s daily recommended amount of fiber and 14% of daily vitamin C. Recent research has also discovered that just 100 grams of fresh apples packs the same antioxidant punch as 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C — plus, whole-apple extracts appear to have significant anti-colon and anti-liver cancer effects.
But real magic happens in the kitchen where apples are transmogrified from pulpy orbs of wellness into delicious snacks and sauces, delightful ciders and desert bars, mouth-watering pies…
Let the salivating begin…
So, to get you started down your own path of Autumnal Fruitiful Yummitude, we present a smattering of recommended sites across the northern United States for some fall apple picking goodness.
Highland Orchards has been producing apples of several varieties since 1941. Located in West Chester, PA (just an hour west from Center City, Philadelphia), you can choose from 8 varieties of apples to pick through mid-October. You can pick using either half-peck bags (about 6 pounds) or half-bushel bags (about 24 lbs).
2) New York
Located 15 minutes east of Schenectady, NY, in Rexford is Bowman Orchards. Operating for 60 years on 98 acres, Bowman offers an astounding variety of apples available from now until late October, including Braeburns and Fuji. Best to call them first to see what varieties are available.
Before the auto industry moved in, apple orchards ruled Michigan. Wiard’s Orchards has been around since 1837 when George Wiard founded the place to make cider. Located close to Ann Arbor and Metro Detroit, Wiard’s has several popular varieties available, such as Granny Smiths and Honey Crisp. Call first to find out what’s currently available.
Picking your own apples makes a fun weekend day trip away from the thrumming Baltimore and DC Beltways. Tucked away to the southwest of Gaithersburg, MD near Darnestown is Homestead Farm. It has been farmed by the Allnutt family continuously since 1763. The have five varieties of apples and sell them by the pound. Updated picking conditions are available via phone and they also offer public hayrides to their pumpkin patch.
Just a smidgen east of Bridgewater, MA, lies C.N. Smith Farm, an 80-year old operation offering a sweet selection of apples. According to their blog, they are currently picking McIntosh, Empire, Cortland, Macoun, and Honeycrisp. As with other orchards, always check for availability. C.N. Smith Farm is also a Massachusetts Commonwealth Quality Farm, meaning it uses farming practices that are safe, sustainable and don’t harm the environment. Did I mention their blueberry cider doughnuts?
Most “Pick-Your-Own” orchards have rules to protect you, their trees, and their crop. So, be sure to pay for all that you pick. And by all means, take the kids with you. Not only will they learn that healthy food taste good, but they’ll also have a good time being out in nature — and that’s definitely a “core” value.