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What to Expect when Apple Picking at an Orchard

August 18, 2011

Hints for a fun time picking with the kids!

By: Kim McNeill
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Never been to a commercial farm before?

Perhaps you are a city dweller heading into the country for the day. Maybe you've moved to Connecticut after a stint at a more urban location. If you've never been apple picking before, you might be surprised. 

My first time apple picking was quite an eye-opener. I guess I thought it would be a bit like a store. You go in the entrance, walk ten feet, pick a few apples, and then head to the cash register. Boy, was I wrong.

The Real Deal with Apple Picking

It turns out that working apple orchards are absolutely huge. Many farms have multiple fields. Sometimes you get to the apple orchard address in your GPS only to discover that the field you're picking in is way down the road. If you call ahead, you can usually find out better where the right field is.

Because the orchards are large, they can involve quite a walk. Wear comfortable shoes.
This is also the perfect time to dust off the stroller for that big kid who thinks they don't need it anymore. A day out in the fresh air and sunshine hunting for apples will quickly tire them out.

Best idea for toddlers and preschoolers is to bring a wagon. The wagon can hold your bag while picking. When they are too tired from walking around picking and sampling apples, they can get a ride back in the wagon. And wagons are for big kids--you won't hear any complaints.

What to do when you get there

Usually you just follow the signs and the lines of cars. Apple picking is a bit like a fair. It's really popular and they are prepared for people who are coming from far away. They want you to find them!

Once you park (I hope you got there early so parking is easier--these places are so busy in the fall that parking can be a challenge if you wait until afternoon to go), look around for buildings. This is another time when the crowds can be helpful. Follow the general flow.

How do you buy the apples

We're used to heading to the grocery store, choosing our produce, weighing it, and then paying by pound. That's not usually the case with apple orchards. 

While some orchards charge by the pound, many apple orchards sell apples by the bag. Some orchards have multiple sizes, others only sell one-size. If you are bringing the family, check out the price difference between two smaller bags and one big bag. 

Sometimes the price is the same and then I'll just let both of my kids have their own bags. 

Since the orchard sells apples in bags, they may not allow other bags into the fields. Some are more strict than others. 

Cash, Cash, Cash

It's a farm. They have fields, not wiring. Most places can only accept cash. Some may take a check.

The farm stands at the orchard (and most orchards have their own stores) may take credit cards, but better be sure before you go.

It Is Nature at Its Best--and Everything That Goes Along with It

Beautiful sunshine, breezes, the smell of apples all around. Lovely!

The apples rotting under the trees, not so much. Rotting apples are actually very slippery. Watch where you step.

Along with the rotting apples, you may find unfriendly bugs like yellow jackets trying to get a little taste. They are few and far between, but something to keep in mind.

Watch out for poison ivy. Most orchards don't have this, but I've seen some that have poison ivy at the base of the tree.

Even in September and sometimes October, the weather can still be warm

Dress in layers and bring some water.

Which Apples to Pick

Only pick from designated trees--the orchard works hard to assure you are getting apples at the peak of ripeness, so only pick from trees that are ready.

Pick apples from the tree, not the ground.

Apple Picking Notes Just for Kids

Make sure children understand that apples are not for throwing (no matter how much they look like balls).

Sometimes orchards are such homey and friendly places, along with the allure of a treasure hunt as they seek out perfect apples, that children may wander a little further than they should. Remind the kids of how far they can go safely.

Although most farms have dwarf trees, there are some that still have standard size tree that need ladders or pickers to get the apples. A quick call will make sure you know what kind of trees are at the orchard.

What to Do with All of Those Apples

  • Apple pie (of course!)
  • Grate them into oatmeal and add cinnamon
  • Homemade applesauce
  • Apple cake
  • Baked apples (so easy and so yummy!)
  • Make apple butter (a favorite of mine since I grew up near Pennsylvania Dutch country)
  • Sliced and dipped in caramel sauce (hello--you bought it for the ice cream you already finished anyway) or peanut butter
  • Sauteed in a little butter and sprinkled with brown sugar (though you'll find the sugar isn't really necessary)
  • Apple pancakes--with as large or as small chunks as you like
  • Cinnamon apple muffins or bread

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