When we lived in Michigan, I loved early fall when the temperatures would start to drop. But, my favorite time of all was when we would take trips to the apple orchard. Not only would we bring home lots of fresh, Michigan apples that we could use to eat and cook with, but it was also a fun, tradition for us to eat donuts and apple cider, and just enjoy the experience of picking apples as a family.
Here are our 10 tips for U-Pick Apple Orchards, including:
Find a local Pick-Your-Own farm
Call ahead to the farm
Be sure to verify which apples are in-season at your farm so you're not disappointed that Honeycrisps (for example) are not yet available. Also, check if you need to bring your own containers and if there are any extra charges for admission, parking, wagon rides, etc. You also want to find out what type of payments they accept to ensure you have enough cash on hand.
Ask the farm which areas have the type of apple you want to pick
At our local apple orchard, we would get a bag for apples and then a wagon would take us around the orchard stopping at various locations with different varieties of apple trees. You can always pick a variety, but know what you are picking.
Plan your recipes
Decide what recipes you plan to make before you head out. The type of recipe you're making - such as applesauce, apple butter, apple cobbler, apple pie, etc. will determine the type of apple that you need to pick. Some apples are better for eating straight and others are better for pies.
Know how many apples you need
Although apples tend to stay ripe for longer periods of time than some other fruits, you'll want to know whether you need a bushel, peck, half peck, etc. Don't buy more than you think you can use.
Pick and place your apples in the container carefully
You don't want to create bruises on your apples which will only make them go bad more quickly.
Don't wash your apples
I know...you were always taught to wash your apples, but don't wash them until you are ready to use them so they last longer.
Plan to have fun
Many apple orchards have additional attractions - like donuts and apple cider, wagon rides, petting zoo, corn mazes, hay stacks, and more. We always made at least a morning or afternoon of it, spending at least a couple of hours enjoying all the extras in addition to picking apples.
Expect a crowd
If you visit an apple orchard on the weekend during prime apple picking season, expect the orchard to be very busy. I personally preferred to go on a weekday when it wasn't quite so busy, but that's not always possible.
Bees are part of the process of growing apples since they are needed to pollinate the blossoms that eventually turn into apples. So, if you plan on enjoying apple cider and donuts outside, expect there to probably be a few extra guests. I had one orchard that was my favorite for picking apples and one that was my favorite for apple cider and donuts (since it had inside seating).
What about you? Do you enjoy spending time at the apple orchard? Did I miss any tips?