Apple picking essentials
If you love fresh fruit, you might enjoy spending the day picking apples. For those new to this activity, it’s good to know where to go, what to expect and when to time your trip. The apple picking season starts in mid-August and runs through to the end of October. Apple varieties are available at different points in the season, and the selection of apples may vary by the orchard. Since apple picking takes place outdoors, the amenities available to the public may also vary by the orchard. It's best to come prepared with refreshments and items that can make your day run smoothly.
Where to go apple picking
You can find apple orchards in nearly all 50 states. If you have multiple apple-picking orchards in your area or are willing to drive a little further for the right experience, consider what other facilities are available on site. Some orchards are rather bare-boned — you turn up, pick your apples, pay and then head home. Others have full-on fall festivals and admission fees alongside their apple picking, with hayrides, pumpkin patches, cider-making demonstrations and food stalls. Your location or personal preference may influence which kind of orchard you choose.
What to know about apple picking before you go
Once you find an orchard that offers apple picking and a day you want to go, you may need to make an appointment. Apple picking is a popular activity, and some orchards might still be observing social distancing measures. Find out any capacity limitations before you make the trip to avoid disappointment. It’s also a good idea to find out other information about the orchard, such as how pricing works or what to bring with you. Depending on the orchard, you may be able to bring in a cooler and have a picnic, or it may be that no outside food is allowed.
What to expect when picking apples
When you get to the orchard and are ready to start picking, someone will direct you to the ripe apples. You’ll be able to pick the apples you want, pay and take them home. The cost of apple picking will depend on the orchard’s prices.
What to bring on an apple picking trip
To make it a successful apple-picking trip, be sure to have all the essentials. There are some things to consider bringing with you to ensure you have what you need when you get there.
Baskets or bags
Many apple orchards will provide baskets or other containers to collect your apples in, but you might find it more convenient to bring your own. This will also reduce the risk of bruising your apples, which can happen whenever you transfer them. Cornucopia Brands Round Wooden Baskets are a good size for casual apple picking and won't be too heavy when full. For serious apple-pickers, fruit picking bags are a more practical choice. The Zenport Agrikon Fruit Picking Bag leaves your hands free and is strong enough to hold up to 65 pounds of apples.
You'll usually find that pick-your-own apple orchards have dwarf tree varieties so you can easily reach fruits from the ground. However, when you're dealing with full-size trees, you'll need to use a fruit picker, like the Eversprout 13-Foot Fruit Picker. Many apple orchards with full-sized trees will provide fruit pickers, so check before you go.
Food and drink
While you can find apple orchards that have food trucks or a restaurant on-site, you'll often need to bring your lunch. There's usually a designated picnic area, so pack a picnic basket with your favorite snacks and bring a picnic blanket so you can enjoy a post-apple-picking feast. If you're feeling fancy, skip the paper plates and bring reusable ones like the LuckyZone Unbreakable Wheat Straw Plates. Whether or not you bring a picnic, it is still a good idea to have reusable water bottles on hand so you can stay hydrated.
Other items to bring
You may not have easy access to sinks, so bring hand sanitizer to clean your hands before you eat or after touching any shared equipment. If you're coming on a hot day, don't forget your sunscreen and a hat to shade you from UV rays. It might seem overcautious, but it doesn't hurt to pack a basic first-aid kit or at least a pack of Band-Aids, especially if you're going apple-picking with kids. The Protect Life 100 Piece First Aid Kit comes in a small zippered pouch and is a compact size perfect to throw in a backpack just in case.
Apple picking tips
Choose apples that are firm, bruise-free and appear ripe. If you're unsure what to look for in a ripe apple, ask the farmer or staff at the orchard. Apples ripen from the outside of the tree to the inside of the tree so look for apples on the furthest end of the branches.
When it comes time to pick, roll the apple upwards slightly, away from the branch and then gently twist it. If it doesn't come away easily, it probably isn't ripe yet. Don't try to pull the apple off the branch and don't shake branches, as this will cause apples to fall off the tree and split or bruise. Bruised apples spoil more quickly and can cause the apples around them to start rotting. For this reason, you will want to gently place apples into your bag or basket.
What to do with your apples after your trip
Apples can last for months if stored in a cool, dark spot with low humidity, so you don't need to worry about using them all up right away. Apples that you buy in supermarkets can be up to 10 months old, though they're stored in climate-controlled conditions.
If you've picked more apples than you can reasonably eat, share them with friends or family. You can also turn the apples into fun or interesting recipes to use up some of your haul. Apple pie, apple crisp, apple sauce, apple butter and apple cider are nice options that you can make for yourself, a neighborhood get-together or give as gifts too.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.