An autumn trip to an apple orchard is a great way to get the family outdoors. It’s also an opportunity to learn about apples, how they grow and the nutrition they can provide.
Many orchards offer “u-pick” opportunities, in addition to their own markets filled with fresh apples and apple products. Some orchards may have pumpkin patches, corn mazes and other activities, as well. Here are some things to know before heading out to your local orchard.
Before you go. Brush up on your apple knowledge before visiting an orchard. Research apples on the Web with your kids. The University of Illinois Extension’s “Apples and More” website is easy to use and provides nutritional information, as well as recipes, apple history and fun facts about the fruit.
Availability. Some 2,500 different varieties of apples are grown in the United States. Before your trip, visit the orchard’s website or call to see which varieties are in season. Some orchards, such as the Curtis Orchard & Pumpkin Patch in Champaign, Ill., provide a list of which apples are available for picking, which are for sale in their store and when certain varieties are in season.
Some apples, such as the tart Williams’ Pride, are available as early as July, but then not after mid August. The equally sweet-tart Jonathan apple plus the Golden and Red Delicious varieties are popular fall apples and can be found from September through December. Other popular varieties include dark red Empire apples and the pink/red Fuji apple, a favorite for snacking.
U-pick. Apple picking prices vary from orchard to orchard. Apples often are priced by the bushel and half-bushel. A bushel will weigh in at about 42 pounds. Most orchard safety policies state children must be accompanied by an adult for apple picking.
Other activities. A visit to an orchard can be a full day of family fun. Some orchards offer activities in addition to apple picking. Hicks Orchard, in Granville, N.Y., the oldest u-pick orchard in New York State, has a petting zoo, wagon rides and a large corn maze. In addition, the whole family can work together to make a scarecrow to take home. Visit your local orchard’s website for admission and activity prices.
Recipes. After returning from the orchard, round up a few recipes that feature apples. In addition to pies, turnovers, fritters and other desserts, apples make a crunchy, tasty addition to salads and pair well with main courses such as pork and chicken.