It's that time of year... pumpkin spice lattes, changing leaves, Halloween, and apple picking with kids! Amongst these fall adventures, apple picking is a fantastic way to savor the outdoors while imparting valuable lessons about nutrition to our children. With their accessible height and the joy of plucking them from the trees, apples are one of the most child-friendly fruits to pick, making this seasonal activity an ideal choice for kids of all ages. So, grab your baskets and join us on this family apple picking journey filled with laughter, learning, and memories.
Fun Facts about Apples
- There are over 7,500 apple varieties globally, each with distinct flavors and characteristics.
- Apples are a rich source of dietary fiber, vitamins (like vitamin C), and minerals.
- Apples can float in water because they are composed of approximately 25% air.
- Apple trees can live for many decades, with some ancient trees still producing fruit after hundreds of years.
- Apples belong to the rose family, Rosaceae, and their scientific name is Malus domestica.
- China is the world's largest apple producer, followed by the United States.
- Apple trees originated in Kazakhstan and were cultivated by humans over 4,000 years ago.
When is apple picking season?
First things first, when is the best time to pick apples? Well, it depends on your location and what type of apples you want to pick. Apples are generally available to pick starting late August and continuing through October. Here's a general guideline for when apple picking seasons typically occur in different parts of the country:
Apple picking season in the northeastern United States, including New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire, often starts in late August or early September and can extend through October, with some varieties available even into November.
In the Midwest, which includes states like Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio, apple picking season typically begins in early September and continues through October, with variations based on the specific location and apple variety.
Apple picking season in the southeastern United States, including North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia, typically starts in late August or early September and may continue into October.
The apple picking season can vary on the West Coast, including states like Washington and California. In Washington, known for its apples, it usually begins in late August and lasts through October. California's season might start in late summer and extend into early fall.
In states like Texas and Tennessee, apple picking season often starts in late summer or early fall, depending on local climate conditions, and continues through September and October.
It's essential to check with local orchards or farms in your area for the most accurate information on apple picking season, as it can vary from year to year based on weather conditions and the ripening of apple varieties. Additionally, different apple varieties may have slightly different harvesting times, so you can often find apples to pick throughout the season.
How many types of apples are there?
The apple industry in the United States is truly remarkable, with a staggering 2,500 varieties cultivated within the United States. These American orchards contribute to the global diversity of apples, which boasts an impressive 7,500 varieties worldwide. Surprisingly, despite the vast array of apple options, only about 100 varieties are grown commercially in the United States. This commercial apple production is spread across 36 states, highlighting the widespread availability of this beloved fruit throughout the nation. Whether you're a fan of the classic Red Delicious or prefer the tartness of Granny Smith, there's an apple variety for every palate, making this fruit a staple in American agriculture and cuisine.
Here are some of the more common and well-known apple varieties:
These apples are known for their deep red color and mild, sweet flavor. They are often eaten fresh or used in salads.
Golden Delicious apples have a yellowish-green skin and a sweet, honey-like flavor. They are versatile and suitable for eating fresh, baking, or making applesauce.
These green apples are tart and crisp, making them ideal for pies, tarts, and salads. They are also enjoyed as a snacking apple for those who like a tangy flavor.
Fuji apples are sweet, firm, and juicy, with a crisp texture. They are excellent for eating fresh and are often used in fruit salads.
Gala apples are sweet and have a thin skin. They are a popular choice for snacking and are also used in salads and desserts.
Known for their exceptional crispness and sweet, juicy flavor, Honeycrisp apples are a favorite for eating fresh and adding a refreshing crunch to salads.
These apples are crisp, sweet, and slightly tart. They are often used in pies and salads, and their white flesh does not brown quickly when cut.
Braeburn apples have a sweet and tart flavor with a firm texture. They are good for both eating fresh and cooking.
These apples have a sweet-tart flavor and a distinctive pinkish-red skin. They are often used for snacking and in salads.
McIntosh apples are known for their tender flesh, slightly tart flavor, and a hint of sweetness. They are often used in applesauce and baking.
A cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious apples, Jonagold apples are sweet with a hint of tartness. They are versatile and can be used for eating fresh, baking, and applesauce.
Empire apples are sweet, juicy, and crisp. They are good for eating fresh and can also be used in pies and crisps.
These apples have a tart flavor and are excellent for pies and applesauce. They are also suitable for fresh eating.
These are just a few examples. The choice of apple variety depends on personal preference and the intended use, whether it's eating fresh, baking, cooking, or making cider.
When is the best time to go apple picking?
The best time to pick apples is typically in the morning when the weather is cooler and the fruit is still fresh and crisp from the overnight temperature drop. Here are a few reasons why morning is often the preferred time for apple picking:
Why is the morning the best time to pick apples?
Apples are generally firmer in the morning due to the cool overnight temperatures. This makes it easier to pick them without bruising or damaging the fruit.
Morning dew on the apples can help clean them naturally, making them appear fresher and more appealing.
In many regions, the morning is cooler than the afternoon, which can be more comfortable for the person picking the apples.
Less Insect Activity
Insects that may be attracted to ripe apples are often less active in the morning, reducing the risk of encountering them while picking.
Longer Shelf Life
Apples picked in the morning tend to have a longer shelf life because they are harvested when their sugar content is at its highest, and the fruit is less stressed from the heat of the day.
What to wear for apple picking
When heading out for an apple picking adventure, it's best to dress comfortably and practically for the occasion. Opt for casual, weather-appropriate attire, such as jeans or comfortable pants, a long-sleeved shirt or light sweater sweatshirt, and closed-toe shoes or boots with good traction, as orchard terrain can be uneven and slippery. A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses can protect you from the sun, and don't forget to apply sunscreen. Lastly, consider bringing a light backpack or tote for storing your apples.
Do apples ripen after picking?
The ripening of apples occurs while they are still on the tree. Once an apple is picked, it will go through some changes in texture, but it won't continue to sweeten or increase in flavor as it would if it were left on the tree. Instead, apples may become softer and lose moisture after being picked, which can affect their texture and taste over time.
How to store fresh picked apples
Store apples in a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator to maintain the quality and freshness of apples after picking. This will help slow down the degradation of the fruit and keep them in good condition for an extended period. However, remember that an apple's flavor is determined mainly by its variety and the ripeness it reaches on the tree before harvesting, so choosing ripe apples at the orchard is crucial for the best taste.
What to do with apples after apple picking
Fresh apples are incredibly versatile and can be used to make various delicious dishes. Here are some popular ideas for what to make with fresh apples:
Classic apple pie is always a favorite. You can make a traditional double-crust pie or get creative with lattice tops or crumble toppings.
An easier alternative to pie, apple crisp or crumble features a sweet, spiced apple filling topped with a crumbly mixture of oats, flour, butter, and sugar.
Homemade applesauce is simple to prepare and can be enjoyed on its own or used as a topping for desserts or a side dish for savory meals.
Slice apples thinly, bake them in the oven, and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar for a crispy and healthy snack.
Turn your apples into homemade jelly or jam to enjoy on toast, biscuits, or as a glaze for meats.
Family Apple Picking: A Recipe for Memories!
In the grand finale of our apple picking escapade, one thing's for sure: we've survived sticky fingers, apple rolling races, and the occasional apple-themed food fight. But beyond the chaos, laughter is abundant, shared moments, and apple-related puns that could make even the sourest Granny Smith giggle. We've seen apples take flight, tasted more varieties than we thought existed, and returned home with apples for pies, applesauce, apple muffins, and apple... everything! So, as we navigate our way out of the orchard, let's remember that in the end, it's not just about the apples; it's about creating a barrel of laughter and memories that will ferment and age like the finest cider. Cheers to the sweet, sour, and hilariously unforgettable moments of apple picking with our little fruit enthusiasts!