Apple picking is high on our list of fun things to do this fall. Whether you crave a crisp, sweet snack right out of the fruit bowl or the aroma of freshly baked apple pie right out of the oven, picking apples is a great reason to get outdoors and load up on the season’s bounty.
This year is no exception. While there may be a few (minor) adjustments to how you pick apples this year, you’ll find it’s still the perfect activity for the whole family. To make your orchard excursion enjoyable and successful, we’ve compiled a list of helpful apple picking tips.
10 Fall Apple Picking Tips
1. Do Your Research
Head to the orchard’s web site or give them a call first to find out the farm hours and what they determine are the best times to visit. Don’t forget to ask what their mask requirements are and if they will be providing bags and/or bushels or if you have to bring your own.
2. Decide Which Varieties You Want
Do you want baking apples, crisp eating apples, or some of both? Will you be canning jars of applesauce or baking pies? Ask the owner where you can find the varieties you’re looking for and if they’re ripe for the picking. Check out our information on 11 apple varieties to try this fall.
3. Skip The Apples On The Ground
When going apple-picking, it’s best to leave the apples lying on the ground—there’s a good chance they’ve already become a tasty meal for wasps and other insects. Deer, birds, and other wildlife will also enjoy the nutritious snacks. Lots of apples on the ground can also be a sign that the apples on that tree may be past their prime, and won’t keep as long.
4. Eating Straight Off The Tree? Not A Wise Idea
Most orchards advise against it as it’s always important to wash fruit before consuming. Feel free to ask the grower if any pesticides were used—another reason to always wash fruit first.
5. Select Tree-Ripe Fruit
Apples won’t ripen further after picking, so be sure the apples are ripe first. The grower can point you to trees that are ready to pick.
6. Pick From the Outside, Lower Branches First
Apples on the outer limbs ripen first, so start there.
7. Gently Twist and Pull
The best way to pick fresh apples from the tree is to use a gentle twist-and-pull motion. When an apple is ripe, it should release easily using this method. You shouldn’t have to tug too hard. The trick is to leave the “spur” intact so that future apples can grow.
8. Don’t Pull or Shake
Pick the apples with the gentle twist-and-pull method mentioned above. Don’t try to yank them off the tree. And shaking tree limbs will cause unnecessary food waste. If you want to reach apples at the top, ask the grower for fruit picker, which is a small basket on a stick.
9. Handle With Care
Apples bruise easily, so handle with care. Don’t toss picked apples into your basket. Carefully place them there instead. Bruised apples rot quickly and cause the other apples to rot too—”one bad apple” really does spoil the whole bunch!
10. Start Baking/Snacking!
We have lots of great apple recipes you’ll want to test out:
- Farmers’ Almanac Winning Apple Pie Recipes
- Acorn Squash with Apple Raisin Stuffing – why wait for Thanksgiving?
- Fall Apple Crisp
- Apple Muffins
- Apple Butter
- Apple Cake
- Dutch Apple Fritters
- Easy Country Apple Dumplings
- Caramel Apples
- Make Your Own Chunky Applesauce!
Depending on how many apples you have and how long you want to store them, there are short-term and longer-term storage options to consider.
- Counter/Table Top. A basket of bright red apples brings a cheerful touch of autumn to your kitchen table. However, at room temperature they won’t keep long. Limit the number of apples displayed on your counter to just what you plan to consume within a few days.
- Crisper Drawer. If you want to keep apples fresh for a week or more, store them in the cold crisper drawer of the fridge. Apples last longer when kept dry, so don’t wash before refrigerating. Apples release ethylene gas that causes other fruits to ripen quickly (like green tomatoes, for example), so it’s best to isolate them from other fruits. Depending on the variety, apples should keep for about two months in the refrigerator. Check them weekly for signs of bruising or rotting. Remove those starting to deteriorate (and bake with them!).
- Preserve Them. Check out these ways to use ’em up!
What’s your favorite apple for snacking?
Deborah Tukua is a natural living, healthy lifestyle writer and author of 7 non-fiction books, including Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. She has been a writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.