trees in an apple orchard with ripe fruit and people picking

Planning Your Apple U-Pick Adventure

Another fall is upon us, and with it we get one of the best things about living in the Pacific Northwest: farms open to the public. Fruits and vegetables fresh from the farm are often less expensive than store bought, have more nutrients and taste better!

A picking trip can easily be an all-day adventure, so before you pack the kiddos in the car for a trip to your chosen farm, take a few minutes to plan ahead. First, be sure to call ahead that day to make sure the farm will be open when you want to go, and that the type of apples you want to pick are available. Situations at farms are always changing, so you’ll want the most up to the minute information. Some pick-your-own farms also feature activities like fresh cider pressing, corn mazes, face painting and even petting zoos! Ask about times and prices for these and other activities available when you call. To find out which U-pick apple orchards are closest to you, check out our interactive map!

Once you’ve confirmed everything with the orchard, it’s time to get ready. Rubber boots and layers are a great idea, as is sunscreen since we the weather here can be pretty fickle. Don’t forget boxes and bags to take everything home. This can also help you time yourself and give kids a visible goal to work towards. Once your containers are full, it’s time to go! A wagon can be a good idea too, so long as the place you’re going to allows for it.

Also, plan for your pets to stay at home. Farms generally cannot allow dogs or any pets due to health regulations.

Now that the car is packed and everyone is ready, let’s find the best apples to take home. Color is not always the best indicator of ripeness. Take a few minutes to talk to the farmer about what to look for in the orchard. It could be a great time to learn some things about the farm and its history as well! Some basic rules of thumb are to look for firm, bruise-free apples. Ripe apples will also be fragrant and smell delicious!

When picking your apples, it’s a good idea to show the young ones in the family the right way to pick them from the tree. Picking is best done by rotating the fruit up and twisting. Avoid pulling straight down, and don’t shake the branches. If any apples fall on the ground, that’s ok. Check them for bruises, brush off any dirt and add them to your collection. Avoid apples that were already on the ground when you arrived, as they may have been there for some time. As you pick, gently place the fruit into your containers to avoid bruising or damaging them after all your hard work. Finally, make sure there’s plenty of room in the car for them on the trip home!

While some of those delicious apples will probably be gobbled up on the car ride home, it’s a good idea to plan ahead for what to do with your big haul. Some apples will keep a long time in your fridge, but others have a relatively short shelf life — and while some varieties are best for eating raw, others may be most ideal for cooking or baking. Ask the farmer for recommendations. One great way to use some of your apples is in our recipe for no-added-sugar applesauce (which can then be used to make no-added-sugar Applesauce Raisin Nut cookies!)

With a little planning, apple picking can be a great family day out in the crisp autumn air. Have fun and enjoy!

Jon Malbrough

Jon Malbrough

Jon is a regular writer on the elementary FRESH blog. An avid cook with a passion for whole foods and the Pacific Northwest, he is the proud father of a beautiful little girl named Ayla. Jon lives in Portland, Oregon.
Jon Malbrough

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