My family and I spent this past weekend helping my dad manage his pick-your-own business at an apple orchard in Maine. It was one of the most relaxing weekends we’ve had in a long time. And while I know that picking apples is kind of a cliché thing to do in the fall, here’s why you should get over it and get out to an orchard before the season is over.
1. Easy pickin’
Apples are one of the easiest fruits to pick. They’re sturdy, can take a few drops without much bruising, and accumulate quickly in your bag. Simply grasp underneath the apple, give it a twist, turn it upside down, and off it will pop. Compared to other fruits, picking apples is the biggest bang for your pick-your-own buck.
2. Know the real taste
Eating an apple fresh off the tree is different from buying a bag in the store. Although apples are some of the hardiest fruit and can be transported long distances and stored cold for months without much degradation, it’s still not quite the same as fresh. If you have the opportunity to pick your own food and understand what it really tastes like, take it!
3. Meet the varieties
At an apple orchard, it’s easy to taste test many different kinds of apples. Orchards grow more varieties of apples than you will find at your local supermarket, so you can see for yourself the wide range of apple textures and flavors. You might be surprised at what you find out about your own apple preferences. This weekend, I tried Macouns for the first time, and decided that they may, in fact, be my new favorite eating apple.
4. Greet your farmer
As farm-to-table restaurants gain in popularity, and the “eat local” trend continues, making connections with your local famers is a great way to expand your understanding of how food is grown, and why different foods cost as much as they do. What does it mean to have an organic farm and purchase organic produce? Why does it matter if you buy apples from three towns over versus two states away? What does a small farm do differently from a large commercial operation?
5. Save money!
Picking your own apples is cheaper than purchasing apples at the store. You can also often buy utility apples — apples that dropped from the tree, but are still good enough for homemade cider or other baking applications — at even more of a discount. If you want to make jars upon jars of applesauce (or a whole bunch of pies or apple cakes or apple butter), going to an orchard is a great way to get all the produce you need without breaking the bank.
6. Enjoy nature
Picking apples at your local farm is a great way to get outside and enjoy the autumn season. It’s way more fun than raking leaves, and you get fresh apples as the reward at the end! Some orchards even have beautiful vistas from which to admire the fall foliage. So get out there and breathe deeply! It’s a beautiful world we live in, and tasty too.