Ripe for the Pickin'
NEW YORK (MainStreet) Apple-picking season is upon us, inspiring Americans the country over to pluck their own bushels of the season's favorite fruit. But if you thought all apples orchards were the same, think again. We've done our research to find seven of the best pick-your-own farms throughout the U.S. from a certified organic orchard in the Berkshires that's committed to eco-friendly growing practices to an orchard and winery in Indiana that offers both apple picking and wine tasting. Read on for the details on each spot.
Masker Orchards, Warwick, N.Y.
Located about an hour outside of Manhattan in scenic Warwick, N.Y., this 200-acre orchard offers 14 varieties of apples, including McIntosh, Granny Smith, Cortland, Empire, Jonagold and Red Delicious. While admission and parking are free, prices to purchase the apples are $25.95 per bag (holds approximately 20-22 pounds). You can also eat all the apples you want free of charge while visiting the orchard. If you're bringing the kids, be sure to also check out Masker's barnyard baby animals, pony rides and horse-drawn wagon rides.
Bear Swamp Orchard, Ashfield, Mass.
This small certified organic orchard located at the top of the hills in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts offers spectacular views spanning as far as Vermont and New Hampshire. Committed to staying eco-friendly, the farm uses the least toxic pest and disease controls available, such as spraying clay on trees to prevent insect damage early in the growing season. Apple picking is available from mid-September through mid-October and costs $16 to purchase 10 pounds and $50 for 40 pounds. The orchard also sells organic hard ciders and organic jams and jellies.
Sky Top Orchard, Flat Rock, N.C.
This 60-acre farm grows more than 22 varieties of apple trees, but some argue that Sky Top's panoramic mountain views really steal the show. Apple picking is available from August through October (apples cost 95 cents/pound), but that's not all you can pick. Sky Top also offers the chance to pluck your own sour cherries in July, grapes and peaches in August, and pumpkins, gourds and squash in September. Other highlights of the farm include free apple and cider tastings daily, tractor-pulled hayrides, orchard ponds with ducks and geese, a bamboo forest, picnic areas, and a barnyard area with sheep, goats, chickens and turkeys.
Butler's Orchard, Germantown, Md.
This family-owned farm situated on more than 300 acres in Montgomery County, Maryland, is a pick-your-own paradise, offering visitors the chance to pluck their own apples, pumpkins, red raspberries and flowers such as sunflowers, helianthus, statice and zinnia. You can also stop by in the spring and summer to pick strawberries, sweet peas, blueberries, tart cherries and blackberries.
Lakeside Orchards, Manchester, Maine
Located in Manchester, Maine, just west of Augusta, Lakeside Orchards grows 30 types of apples. While the orchard may be best known for their crisp McIntosh apples, it also grows delicious Cortland, Red and Golden Delicious and Macoun, to name a few, plus old-time varieties indigenous to the area like Northern Spy, Golden Russet and Winter Banana. Wagon rides are provided to transport you to the orchard, where you can pick your own apples from the weekend after Labor Day through Columbus Day. Also be sure to check out the farm store to purchase your apples for $1 per pound and pick up some fudge, sweet apple cider, jams, jellies, Maine maple products, and Maine-made crafts and art.
Huber's Orchard, Winery & Vineyards, Starlight, Indiana
Enjoy apple-picking and vino at this unique orchard and winery that covers more than 550 acres of farmland. When heading out the orchards, you can pick apple varieties such as Mutsu, Fuji and GoldRush. If you're in the mood for wine tasting, try Huber's Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Seyval Blanc. The farm also offers the chance to pick-your-own cabbage and broccoli from mid-September through October, cauliflower in October, and pumpkins in September and October. You can also stop by during the holiday season to cut your own Christmas trees.
Linvilla Orchards, Media, Pa.
Nestled in the Delaware Valley about 30 minutes south of Philadelphia, this 300-acre farm offers pick-your-own apples ($1.99/pound), raspberries ($4.99/pound), peaches ($1.99/pound), eggplant ($1.99/pound), peppers ($1.99/pound) and more. Be sure to check out Linvilla's "Pumpkinland" this autumn, which features more than 100 tons of pumpkins in all shapes and sizes, a cornfield maze and a straw bale maze. Visitors can also take a hayride through Linvilla's fields and orchards, hop onboard a train with open-air passenger cars or purchase fresh produce, baked goods and gourmet specialties in the farm market.
--Written by Kristin Colella for MainStreet