By Joanne R. Alloway

     Just imagine biting into a crisp, red juicy apple straight off the tree. Better yet, how about bringing home a peck or a half-peck of different varieties of Fall’s delicious apples? Apples can be effectively stored for several months if you are a baker, or enjoying making apple butter, apple jelly or applesauce. Aside from the freshness and economy of picking your own apples at an orchard, it’s a wonderful way to spend a fall day with friends or grandchildren. Many of the orchards have activities for kids, such as a farm animal petting area, pumpkin patch, hay rides and hay or corn mazes, etc. But not all are pick-your-own apple orchards. Some simply offer the finished products — apples and other produce — for purchase. So check before you go. This website provides a map/info of area orchards www.orangepippin.com/orchards/unitedstates/maryland

     Particular about your favorite variety of apple? Each orchard usually offers several different types, but some varieties, such as Golden Delicious, are ready for picking in mid to late September and others, such as Red Delicious are ready late September through mid-October. Gala apples are ready in mid-August. Some growers have websites listing this information; others you’ll have to call. Approximate ripening dates can be found at  www.pickyourown.org/apples.htm

     For your day at the orchard, here are a few hints to make your visit smoother, especially if you have children with you.

• Call ahead to be sure they have the apples you want to pick and get directions and parking information.

• Bring a cooler with lunch, snacks/drinks.

•Dress for the weather, including confortable shoes.

•Have your group stay together or meet at a specific time and place.

•Read and explain farm rules to children so they learn to respect farm work.

•No pets are allowed in any orchards, due to health codes.

•Apple orchards are usually part of generations of family-owned farms.

A crisp Fall day at an apple orchard will create a great memory, even if you don’t pick your own apples. The drive getting to the orchard, a picnic lunch, the options at the farm and photos of your group will make for a lasting and fun experience. If you pick your own fruit, most of the orchards are spread out, so the staff will direct pickers to sections where the best apples are located. Some offer a hay wagon ride to the area, adding to the fun.

          When picking an apple from the tree, turn or twist it away from the fruit spur. If it’s ripe, it will come right off. Harvested apples should be kept cold (33-35 degrees F) to retain flavor and quality. At higher temperatures, they ripen and mature quickly. A good way to store apples for a long time is to wrap perfect (unbruised) apples individually in newspapers without color and put them in a cardboard box with others of the same variety in a cool basement or garage. They will last for months, but should be checked regularly and washed before using. This will make your day at the orchard bear fruit for many recipes and snacks.

     Where are the apple orchards in our area? Here are some, near and far:

Queen Anne Farm, 18102 Central Avenue, Mitchellville               301.249.2427

Boyer Farms, 1500 Severn Road, Severn                                         410.551.4797

Milburn Orchards, 1495 Appleton Road, Elkton310.398.1349

Homestead Farm, 15604 Sugarland Road, Poolesville301.977.3761

Butler’s Orchard, 22200 Davis Mill Road, Germantown301.972.3299

Larriland Farm, 2415 Woodbine Road, Lisbon301.854.6110

Baugher’s Orchard, 1015 Baugher Road, Westminister410.857.6111

Weber’s Cider Mill Farm, 2526 Proctor Lane, Parkville410.668.4488

Shaw Orchards, 5594 Norrisville Road, White Hall410.692.2429

     If apple-picking is not your forte, but apples and the idea of an outdoor Fall getaway is, visit:

Perry Hall Apple Festival- Sept. 19 and 20 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  www.perryhallapplefestival.com

Darlington Apple Festival, Oct. 3, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  www.darlingtonapplefestival.com/

These festivals offer good food, entertainment, crafts and lots of apple foods.

Joanne is the author of two nonfiction books and a freelance writer living in Annapolis. Reach her at [email protected]



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