8 Insider Tips for Apple Picking Season

It's apple picking season! And there's nothing better than a crisp autumn day spent with loved ones. Read on to learn how to make the most of your orchard excursion.

When September nears, the air turns cool, the leaves begin to change and many are itching to don their flannel plaids and participate in a quintessential autumn activity. Welcome to apple picking season! This traditional pastime is just the thing to get you in the festive spirit. So grab your boots, a jug of delicious apple cider and a sturdy basket—it’s time for your apple adventure. Here are a few helpful tips to get you started.

Before Your Trip:

Children with Apple in Apple OrchardSerenko Natalia/Shutterstock

Find an Orchard

The first step is to find a pick-your-own orchard nearby. The apple varieties available for picking, as well as the peak time for apple picking season, will depend on where you live. But for the most part, September to early October is prime picking season. Orange Pippin is an easy-to-use directory to find an orchard near you. Or, check out our list of the best place to go apple picking in every state.

Bring the Kids

Get the kids off their phones and out into the crisp autumn air with an apple-picking excursion. Start an annual tradition that the whole family can look forward to every year. Plus, many orchards provide additional activities like hay rides, cider pressing, a gift shop or sometimes even a small petting zoo!

Apple Picking Tips:

Young woman picking red apples in an orchardRomrodphoto/Shutterstock

Work from the Outside In

For apples that are ready to eat (or dunk in caramel), pick from the outside of the tree. Apples on the outer branches ripen first, so work your way in as the season progresses. Remember, once you pick an apple it stops the ripening process—so for the best taste, make sure the fruit is ready to be picked.

Pick, Don’t Shake

To properly pick an apple, roll the apple upward off the branch and give a little twist. You’ll know the apple is ripe if the stem is easily removed from the spur of the branch. Don’t pull the apple straight away from the tree, and never, ever shake the branches. Why? Even a gentle shake can cause a heap of apples to fall to the ground. Without a net, this can give the fruit (or your company) major bruises. Plus, it can cause unnecessary food waste.

Avoid Bruising

Whether you opt for the orchard’s plastic bags, a reusable tote, or a wooden basket, be sure to store and stow your apples with care. Gently place them in your carrying container to avoid bruising. Bruised apples rot faster and will cause the other apples to rot as well. Here’s how long your fresh produce will last.

What to Do Next:

Closeup on young housewife cutting apple for jam;Alliance Images/Shutterstock

Use Up Your Apples

After you’ve picked a bushel or two of apples the next question is, what to do with them? Fill your kitchen with the aroma of fall by baking your favorite apple desserts or whip up a batch of apple butter. But apples aren’t just for sweet treats; incorporate them into your dinner plans with cinnamon-apple pork chops or curried pumpkin apple soup! For eating apples on their own, learn how to keep apples from browning!

Throw an Apple-Picking Party

Ready to really get into the spirit of things? Make a day of it and throw an apple picking party. Bring your friends and family and plan a picnic while you’re there. You’ll need a blanket, beverages and plenty of delicious snacks. Plan to bring food that will complement the freshly picked apples like ham and brie sandwiches, and, of course, caramel dip.

Apple Storage:

Bowl of fresh red apples on kitchen counterNew Africa/Shutterstock

When you bring your bounty home, store your apples correctly to extend their shelf life as long as possible. For apples that will be eaten right away, you can keep them in a bowl on the counter for a few days. (A bowl of fresh fruit is the perfect way to freshen up the kitchen!)

Otherwise, store them in the refrigerator, preferably in their own crisper drawer. Apples produce ethylene gas, a natural plant hormone, that causes other fruits to ripen faster. So it’s best to keep them separate.

Ready for even more old-fashioned fun? Go back to basics with these timeless cooking tips we learned from grandma.

Popular Videos

Erica Young
Erica is a freelance lifestyle writer with a bachelor's degree in Journalism. Her favorite recipes are quick, easy and something her kids will actually eat. When she's not writing you'll find her organizing a closet, roaming the aisles at Target or nursing her third Diet Coke of the day.