Apple cider-laced, cakey doughnuts crusted with cinnamon and sugar is reason enough to leave the city for greener pastures … or, rather, apple orchards, right? Cider doughnuts are a harbinger of fall in New England, and if you’ve never gone apple picking before, you need to. Not only is it fun, but it’s quite relaxing to stroll among the stocky, scented rows of trees looking for ripe fruit and the best crunch.
Apple picking is a New England staple. But, between back to school chaos, work ramping up for Q4, and the holidays already on our minds, it can be hard to find the brain space to plan an outing.
So, we’ve done the work for you. Here’s what you need to know, all in one place.
When to Pick
Here in New England, most people associate apples with fall — but the season actually starts in mid-August and only runs through mid-October.
This leaves you with only a handful of weekends to pick your own pie filling — not to mention that choosing the right weekend depends on your preferred apple type and your experience preference.
If you hate crowds, avoid the last weeks of September, when apple-picking gets really busy. Conversely, going later in October means you’ll likely have missed popular Honeycrisp season; at this time, the heartier McIntosh, Cortland and Empire varietals are plentiful. If you don’t mind the lingering summer heat, early September is a great bet.
What to Pick
If you’re more culinary-minded, it’s important to pick the right apples for whatever dish you’re going to cook. Granny Smith and Golden Delicious are best for pie baking, because they’re robust enough to stay in one piece when baked.
For casual snacking McIntosh and Red Delicious are palate-friendly choices that don’t veer too far in the direction of sweet or tart.
If you’re really feeling ambitious and want to try a hand at applesauce, head to the Cortland row.
What Else to Do
Apple picking is all good fun, but when you’ve got smaller kids interests can wane.
Many Massachusetts farms have a variety of additional activities that can occupy families for a full day. Have barbecue pork sandwiches for lunch, hop on a hayride to explore the natural beauty of the farm without the risk of walking through anything stinky, pet chickens and sheep, or shop for local soda, fudge and doughnuts at a country-style store.
Usually, other fruits are also ripe for picking. Early in the season, you can take advantage of the last of the summer crops, peaches, pears blueberries. Later on, head for the pumpkin patch.
Where to Pick:
From Portsmouth to Providence, these are our top apple-picking orchard picks.
Red Apple Farm
Open 9 a.m.–6 p.m. daily
455 Highland Ave., Phillipston, MA
Barden Family Orchard
Open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. August 1–October 31
56 Elmdale Road, North Scituate, RI
Honey Pot Hill Orchard
9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. daily
138 Sudbury Road, Stow, MA
Applecrest Farm Orchards
Open 8 a.m.–6p.m. daily
133 Exeter Road, Hampton Falls, NH
Open 6:30 a.m.–6p.m. daily
136 Main Road, Westhampton, MA