Around the World: ‘Tis the Season for Apple Picking
Fall is apple picking season. Orchards across the United States are open for visits by pickers, and other folks who might not want to harvest the trees, but are keen on sampling cider and bringing home a bushel of galas or granny smiths or golden delicious orbs for eating as is or baked whole or cut up as the main ingredient for apple pie.
For many, visiting an orchard at this time of year is a travel tradition. Apple picking and sampling is great fun wherever it’s done. You’re out in the fresh air, nibbling as yu go on healthy fruit and learning about apple varieties and the role apples have played in American history. After all, there is something very American about apples. Just consider the saying “as American as apple pie,” which is used to describe anything good that is deeply rooted in American culture and lifestyle.
Apples were actually introduced to America by the pilgrims, so how and why were they identified as key symbols of our nation?
Some scholars attribute that to the horticultural activities of one very enterprising gentleman named John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed who planted apple trees across midwestern America and into Ontario.
John Chapman, born in Longmeadow, Massachusetts in 1774, was taught how to farm by his father, Nathaniel, a patriot who’d fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill and later served under General George Washington. When Johnny left New England in 1792 to venture westward, he took his father’s teachings with him. He became an apprentice to an orchardist named Mr. Crawford, and that began his own apple tree-planting career. For 40 years, John Chapman cleared land and planted apple seeds in the Midwestern states of the U.S. The trees grew quickly and the fruit they produced became a staple in the American diet.
John Chapman died in 1845 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The phrase “as American as apple pie” was first noted in 1851, six years after Johnny Appleseed’s death. Its continued use is a reminder of John Chapman’s legacy.
But there are other reminders, too. In fact, Johnny Appleseed attractions have sprung up in many of the places seeded by Johnny. Best of all are the historic sites and museums that deliver the flavor of John Chapman’s life and times. The Johnny Appleseed House in Longmeadow (north central Massachusetts) is a gem, and the Johnny Appleseed Museum in Urbana, Ohio, is a treasure. If you love exploring American cultural history, put these two treasures on your bucket list.
?Actually, apple picking fun isn’t limited to Massachusetts and Ohio. There are plenty of great orchards in Maine, Massachusetts, and New York, across the Midwest and on the West Coast, too. Georgia, Virginia, Minnesota, Washington, and California have amazing picking destinations —you needn’t travel across the entire country to enjoy the seasonal fun. And remember, it is seasonal. Most orchards only offer picking until the first frost, so apple pickers have until about mid-November before peak picking season is over.
Many of the orchards feature other forms of entertainment, including live music, arts and crafts exhibits, festivals, corn mazes, hay rides, and hard cider or wine tastings for adults. And there are on site shops selling locally made jams, candies, cider donuts, candied apples and all kinds of fall treats.
Going from east to west, here are 16 apple picking destinations that are sure to satisfy. But, before going, look them up on the internet or give them a call to find out their scheduling and pandemic-related requirements for visitors.
Bear Swamp Orchard and Cidery in Ashfield, Massachusetts, is an organic farm with rows of apple trees and miles of hiking trails/ The shop sells hard cider, raw vinegar, jams, and jellies.
Poverty Lane Orchards in Lebanon, New Hampshire, is a traditional farm that feels like a throwback to the 1930s. They grow commonplace and rare varieties, and you can sample anything the farm grows.
Shelburne Orchards in Shelburne, Vermont, is a 60-acre farm specializing in MacIntosh and Paula Red apples. The farm store sells cider donuts and there is a tasting room for sampling homemade apple brandy. There are also hay rides.
Apple Dave's Orchards in Warwick, New York, offers 11 different apple varieties for picking, and it's one of the most popular picking destinations in the U.S.
Demarest Farms in Hillsdale, New Jersey, is an easy hour-long drive from NYC. There are apples, peaches and pumpkins to pick, cider donuts to munch and a spooky movie to watch at Halloween.
Sky Top Orchard in Flat Rock, North Carolina, is famous for its spectacular landscaping – including as bamboo forest -- and views, in addition to great apple picking, hay rides, and cider donuts
Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, Georgia, grows, presses, ferments, bottles and sells its own hard cider and wine. Wait to imbibe until after you’ve picked your apples.
Stribling Orchards in Markham, Virginia, was founded more than 200 years ago and is still a perfect spot for apple picking and picnicking. Pumpkins, too, and farm animals for the petting.
Weston's Antique Apples in New Berlin, Wisconsin, is the best place for sampling apple varieties – more than 100 of them. There are also apple education classes covering topics such as tree grafting.
Aamodt's Apple Farm in Stillwater, Minnesota, is family-owned and famous for its signature Thor’s Hard Cider, named for the farm's founder. Pick apples, tour the vineyard and sample wine at Saint Croix Winery.
Mt. View Orchards in Mount Hood, Oregon, offers a tractor ride around the 50-acre orchard before or after you pick the apples, pears and peaches of your choice.
Johnson Orchards in Yakima, Washington, provides apple pickers with buckets and harnesses so they can avoid climbing on ladders to get the fruit. The orchard is also famous for tree-ripened cherries.
Los Rios Rancho in Oak Glen, California, specializes in Pippin and Spartan apples for prime picking, and features beautiful nature walks.
And, while you're harvesting your personal crop, stop for a minute to remember Johnny Appleseed, the legendary gent who made a difference.