Apple picking season begins at the end of summer just as we begin to notice the shorter days and cooler nights. In Ontario, this is usually the end of August or beginning of September. Rather than being disappointed at the end of summer, we get to look forward to the fall harvest: apple picking, delicious apple pies, and warm apple cider.
How to Tell if Apples are Ready During Apple Picking Season
There are a few ways to tell if your apples are actually ready to pick. If you know your apples well, you can often tell by the colour and firmness. For example, pale red is perfect for a Gala apple, while yellow tinged with pink is ideal for Ambrosia apples. Apples that are ready to pick will be pale green or yellow and red.
Apples should be firm but not hard. It’s wise to avoid squeezing the fruit, you can easily bruise it. There are better ways to see if the apples are ready. The first way is to see how an apple comes off the branch. A ripe apple will part ways with the tree easily and fall into your hand.
At the farm, you will be directed to the trees that are ready to be picked, so this makes it easy for you!
How to Select the Perfect Apple Variety
Just as not all apples taste the same, not every apple is ideal for your purpose. If you love the taste and texture of eating fresh apples, try Sunrise, Zenstar, and Gala.
McIntosh apples have a tangy flavour that holds up well in applesauce, cider, and apple pie.
One of the best apples for eating in salads is the Honeycrisp. The sweet flavour and crisp texture is delicious paired with baby spinach and blue cheese.
If you like a sweeter apple with a softer texture, try Ambrosia apples. These are very sweet and tend not to brown too quickly. They store well in the fridge for longer than many other apple varieties.
Pick Your Own Apples – Tips and Orchard Etiquette
Fortunately, today’s apple trees are easy to pick. They are often short enough for your littlest apple-picker, and apple picking is a great day out in nature with the kids. Your farmer will likely guide you to the best rows for picking.
- Direct the ‘eye to the sky’ and the apple will fall easily from the branch. This means turning the bottom of the apple upwards, gently. Apples grow on ‘spurs’ that emerge from the branches. Avoid damaging the tree by pulling on these delicate stems. [See the video, below]
- Hold your apples in your palm, not with your fingers. Pressure from fingers can bruise your apples, so try picking from your palm instead.
- Be choosy. You do not need to pick a tree clean before moving on to the next one. Only pick ripe apples and save the rest for others, later.
- Don’t drop the apples. Apples gently placed in baskets or bags have a better chance of holding up later on, as bruised apples tend to go bad faster.
- Don’t throw or waste apples. The apples are your farmer’s livelihood.
- You can sample the apples to determine your favourite at the farm, before you begin picking. We ask that you please eat apples after they have been paid for.
- Contrary to popular belief, apples are not native to North America. It is commonly believed that apples originated in Kazakhstan. The only apples that are native to North America are Crabapples.
- Apples of each variety are clones of the original tree. Apples grown from seeds would be terrible to eat! This is done by grafting the branch of a popular apple tree onto the trunk of another.
- Originally, apples were brought to North America, not because they make great pies. They were brought because apples were ideal for making alcoholic cider!
There are a variety of pick your own apples at Barrie Hill Farms. Click here for information.