You finally made it. You did your research, pulled your favorite sweater out of the depths of your closet and remembered to charge your phone so it’s ready to post photos of colorful leaves and bushels of apples to Instagram. You are successfully prepared to go apple picking in search of the perfect produce to… produce a (red) delicious mix of apple-infused treats.
Or… maybe not. If you’re at a complete and total loss as to where to begin, don’t give up and console yourself with the warm embrace of a dozen apple cider donuts. Instead, have the confidence to go into that orchard well-prepared with these apple-picking tips from general manager Kurt W. Alstede, whose family owns Alstede Farms in Chester, NJ.
The Brighter, The Better
Let the bright objects distract you. If you don’t have a small child to bring with you, it’s time to embrace your inner 5-year-old. According to Alstede, color is key when choosing the perfect apple. Brightness is a sign of maturity, and maturity equals flavor.
Skin Quality Signifies Overall Quality
You bruise, you lose. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to remember that cuts in the skin, bruising, or even slight markings are bad signs. These apples are best left behind, as they won’t last very long after you’ve left the orchard.
Size Doesn’t Matter
There is no correlation between apple size and maturity. All apples are different, and, depending on the type, have various growth potentials. Don’t discount the small guys; they’re just as delicious as their more sizable counterparts!
Try Something New
While it’s tempting to head straight for the familiar names you’ve seen on display in the grocery store for years, this is your opportunity to try something new. Apple orchards offer locally grown options that you won’t get anywhere else, and chances are, they’re just as good — if not better — than what you’re used to eating.
Know Your Purpose
If you have a certain idea of what you’d like to use your apples for, it’s important to time your apple-picking adventure just right. For instance, in early fall — the first few weeks of September — they are softer and not great for storage. This is the time to grab some McIntoshes, Cortlands and Macouns, and chow down on your bounty.
If you’re trying your hand at pie-making or planning on jarring some preserves, late fall is your best bet. These possess a texture more suitable for storage, and will remain flavorful over time. Stayman and Rome apples are some of the best apples to look for during the last few weeks of fall.
Whether you’re headed to Alstede Farms or another of New Jersey’s apple-picking orchards, you now know everything you need to be an expert apple picker. Happy hunting (and gathering)!
In-article photo credit: © Alstede Farms