What’s better than picking out October apples at the Greenmarket? Picking them off the tree yourself, at a Hudson Valley orchard.
I held onto plum season as long as I could, but the fat lady has sung, and it’s time to hail the fall fruit, which will also take us through the winter and into spring, until rhubarb’s return next May. And while markets are overflowing with dozens of varieties of apples right now, from mutsu and Honeycrisp to Cox’s Orange Pippin, nothing can compare to the pleasure of standing in an upstate orchard, belly full of cider, playing farmer for one afternoon.
As writer Jan Greenberg once told us, even the most carefully handled fruit cannot compare with one plucked from the branch in the autumn sun. Although local orchards use special airtight coolers to store apples for year-round sales, the annual harvest is right now, and the orchards of Ulster and Columbia Counties are heavy with the sweet crop. The harvest began at the end of August with the colorful, juicy, crisp Sansa, a cross between a Japanese Akane and New Zealand Gala, and will go through early November with the hearty Braeburn (great for applesauce) and the good-for-long-keeping, crunchy Cameo.
New York State’s award-winning apple crop is second in size only to Washington’s, and each fall dozens of upstate orchards welcome the public to go out into the fields to “pick your own.”
We put together a guide to the very best places to pick. But even if you don’t have wheels, you’re in luck. This weekend, the fine folks at Brooklyn Kitchen have arrange for a bus up to Stone Ridge Orchards. Tickets, $60 each, include transportation, better snacks than you’d find in your own car, entry to the orchard, a hay ride and a recipe for a killer apple pie, which you’re gonna need when you get home with your bumper crop.