The first day of autumn, Sept. 22, is coming up fast. Along with cooler temperatures, thoughts turn to football, hearty soups, "where did we store the rake?” and the annual family pilgrimage to the local apple orchard.
If a day at the orchard is not already a family tradition in your home, this year may be the perfect time to make it one. A day of apple picking, cider sipping and idyllic picture posing is a great way to welcome in the new season.
As you choose from the many varieties of apples consider not only taste, but also hardiness and remember that different varieties come into season at different times.
Fuji are the best apples if you’ve got limited refrigerator space because you can store Fujis in your basement or your garage. They are slow to ripen so are best picked mid to late October. On the other end of the apple spectrum are the Gala apples. Great for pies, sauces, eating and baking, they will only last a few weeks and need to be refrigerated. Because they ripen so early, they are at their prime from mid August to early September.
If you’re looking for good September apple picking, your best bets are: Macintosh, Honeycrisp, Jonathan, Golden Delicious, Jonalicious, Cortland and Red Delicious. Want to make a superb apple pie? Go for the hard York apples because they’ll keep their shape in pies.
Patch recommends you call the orchard before heading out on your picking pilgrimage to be sure the apples you’re hoping to enjoy are ready for the picking.
Stribling Orchard, Markham, VA
Stribling Orchard is in its sixth generation operating in Markham, VA. In the fall, they have apples and pumpkins, as well as local honey and cider. The orchard and farm are open from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. An on-site bakery is open every weekend.
Hartland Orchard, Markham, VA
3064 Hartland Lane
Markham, VA 22643
Hartland Orchards is an old family farm open from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. daily that has more than just apples (including honey, pumpkins and Christmas trees later this fall). There are special admission deals for military, fire/rescue personnel and others—check the website for more information.
Hollins Farms, Delaplane, VA
1408 Snowden Road
Delaplane, VA 20144
Hollin Farms is a four-generation family farm next to Sky Meadows State Park in Fauquier County. The farm also has a 10-acre pumpkin patch and dig-your-own potatoes and peanuts.
Mackintosh Fruit Farm, Berryville, VA
Phone: (540) 955-2161
608 Russell Road
Berryville, VA 22611
Mackintosh (with a "K") Fruit Farm is a family owned farm in the Northern Shenandoah Valley in Clarke County open daily from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Almost all of their fruits and vegetables are available as pick-your-own and the farm includes plenty of walking trails, too. Fresh pressed cider is available starting Oct. 1.
Crooked Run Orchard, Purcellville, VA
Phone: (540) 338-6642
37883 E. Main Street
Purcellville, VA 20132
This is an automated phone line that will have the latest picking information. They are open weekends only, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. and have a wide variety of apples and pears for eating or canning.