Although scores of people cite summer as their favorite time of year, autumn also is a beloved season. Cool breezes and crisp air seem tailor-made for afternoons spent enjoying the great outdoors. The pleasant autumn weather and awe-inspiring foliage may be the reason so many festivals and outdoor events are scheduled this time of year.
Apple- and pumpkin-picking are popular fall pastimes. Neighborhood orchards open their doors to the public, allowing men, women and children to scour their fields and trees for the perfect finds. Heed these picking tips to make the experience even more of a success.
Many orchards that have open picking seasons plant dwarf apple trees to make the picking process easier, particularly for young children, so there’s no need to bring along a ladder. You should still be able to find plenty of apples close to the ground.
A good farmer will know when certain varieties of apples are ripe, and he or she will likely cordon off trees that are not ready for picking. Ripe apples will be crisp and firm. Keep in mind that apples ripen from the outside of the tree inward. Those are the ones usually picked first, anyway.
Try to get to an orchard earlier in the season. If you wait too long, the trees may be picked of most of the best fruit. Depending on where you live, apple-picking season may begin in mid-September and continue into mid-October.
Apples can bruise, so don’t toss them into baskets when picking. Also, wait to wash apples until right before eating to prevent moisture-related spoilage. Apples keep best in a cool location.
Pumpkin patches are often found in close proximity to apple orchards. Picking pumpkins to eat or decorate the home is a popular autumn activity, one that families often enjoy together.
When visiting a pumpkin patch, dress accordingly. That means wearing shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty, as the patch may be muddy. Layer clothing in case it is a chilly day. Breezes are more pronounced in open fields.
Pumpkins are “long-keepers,” which means if they are uncut or not damaged, they can last for several weeks. This means you can pick pumpkins at the same time as apples. When selecting a pumpkin, look for one that is completely orange. After picking, a green or yellow pumpkin may never ripen to orange.
Bring along a small wagon and knife so that you can cut the vine, if necessary. Pumpkins are heavy, and a wagon will come in handy, especially with youngsters in tow.
Ripe pumpkins should not dent easily. Examine your pumpkin for holes or insects, which could indicate internal rot that greatly reduces the shelf life of the pumpkin. Remember, carving the pumpkin reduces its life expectancy, so be sure to reserve that task until close to Halloween.
If you desire a pumpkin to turn into a baked treat or other dish, you will need a type of small, sweet cooking pumpkin known as a “sugar pumpkin.” The meat of this pumpkin is much less stringy and more smooth than decorative pumpkin varieties.
Autumn is the season for apple- and pumpkin-picking. This is a great way to spend an afternoon outdoors with the family. If possible, visit an orchard on a weekday, when the crowds will be much smaller than during prime fall weekends.