For city folks and suburban families
picking your own apples and pumpkins - along with fall foliage tours - is a rite of Autumn that everyone looks forward to.
While some schools get the whole class out in the fields, most kids get to go apple
picking or pumpkin picking with the whole family. It's a healthy day out in the fresh air and a great photo-taking opportunity.
The fresh produce lasts only for a short time, but the memory of "harvesting and gathering" (especially for city kids) lasts a lifetime.
US apple orchards, pumpkin
patches, and pick your own farms nationwide
Usually starting in September, pick your own farms welcome visitors to come and enjoy the fall harvest with the whole family. (Pets usually aren't allowed inside, so be sure to leave Fido at home that morning.)
Pick-your-own farms are usually open seasonally, so be sure to call ahead for opening days and hours, and other treats and activities on offer. A good number of farms offer hot mulled cider, donuts, and even free hayrides to lure in the crowds on a bright, crisp fall day.
Needless to say, the popularity of pick your own farms has grown over the years. Especially on the weekends, be sure to make it an early morning activity to avoid larger crowds. For the same reason, don't wait until October -- or you may disappointed by the slim pickin's left by families that have come before you!
What to look for at pick-your-own farms
When pumpkin picking, look for pumpkins that are fresh, ripe, and bright orange with no scars, cuts or bruises.
In pick-your-own apple orchards, use the apple picker - a long pole with a small basket at the end - to coax your perfect apple down from the tree. Large bushel baskets are also usually provided to haul in your prize specimens. Just as you would at the supermarket, look for brightly colored red or golden apples with no bruises.
Planning on making an apple pie? Look for a tart variety such as Granny Smith, Cortland, or Golden Delicious. (Tarter apples have more pectin, which means they hold together more firmly while baking.) But, no worries. Apple tree varieties are usually planted together, and clearly marked, so you can easily distinguish varieties.