Plenty of you-pick apple orchards exist in Ontario to meet just about any apple craving imaginable. Most orchards allow pickers to taste the fruit as they pick, giving consumers a chance to try different varieties of apples. Some orchards also sell apple cider and apple-related products or other produce. Combining the apple-picking experience with a sightseeing trip to look for colorful autumn leaves may provide one of the best fall memories possible.
Most of the you-pick apple orchards can be found along the shores of the Great Lakes, including Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and Lake Huron. Good growing conditions and fertile soil in these areas have turned apples into one of Ontario's biggest crops, with more than 700 apple orchards existing in the province. Dozens of these orchards allow consumers to pick their own fresh fruit right off the tree.
A wide variety of apples grow in Ontario orchards, including Paula Red, Jersey Mac and Melba, some of the earliest apples to mature. Popular apples such as Red and Golden Delicious, Fuji, Gala, Jonagold, McIntosh and Granny Smith also grow in a number of orchards. Some orchards feature old-fashioned varieties such as Golden Russett apples.
Several apple-related festivals take place each year, including the Apple Harvest Craft Show in West Meaford. The festival features more than 200 craft exhibits, as well as apple products, tastings and a farmer's market. Another festival takes place in St. George Village in September. The festival offers a great way to try a variety of apples, pies and dumplings. Other events include a craft show, entertainment, and children's activities.
How to Pick
The most mature apples tend to appear on the outer edges of the trees. Since many apple orchards grow semi-dwarf apple trees, ladder climbing is usually not required. Pick ripe apples without blemishes by holding the fruit firmly in the palm of the hand and quickly twisting the fruit off the branch with a flick of the wrist. The fruit should come off the tree with the stem intact, a sign the apple is ripe. Each apple needs to be carefully placed in the container to prevent the fruit from bruising.
Items to Bring
Most orchards request pickers to bring their own containers, although a few do provide them. Plenty of sunscreen and a hat help keep sunburn to a minimum, while bottled water keeps apple pickers hydrated. Snacks and even a lunch work well, especially for any children in the group. Recording the apple-picking event with a camera or video recorder promises to help preserve memories the family will enjoy for years to come.