Thoughts of biting into a juicy, crisp apple fresh off the tree motivates lots of people to find the nearest California apple orchard and start picking. Ranking number four in apple production in the United States, the state offers a large number of apple orchards at which consumers enjoy picking the fruit themselves. Join in on the fun at an orchard nearby, or head to a you-pick orchard in another part of the state and make it a weekend adventure.
The largest number of orchards may be found in the Apple Hill Region on the state's northeast side. Southern California also offers a wealth of orchards. More orchards can be found in central California, including Sonoma County, and a few you-pick orchards are available in the far northern reaches of the state.
Almost every apple imaginable grows in California including popular types such as Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Gala and Jonagold. Some orchards such as Prevedelli Farms in Watsonville also grow heirloom apples as well as some new varieties with fun names such as Winter Banana, Black Twig and My-Jewel. Since apples mature at different times during late summer into fall, a call to the orchard to find out what apples are ripe for picking helps with planning.
What to Bring
A few orchards provide containers, but most request visitors bring their own containers to hold the apples they pick. Packing plenty of water, snacks and even a lunch makes the picking easier. Hats and sunscreen also come in handy. To preserve memories of the apple-picking adventure, a camera or video recorder works well. If small children are included in the fun, bringing a small wagon or colorful child-sized pails to make the event more interesting.
How to Pick
Most orchards direct pickers to the best trees for picking mature fruit. Many of them also encourage pickers to try the different varieties of apples right off the tree. After choosing the tree from which to pick apples, simply grasp a blemish-free apple in the palm of the hand, then give the fruit a quick twist to pull it off the branch. The stem should stay on the apple when it pulls away, indicating a perfectly ripe apple. Each apple needs to be carefully placed in the container to avoid bruising.
In the fall, several apple harvest festivals take place in the state. One of the largest festivals, the Springville Apple Festival, draws more than 30,000 people each October. Visitors find hundreds of booths selling arts, crafts and plenty of food. The event also features 5K and 10K running events, music, rides, an apple baking contest and a pie eating contest.