The first day of autumn is coming up fast — It's Saturday, just a week away. 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 might 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 them in your basement or 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, which are 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.
It's best to 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
11587 Poverty Hollow Lane
Markham, VA 22643
Stribling Orchard is in its sixth generation operating in Markham, a small Fauquier County community off Interstate 66. In the fall, it has apples and pumpkins, as well as local honey and cider. The orchard and farm are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. An on-site bakery is open every weekend.
Hartland Orchard, Markham
3064 Hartland Lane
Markham, VA 22643
Hartland Orchards is an old family farm open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily that has more than just apples — You'll also find 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
1408 Snowden Road
Delaplane, VA 20144
Hollin Farms is a fourth-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
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. to 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
37883 E. Main St.
Purcellville, VA 20132
The number listed is an automated phone line that will have the latest picking information. This orchard is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekends only. It has a wide variety of apples and pears for eating or canning.