Apple season’s as easy as pie

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Now is the time to harvest your own bushel of apples for a whole cart of fall fun. Right around now is the best time to get outdoors and go apple picking. Whether you’re lucky enough to have your apple trees in your own backyard or you have an age-old (or new!) family tradition of heading out to the local orchard, apple picking is always fun on a crisp autumn day. It’s a great October outdoor group activity for all ages. The best part is the piles of apples you have at the end. But sometimes we go a little wild and we pick a peck or two too many. Here are a few apple ideas to help you reap and use well the fruits from your labors.

American as apple pie

September/October is best for apple harvesting. Orchards are alive with festivals and activities during this time. If merriment-filled masses aren’t your thing, avoid an orchard visit on the weekends. Crowds and traffic can be a challenge at some orchards. Weekdays usually have fewer organized orchard activities on the schedule, but the crowds are thinner. If you can only rustle up your gang on the weekends, go early in the morning (check opening hours first) or later in the afternoon to avoid the biggest throngs.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

Species of apples differ in their tastes and textures. Baking, grilling (yes, grilling. We’ll get back to that), or just plain eating will require different apples. Write down the types you want before you go. Some orchards are so large and have so many varieties of apples, they give you a map and hayrides to the specific tree sections.

Apple trees that have a significant amount of fallen fruit should be skipped. The apples on that tree may be a bit past their prime. Apples that are ready for picking should easily twist off the tree by their stem.

The apple of your eye

Most orchards don’t provide ladders for safety reasons, but if you do go up in the tree, wear protective eyewear. Leaves and branches pose some unexpected dangers for the eyes of fruit harvesters.

One bad apple spoils the bunch

Remember that old phrase? It’s actually true when it comes to literal apples. Bruises on fruit can be infested with tiny bacteria or fungi that spread fast. One bruised apple in a bag will quickly affect the other apples. Also, be careful not to bruise the fruit you pick, as the damage makes it easier for bacteria or fungi to enter the apple. As you pick, gently place the apples in the bushels.

An apple a day…

Apples will be ready to eat or cook with immediately, but if you want to put some in cold storage for the weeks ahead, do it. One tip: don’t wash the apples before you store them. Some may have a natural cover on them that will help the apple stay fresh longer. Wash the apple right before eating or slicing.

How’d ya like them apples?

Now you get to eat your pickin’s. You could plow through them, eating one a day, but there are a lot more exciting ways to work through your bushel. Did you know there are delicious apple grilling recipes to try? When you have a few bushels of apples, it’s the perfect time to experiment with some new dishes. seriouseats.com has a scrumptious Grilled Apples in Caramel Sauce recipe that requires a few minutes of grill-time for the apple slices. Grilled apple desserts are popular and a fun group activity for the whole family, e.g., kids can help prepare grilled apple crisp foil packets like in this recipe. And using your outdoor kitchen (grill) or fire pit is especially timely around the holidays when indoor cooking elements may be filled to the gills with other dishes. Plus, who doesn’t like to hang out on the patio on these crisp autumn days? Check out your favorite recipe sites for “grilled apple desserts” for more ideas.