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Fall is finally here, which means it’s time for hayrides, haunted houses and, of course, apple picking! Heading out to the orchard and picking apples is a healthy and active way to enjoy the season and teach your kids about where their food comes from and why eating locally matters. However, there are a few things you should consider before packing up the kids and heading to the orchard.
Know Before You Go
Not all apple orchards are created equal. If you have concerns about pesticides, research local orchards ahead of time to find an option that is organic or uses “low-spray” pesticides. If organic produce is important to you and your family, visit Grow Organic Apples for resources that will help you find organic options near you.
Before you start picking, consider what you want to use the apples for. Will you eat them out of hand, or use them for baking, or perhaps even preserve them into apple jam? Make sure to consider this beforehand, as every apple variety has its own attributes. For example, Granny Smiths are great for baking, but McIntosh apples don’t hold up well to heat. They tend to break down more than other apple varieties, so they are better for things like applesauce. Here’s a chart which can help you figure out which apple is best for your recipes.
Plan Your Trip
Apple orchards get really busy this time of year, especially during sunny fall weekends. If possible, try to go earlier in the day when the orchards will be less crowded. And make sure to plan ahead and bring snacks and drinks. While some orchards do sell food, many smaller family farms won’t have much in the way of dining options (other than apples, of course!), so bring a picnic for your kids. Sandwiches are easy to pack and eat outdoors, as are things like granola bars, trail mix, hard-boiled eggs, cold cereal, juice boxes, water bottles, etc.
Bring napkins, utensils and hand wipes/hand sanitizer, as you will want to wash your hands after picking apples. There may not be facilities on-site. You may want to bring a picnic blanket as well, in case there are no picnic tables available.
And, if you have small children, don’t forget the stroller! Little legs will get tired quickly, and you won’t want to be carrying a sack of apples along with your kiddos.
Make The Trip Educational
Before you go to the orchard, talk to your kids about the trip. Read books like The Giving Tree, and talk about concepts like farming, conservation and being kind to the environment. (Note: Remember to bring your own reusable bags to the orchard so you don’t create more waste!)
Now that you have your apples at home, what will you do with all your seasonal bounty? You can make applesauce, apple cider, apple pie, apple pie cookies and apple oatmeal, of course. But don’t forget that there are also a lot of savory recipes that will put your fresh apples to good use. Try this recipe for Grilled Apple, Bacon and Cheddar Melt with Roasted Red Onion Mayo from Jam Hands:
Or this recipe for Orchard Apple Chicken salad from Home and Plate:
Or how about apple-stuffed pork chops? Recipe here from My Latina Table:
And here is a great seasonal recipe for you vegans and vegetarians: Fall Spiced Tofu and Apple Cubes! Recipe here.
You can also put your apples to good use in an Autumn Crunch Pasta Salad. Recipe here from Chelsea’s Messy Apron.
What do you think? What’s your favorite way to use up all the apples you pick at the orchard?
[h/t: Bon Appetit]