If you recently found your preschooler planting apple seeds in the flower pots on the deck, it can only mean one thing: Johnny Appleseed is back in town.
And with those tales of sowing apple seeds from east to west comes the perfect time to get your kids out into the fresh air to see that apples actually come from trees and not from the shelves of Foodtown.
In Monmouth County, there are two orchards offering pick-your-own apples, Eastmont Orchards in Colts Neck and in Freehold.
Before you head out there are a few things to remember:
- Bring cash. Eastmont accepts checks but neither takes debit or credit cards. Battleview charges $1 per group for a pick-your-own annual membership card.
- Hurricane Irene did a number on apples this year. Though you can still find plenty of crisp and delicious apples of many varieties, expect a lot of rotten fruit on trees and the ground.
- Prepare to eat apples you have never heard of. Arkansas Black and Stayman Winesap are just two of the varieties you can find at pick-your-own orchards that you might not see at the A&P.
- Don't let all those pumpkins and gourds lying around fool you. It's still prime apple season here. Picking is open until the end of October.
- The folks at Eastmont advise, "Apples of the same variety, even on the same tree, often vary in ripeness and firmness. Generally, outside fruit ripens first, inside later. Larger fruit ripens sooner than smaller fruit. Flesh color turning to yellow indicates sweetness and a less acidic flavor."
- You've got the apples. Now it's time for pie. Check out Patch's easy-peasy, kid-friendly recipe.
For more information about pick-your-own farms visit the Department of Agriculture's Jersey Fresh page where you can search by county and produce type to see what's growing where. And take the Jersey Fresh advice whenever you go to pick your own, "Call ahead to avoid disappointment."