After Labor Day weekend, the minds of North Forkers seemed to immediately shift to one thing — apples. Cooking with them, eating them, decorating with them, and perhaps most important, picking them.
Over at Breeze Hill Farm in Peconic, the U-pick apples are in their second season, said manager Steven Pia. Of the 1,200 apple trees on the property, about 14 varieties are ready to be picked now — ginger gold, red delicious, granny smith, mutsu and more. When arriving on the farm to pick your own apples, Pia will direct you to the spots with the best apples for the time of season.
“You always want to pick the apple towards the branch as opposed to pulling it off,” he said, mimicking the motion with his hand, twisting an imaginary apple upward towards the branch. “Otherwise, the branch will snap back and all the apples will fall off the tree.”
What also might be tempting when picking apples is finding clusters, but Pia said sometimes you have to inspect the side of the apple that is blocked from the sun.
“You want to look before you pick an apple to see if it’s ripe,” he said. “Apples that are usually in a cluster of three or four apples are usually colorful on the outside and on the inside they are not.”
If you have plans to bake with some of the apples you pick, Pia suggests going for the harder apples. “Most people like the mutsu for baking,” he said. “It’s similar to a granny smith but not quite as tart. It holds up well. You don’t really want to cook with an apple that’s too sweet. You never want to bake with a honey crisp or a gala.” Save those varieties for apples you plan to snack on or use raw, as in salads.
Here’s a list of all the North Fork orchards offering u-pick apples.
Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Tuesdays, U-pick open Wednesday through Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
31215 County Rd 48, Peconic; (631) 876-5159
The 15-acre Harbes Family Orchard in Riverhead is open for apple picking in September and October. The farm offers 27 different varieties of apples, including gala, sansa, honey crisp and golden delicious. There are also plenty of family-friendly activities to enjoy such as a corn maze and hayrides.
No pets or outside food and drinks are allowed on the farm.
Open daily, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and holidays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.
5698 Sound Ave. Riverhead; (631) 298-0800
In addition to apples, Lewin also has u-pick peppers, eggplant and pumpkins through October.
The five-acre corn maze is generally open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays starting in early September and continuing through late October. It is designed to be challenging and takes between 20 to 35 minutes to complete, depending on how many dead ends you hit.
Note: Animals are not allowed in the orchard and it is cash only. There is an ATM at the farm stand.
U-pick is generally open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, but they are subject to change. Call for more info.
812 Sound Avenue, Calverton (631) 929-4327
Wagon rides are also available on Saturdays during apple-picking season, providing a fun way to get to the orchards and see the farm.
Other items such as apple cider doughnuts, apple cider, pies and preserves are available at the farm stand. No pets are allowed.
Open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
28700 Main Rd. Cutchogue; (631) 734-6441
The farm stand also sells fresh eggs, flowers, doughnuts and more. And there is a children’s play area.
Open weekends 10 a.m to 4 p.m.
3810 Middle Country Road, Calverton; (631) 727-4554
A hub of all things apples, Woodside Orchard has been family owned and operated since 1982. There are two locations: Both have U-pick groves and baked goods, and the Aquebogue location offers hard cider tasting, too. Leashed pets are allowed in the picnic areas but not in the U-pick groves.
Jamesport: open weekends 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Aquebogue: Open Monday through Friday, closed Wednesday, starting 9/21, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
729 Main Road, Aquebogue; 116 Manor Lane, Jamesport; (631) 722-5770