A person adding picked apples into a basket

Apple Picking Season is Finally Here

Fall is such a special time of year regardless of where you live. The crunch of leaves underfoot, fat pumpkins, and that tiny chill in the air welcomes the holidays and then the promise of a brand-new year. Cooking and baking take on a new meaning as friends and families gather once again.

The annual trip to the apple orchard is a favorite family event where you can pick up any variety of apples for bobbing, baking, or cider! It can be easy to find an apple orchard near you, considering 36 American states have apple orchards.

From Halloween all the way to Christmas, fall apples take center stage for their availability, versatility, and fresh, crisp flavors. What are you waiting for? It’s time to get outside and enjoy apple picking season!

Quick Facts

Did you know there are over 7,000 kinds of apples in existence, but most domestic markets carry only about six or seven varieties depending on the time of year?

During apple picking season, look for apples that are firm without bruises or blemishes, and smell clean, and mildly sweet. Keep apples fresh by storing them in a cool, dry place out of direct light and they will last for several weeks.

How to Clean Apples

Unless your apples came straight from the orchard, they probably have a waxy coating on them that protects them during transportation. The wax is harmless, but it’s still wise to remove it.

To clean apples, put them in a sink or bowl with hot water and a half cup of white vinegar or lemon juice. Carefully wipe each apple with a clean washcloth and wipe them dry with a clean kitchen towel. Now they are ready to use.

Different Types of Apples

Here is a primer on what varieties are available during the fall apple picking season, and what kinds of recipes to use them in. Feel free to mix and match varieties to create a unique flavor profile of your own for holiday baking!

Best Apples for Baking

Apples are a baker’s delight. If you are baking a pie, cobbler, tart, a crisp, or a quick bread, here is the short list of our favorites!

Just in time for fall baking, Honeycrisp apples are harvested from September to October, have a blotchy red/yellow skin, with a firm flesh and a slightly acidic, but sweet flavor.

Granny Smith
You’ll know when you’ve bitten into a Granny Smith apple! Super popular in baked dishes, Granny Smith’s have a bright green skin, and a very distinct tart-flavored fresh. They are harvested in late October but can be found year-round because they have such a distinctive flavor!

An all-purpose apple with a yellow-green to orange-green skin, Fuji’s have a brilliant white flesh and a firm texture. Fuji’s store well and can be found starting in late October.

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Golden Delicious
Golden Delicious apples are softer than other varieties and are pale yellow to a light green in color. They have a mild flavor that goes great with savory seasonings like cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and allspice. These apples need to be used immediately as they do not store as well as other varieties.

Braeburn’s are larger than most apples and have a yellow skin with orangey red blotches. Mostly harvested in November, Braeburn’s are common in baking because they have a mildly tart flavor but a crispy, firm flesh.

Jonagold’s and Pink Lady’s
These varietals are smaller in size than most but are often selected for baking because they are tart/sweet, dense, and remain firm after baking.

Other Ways to Cook with Apples

For cold salads like Waldorf, Spinach, or Carrot Raisin, choose bright red apples for color, crunch, and sweetness. We like Red Delicious, Jazz, and Empire.

Candied apples are a seasonal favorite and whether they are coated in red candy sauce, or caramel. We like Granny Smith or Fuji because the flesh is dense, and their tart flavor holds up well against the sweetness of the coating.

Applesauce can be made from any variety or combination of apples, but we like to choose the ones with softer flesh so they cook down easier. Try MacIntosh, Golden Delicious, or Cortland apples for a sweet, smooth, result.

Halloween Apples for Bobbing

There really is a best apple for bobbing at parties! Look for soft apples that are buoyant and have long stems for grabbing with your teeth. Our favorites are Gala and Jonagold’s.

Fall’s Favorite Beverage

Apple cider is an autumn treat, especially served warm with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon on top. It’s great hot or cold and for cider, we like a combination of sweet and tart. Golden Delicious and Red Delicious combined with McIntosh or Jonathon’s will make an unforgettable apple cider either hot or cold!

Snack Time

Packed with fiber, low on calories, and affordable, you can’t go wrong with apples. For a quick grab and go snack, we like to stock up on Fuji, Gala, MacIntosh Red, or Honey Crisp. Pop one or two into a backpack or briefcase when you need a healthy pick me up.

There are so many ways you can use apples. Don’t worry about picking too many when you’re at your local orchard, because there’s no shortage of recipes you can try at home. Whether you’re baking, tossing them in salads, or making sweet treats, there’s a way to incorporate fresh apples.