If the weather here in the North Bay decides to start cooling ever so slightly, I will be ready to go apple picking with my kids! Apple-picking season in the Bay Area starts in late July or August and runs throughout the fall. Local favorite Gravensteins kick off the season, and you can work your way through Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Rome, Braeburn, Fuji, and other varieties through the course of the fall. I’m not one to have many sweets in the house, but that idea goes out the window during the fall and the winter holiday season when I start baking. We always end up with plenty of apples for making things like apple pie, apple crisp, home made apple sauce, and of course including them in school lunches, too.
Here are some tips and places for apple picking with kids.
Apples are one of the easiest fruits to gather – even for little hands. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your apple picking experience:
When going to pick your own apple, choose firm, bruise-free fruit and place it gently in your basket (just throwing them in will make them bruise and go bad more quickly).
Apples on the outside of the tree tend to ripen first. Because there are so many varieties, color isn’t necessarily an indication of ripeness.
To make your apple stay longer, keep your apple in a cool, dry place, like a basement. Or put them in closed plastic bags and store them in a refrigerator. Don’t wash them until you use them.
After you go apple picking, amaze the kids with this trick: when you slice an apple in half, the core resembles a star.
It’s good to know that Johnny Appleseed was a real person, he did plant a lot of apple trees, and his birthday was on September 26.
There are many apple farms around the Bay Area. However, only a few let you pick your own apple. Here are some of them:
55 Peckham Road,
Watsonville, CA 95076
Open: 9-5 daily
Description: U-pick apple starts September 8th and lasts 4 weeks. APPLES AVAILABLE FOR PIK-YOR-SEF INCLUDE: Red Delicious, Newton Pippins, and Golden Delicious. Other varieties available for sale only at the Barn. After picking, take a self guided tour of our apple orchard and berry farms. If you’re here on Saturdays (September-May only), you can watch the apples get pressed for juice! The Apple Butter Festival has been cancelled this year.
3175 Sullivan Road
Sebastopol, CA 95472
Phone: (707) 829-0617
Open: Sat/Sun: 10am -3pm, Weekdays By Appointment Only
Description: Eight varieties each of Certified Organic Apples and Asian Pears. Also harvesting sweet Organic Fuyu Persimmons, Organic Fresh Frozen Apple and Pear Juice, Asian Pear and Ginger Marmalade, Organic Dried Lavender and more! Enjoy the gorgeous orchard as you pick your own apples. Apples available at Berkeley Farmer’s Market every Saturday. Apple picking season starts on August 25th. Gabriel Farm is part of the Sonoma County “Weekend Along Farm Trail” on weekend from Sept 29th to Oct 28th
Chileno Valley Ranch
5105 Chileno Valley Road, Petaluma
Phone: (707) 765-6664
Open: Sundays: 10:30-4, else by Appointment.
Description: Organic apple orchard, with Orin, Pinova, Molly’s Delicious and Jonathan’s Pride. All the apples varieties are blind taste test winners. Chileno Valey is open for U Pick apple during the months of September and October, Sundays only, from 10 a.m to 4 p.m.
Apple-A-Day Ratzlaff Ranch
13128 Occidental Road
Sebastopol, CA 95472
Phone: (707) 823-0538
Open: All year 8-5 Daily. Closed Sat.
Description: Apples: Gravenstein, Golden Delicious, Rome (Aug-Feb.) Bartlett pears:( Aug. 15-Nov.1). Fresh frozen apple juice all year. U-Pick. Call first. Apple-A-Day Ranch is part of the Sonoma County “Weekend Along Farm Trail” on weekend from Sept 29th to Oct 28th. Read reviews for this farm on yelp.
Pleasant Hill Farm:
Certified organic Pleasant Hill Farm in Sebastopol offers a u-pick experience for groups by appointment. This beautiful farm has five acres of semi-dwarf organic apple trees, including Fujis, Royal Galas, Red Delicious, Arkansas Black, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith, too.
U-pick season here starts in late August or early September, and it’s an ideal place for school groups or groups of family and friends (8 minimum) who want to try their hands at apple picking. Two large picnic tables (which seat about 40 people), made from cypress and redwood trees, make this an appealing place for groups to relax and have a picnic after apple picking. There’s even a tree swing to play on! Make sure you wear closed-toe shoes for the orchard.
Call Victoria at (415) 306-1413 for information on prices and seasonality, or to make an appointment. She also runs a vacation rental on the property in a restored turn-of-the century barn and tank house. Pleasant Hill Farm is located on Pleasant Hill Road in Sebastopol.