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Apple Picking?

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Fall is in the air and a young man's fancy turns to apple picking. Does anyone have favorite places in the Boston area? We are thinking of going on a weekday to avoid crowds and have more apples on the trees. Has anyone been to an orchard on a Monday?

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  1. Haven't been on a Monday, but One Stack Farm off 117 in Stow has a good selection, great prices, and wasn't very crowded last year on Sunday. The Pats were playing the Jets that day.
    The usual suspects, Honey Pot Hill, etc are listed in the Globe.
    Marino's in Natick, worth the trip for the Gelato alone, is also good for selection. It is more of a tourist trap. One Columbus Day Sunday we went late, around 3:30-4 and the line TO PAY for already picked apples was 45 minutes. We opted to buy them from their farms stand instead, but it is a fun experience for kids. Atrain and animals are also available.

    1. Just curious-- why would there be more apples on the trees on a weekday? It's not like they grow back after a heavy weekend of picking. Also, orchards typically open a few rows at a time to picking, and open new ones when the others are depleted, so there is generally not a problem finding available fruit.

      2 Replies
      1. re: AlanH

        Good point. I guess I was thinking apples per capita (i.e. fewer people, more apples per person). I recall a terrible apple picking day near NYC where they transplanted whole city blocks of Manhattan and armed everyone with picking poles. Very unpleasant.

        1. re: gourmaniac

          Yikes! That sounds terrrible.
          I've never had a problem with accessibilty at any of the orchards around 495 (Stow, Harvard, etc.). They'll usually take you out by hay wagon at the larger orchards, directly to the open rows. Worst case I've had to wait a bit in line to get out there, and this has always been on weekends for me.

      2. I've never been on a Monday, but I have noticed in the past few years that October has been too late for good choices, so now might be the time to go. Cider Hill in Amesbury looks great; I'm going to try it out this year. Their website has details of which fruits are available for picking (they still have peaches!)and they are open weekdays. Site is www.ciderhill.com. Also there is a MA agricultural site that lists various Pick-Your-Own sites; you might find that helpful.

        Link: http://marssite.netcera.com/homepage....

        1. We very much enjoy Drew farms in Westford - great macs and cortlands early and red and gold delicious later. Tractor ride from the parking area to the orchard. They have other varieties in their store, but their main picking apples are those I mentioned. The store is right off the Westford exit (32) on I-495. They have maps at the store to their picking area. They have no problems with picking poles (some places won't allow them - I don't know why as it allows the top apples to be picked without climbing, which is never allowed).

          Cheap picking pole: Take a 1-liter soda bottle, and cut in half - discard bottom half. Tape the bottle mouth to an old broomstick with duct tape upside down so that the open part of the bottle extends away from the broomhandle). Cut a sharp notch (v)somewhere in the open part of the bottle. Use the notch to locate the stem of the fruit(s) you want and twist the pole (from underneath) - fruit(s) fall into your bottle.

          1. Red Apple Farm in Phillipston off Route 2 has a huge selection of varieties. We go several times each season and it's worth the long trip. See link below.

            Link: http://www.redapplefarm.com/

            1 Reply
            1. re: Samovar

              Second. Plus they have a store if you want variety but don't want to bother picking (no way I need that many apples). Many orchards were picked out for PYO last year during/after Columbus Day weekend due to a string of glorious weekends and a slightly smaller harvest. Yields look good this year but we've had those glorious weekends...

            2. I was going to recommend Nashoba too (you can go anytime, not necessarily with this group). Though I must confess to sneaking away from the marked trees and picking Unauthorized Varieties.

              1 Reply
              1. I'm a big fan of Parlee Farms on the NH border - 30 minute drive from the city. They should still have raspberries, too, which have always been delicious there.

                Plus, goats on ramps!

                (That's not the right link below, and it won't let me change it...)

                Parlee's Farm
                133 Pine Hill Rd, Chelmsford, MA

                1 Reply
                1. I've been going to Shelburne Farms (Stow, MA) for years. They have a huge selection of apples, all the usual kinds, but also some very old varieties that are hard to find elsewhere, such as Northern Spy, Winesap, and Golden Russet. www.shelburnefarm.com

                  1. There's an orchard on RT 27 in Sherborn that will be selling Macouins this weekend from the vines. They seemed to think this weekend would be peak . Not sure if they have any weekday hours, though, but they do have a 7 day week farmstand right on the road.

                    1. My fiance and I just went to Honey Pot Hill Orchards in Stow, MA last Friday and it was wonderful. We'd been once before on a Saturday in mid-October a few years ago and were battling the weekend crowds - plus the apples were slim pickings (ha!). But if you go now and during the week you'll enjoy the orchard much more - school groups tend to leave around noon - so it's nice and quite and in a way it was almost too easy (we filled our bag with apples and pears within minutes).

                      1. Ok, I was thinking of Dowse Orchards in Sherborn off RT 27. Open Sat and Sun only, 9-5 .

                        Frankly, I would rather go to my supermarket and buy the ones I want without the hassle of traipsing through fields. The price, sadly, is the same.

                        1. We did a little apple research for the team yesterday. After reading the Globe list, and the recs here, we discovered that apple central in Stow and Bolton were about 12 miles away; we could "shop" the alternatives...We were lured by the heirloom varieties of Sherburne farm, but once in the parking lot, past the inflatable moonwalk and toddler area, we decided it wasn't for us. Too many entitled, screaming kids, and lots of families(and their Au Pairs in America) who thought traffic rules didn't apply to their SUV's. Yuk! We left, and passed some small farms, Honey Pot Orchard, which we were afriad of, and, in my own cynical way, I suggested Nashoba Valley, becasue I thought the vineyard might preclude lots of screaming meemies...WRONG! There was an apple blossom festival, hokey (and I mean hokey) Cajun music, $14 a peck apples, and trees that were totally picked out...We stayed becasue it was getting late, and we wanted apples. They really should have warned us that the apples weren't the draw, and there were few available...Luckily, TC is limber these days...;)

                          On the way back, we stopped at Bolton Spring Farm, which we had bypassed to get to Nashoba Valley Vineyard. We chose poorly. This was clearly the place to go. Tho they have a store, there were no hayrides, no amusements, and no bands. The orchard is on a hill that rises gently up from the road, and we could see the beautiful apples, both on the trees and in people's bags as they walked past us. And the apples were $18 a half bushel here! Plus, they had Macouns AND Macs, so both TC and I would have been happy. This will defintely be the destination for our next expedition...Don't make the mistakes we made!

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: galleygirl

                            thanks for the research and write up! we are considering an apple-picking excursion ourselves in a week or so, and the tips are greatly appreciated. one question: what was the rationale for by-passing honey pot orchard? i was thinking of trying them out based on opinions on the board.

                            1. re: autopi

                              Someone posted about crowds and picked-bare trees...

                              1. re: galleygirl

                                And crowds there are! Was at Honey Pot last Saturday and boy was it crowded! The traffice around the place was insane. 1+ hour line just to for carmel apples and cider donuts. Maybe it had something to do w/ the rainy past weekend that postphoned apple picking plans but, that was rediculus.

                          2. Poverty Lane Orchard in Lebanon, New Hampshire wins in my book for the best apple picking in New England. It is a bit of a hike from boston (~2hrs), but it is worth the trip! Make a full fall-day outing and make the trip, it will be worth it.

                            The orchard is beautiful, not crowded, and has the authentic feel of what apple picking should be. Unlike boston-local orchards that warn you not to eat any apples until you've paid for them, poverty lane realizes that in order to understand their heirloom apple varieties you need to try them. Not to mention that the apples are like 1/2 the price of those at Nashoba Valley and way tastier.


                            1. Went to Alfalfa Farm in Topsfield on the Rowley Bridge Rd. opposite the winery yesterday. Cortlands and MacIntosh for the picking...and if you don't want to pick them yourself, the owner's 12 y/o son goes running out to the trees and picks them for you! $1.00 per lb. We got some Cortlands and they were the best I've tasted this season. Still lots of green apples on the trees.

                              1. Made a trip out to Berlin Orchards yesterday in Berlin. We couldn't have picked a more perfect day. The reports of a great crop are right on; apples were plentiful and easy to pick. My first time to Berlin and I was pleasantly surprised by the variety including my favorite (and hard to find) Mutsus. They also had Honeycrisps that were divine (though that crop seems to be coming to an end)! My new second favorite apples. With the great weather though, families were out in droves.

                                My only complaint? The farm stand across the way (now operating separately) ran out of cider donuts. How can you run out of cider donuts? Unheard of and a travesty. Ended up having a delicious small cup of apple crisp ice cream instead.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: kobuta

                                  I made the mistake of going to Honeypot Hills today. HUGE mistake! Long lines to park, lines to buy the bags, 90 min wait in line to buy a freakin' donut! It was a great donut though.
                                  As for the apples, all the rain was a boon for the crop size, but the apples are a little less flavorful this year, maybe due to lack of sunshine. Cider seems a tad watery this year too. Biggest problem is Stow is all the damaged fruit from the hail storm in July.
                                  I would recommend going elsewhere.

                                  1. re: AHan

                                    Yah, I was at Honeypot Hill on Sunday, too..maybe I tend to go later, but I had
                                    never been there with such a large crowd as there was! The line for caramel
                                    apples wasn't too bad, less than 10 minutes..but the one for donuts was, as
                                    others have said, insane..I wasn't going to wait.

                                    I think I've gone to Honeypot Hill every year for the past 4-5 years and this is by
                                    far the most crowded I've ever seen it..whats in the air this year?? Or was I just
                                    lucky in past years to avoid this kinda craziness?

                                    1. re: amatto

                                      Well the papers are saying this season is the best apple season in a long while. Frankly, I'm glad people are going out to the local farms. It's a bit frantic, but at least the growers are seeing some results of their labor. There were very few people at Alfalfa Farm. I know the varieties are simple there, but they're right off the tree.

                                      1. re: Gio

                                        Last year there was a long string of perfect weekends and most everybody was picked out by Columbus Day. This year, not so perfect so picking weekends get compressed.

                                        1. re: Aromatherapy

                                          ....which stands for CROWDS. Sunday Noontime did brunch at the Dream Diner in Tyngsborough, then over to Parlee Farm (Tyngsborough) with wife and mother (with walker) in tow...OMG!!! Like a bad day at a Disney theme park...parking lots full, hundreds of people,families, strollers, and lines everywhere....the "fruit" stand had nothing to sell but apples,pumpkins, and corn (I suppose that is expected, but they were wiped out of all their other crops)...the mini cider donut line snaked out the door and into the parking out...they couldn't make them fast enough. Dirty Porta-Potties lined up at the wait station for the hayride. The hayride had an enormous wait of its own, just to get transported out to the picking fields. We just wanted to buy fruit, not pick, and my wife regrettably used a filthy portable toilet and we scurried out of there fast with no fruit at all. Not a pleasant experience at all, from a place we have visited dozens of times, and NEVER seen those kinds of crowds.

                                2. We went to Nashoba winery on Saturday - avoided the music they do on Sundays, but it did get crowded before we left. (Check Web sites before you go anywhere -- Nashoba's is very clear about the music schedule.) Arriving at 10:30 a.m. we beat most of the crowds. It was populated but not overwhelmingly so. They provided us with a very sturdy long-poled picker. Plenty of trees, lots of apples still, though the ratio of perfect fruit was rather low. Some of the apples had hail damage -- looked like they'd been pelted with, well, hail -- but they taste OK and many of the markings didn't have bruises under them. They have a very wide selection of varieties, and we picked the most delicious Cox's Orange Pippins! Came home and made 2 pies and an apple cake. mmm.

                                  1. I'm a fan of Carver Hill Orchard, it's geographically close to Honey Pot, but a world away in terms of atmosphere. It's much more of a working farm, no bells and whistles. Don't know that they have a huge selection of heirlooms, but I think last year I got cortlands and Macouns and they were very tasty.

                                    1. We just discovered Look Out Farm in Dover, Ma. - beautiful area. We didn't pick our own but they have it.


                                      1. Goodness, an old post of mine got revived. We just returned to Doe Orchards (Harvard MA on Rte 11 just off Route 2) and the apples were the best I've had in many a season. Incredibly juicy and made very good pies (we made 6). Perhaps a fringe benefit from all the rain that we had this summer. I like Doe Orchards because it's no frills, just a farm stand and bags and a nice place to walk ($18 for a half bushel).

                                        1. We're going tomorrow (it's now Oct. 2009). Any ideas for good walks out near Doe?

                                          1. Being in ground zero apple picking (my property straddles Stow & Bolton) I vote for Carver Orchards. They are off the main road, but closer to route 2 and 495 than Honey Pot. They have ice cream and a few things in the store. I think they are the nicest orchards to just walk around and the owners are really nice.

                                            Here is the web site: http://www.carverhill.com/

                                            I boycott Honey Pot for several reasons. Including the rail-trail conversion was stalled because the old railroad runs through Honey Pot's orchards and the owner thinks people will come steal his apples. As opposed to him advertising for people to bring their bikes and make a day of it.


                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: stupiddog

                                              Alas, I didn't see your reply until today. But yesterday we had a nice time at Doe Orchards in Harvard. Lots of trees, LOTS of apples, plus a toad by the pond for fun. The sun came out, we picked two half-bushels of Macouns, having decided that nothing else is as good. Went for a brief walk in the Oxbow nature preserve nearby. More toads. Came home, made apple tarts with the crust made the day before, life is good.

                                              1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                Exactly our plan for Thursday. thanks for the review.

                                            2. My daughter and I went to Brooksby Farm in Peabody today. We went early (10am) and the crowd hadn't yet arrived. Still plenty of apples on the trees and she loved the hayride getting to the trees. Hot apple cider and cider donuts were yummy too (although I must say, Russell Orchard's donuts are much better).
                                              One BIG warning - there is a ton of poison ivy beneath most of the trees. We were lucky to find a tree with apples we liked that didn't have any poison ivy beneath it... Most people didn't seem to care (or didn't know) and were frolicking right in the poison ivy.

                                              1. Had a great time at Honey Pot Hill this weekend - it's big enough that the crowd wasn't overwhelming, and there are plenty of apples left...

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: mc22

                                                  Honey Pot is my favorite orchard and their donuts are delicious too.

                                                2. If you are still looking for apple picking........Westward Orchard in Harvard Mass was AWESOME this past weekend.. The orchard was full of apples, and NO CROWDS AT ALL. We were basically the only people there!! Great Cortland Apples......

                                                  1. I went to Carlson Orchards in Harvard, MA this past Sunday and had a great time. There were plenty of apples on the trees and there weren't many crowds. The line to pay for the apples was about ten minutes long, but it took you through their delicious shack of goodies. Only complaint is that they didn't have cider donuts!

                                                    1. I was at Dowse's this weekend and there were no lines and great picking.....And their cider is really good.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: phatchris

                                                        I know it's late in the season but are there any places that might not be picked through? I was slammed all month and if possible, would still love to do my annual apple picking.

                                                        1. re: Mr Bigglesworth

                                                          I think due to all the rain on the weekends a lot of places still have apples. Try Phil"s in Harvard, he was in the paper saying he was way behind on sales due to the weather.

                                                          1. re: Mr Bigglesworth

                                                            Most orchards are closed for the season at this point.