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Sep 9, 2008 04:34 PM

Great Apple Orchards?

With all this rain and the AC on overdrive creating a chill my thoughts turned towards Fall this afternoon (despite it being 80 degrees out). I've never been apple picking in the DC area but grew up in New England and use to go every single year. I have wonderful memories and decided to rent a Zipcar this year and go apple picking.

I'm willing to drive upwards to 1 hour to either VA or MD (not sure which one has better orchards). Ideally I would love a farm or orchard that not only offers lots of apples to pick from but also other fall favorites, including apple cider and hot apple cider donuts. Bonus points if there are other fall veggies (perhaps a farmer's market) and even lunch offerings (growing up I would always go to a spot in NH that had a big BBQ each weekend with BBQ chicken, roasted corn, hot apple cider and other delicious offerings). So any recommendations?

In addition, I have no idea when the peak season is in this area. Ideally I would love to go 2 weekends from now when I have a free weekend and before the High Holidays (mmmmm apple kugel!) but I'm guessing the apples and everything else won't be ready by then. Around what dates should I aim to go?

Thanks for your help!

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  1. Homestead Farms is a good resource

    They also have an "in season" calendar

    they have other produce, too. No apple cider donuts - I've never seen them popular outside of New England (granted, I thought they were pretty dry at the "famous" place in Amherst for 'em and never got that much into them).

    I know I'm going to try to go in the fall while I still have my car

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jeserf

      This looks really nice. My only problem is that they don't except credit cards---checks and cash only.

      But they get bonus points for having a general store nearby. I'm a HUGE general store fan (yet again a sign of my New England upbringing).

      1. re: Elyssa

        Nothing is very expensive there.
        Are you really going to buy $82 worth of apples?

        I went strawberry picking, and there's no way I went over $15.

    2. Butlers Orchard is another possibility (it may look further away, but most of the driving, for me at least, is on 270 so it's fast). They also have a market where they sell produce and other products (I would bet they'd have cider, but I don't really know if it's made on the premises, or if they'd have cider donuts).

      I don't know if it's nostalgia for the "way we did it when we I was a kid", but it took me a couple of trips to adjust my expectations to apple picking here. Here the trees seem more like overgrown shrubs than the apple trees I remember from growing up in New England.

      The Butlers website says the Gala apples are available now, with more varieties to come (although if you go now, you can catch the raspberries too). Sometimes if you call their phoneline you can get additional updates on what's ripening.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Doh

        Thanks...this is all very helpful. I'm open to more ideas as well. Maybe if some of them are close together (within a 20 min/30 min drive of each other) I can hit up multiple orchards.

        1. re: Doh

          I went to Butlers on Friday and was reasonably pleased. They do have a lot in the market and they accept credit cards so a couple of pluses. Also, even though it is just a few miles off 270, you drive back into the woods to get to it so it is a nice area right off the highway. On the market apples side, they wanted about $2/APPLE for honey crisp. Even though HC apples are a premium apple, that is exorbitant. However, that is coming from a person who grew up a quarter mile from an Extension orchard which was one of the first HC growers.
          I picked a lot of Golden Delicious at $1.39/Lb which i think is a good price. A lot of the apples were quite bruised, though, which made me think they might have seen some hail during TS Hanna. I agree with Doh though. Growing up in Michigan where the orchards are hundreds of acres, I am having trouble being able to quickly walk from one row to the next.
          There are still lots of raspberries to be had, though. They are great tasting and a decent deal at $3.99/lb since they weigh up slowly.

        2. In Maryland try Larriland Farm which is a pick your own farm for everything imaginable

          2 Replies
          1. re: RJJR

            Listen to RJJR. Larriland is an absolutely wonderful place. Huge selection, but feels very family run. They have a store with vegetables, cider, etc. Check their Web site, but I think apples are already in season and will run through October. It's a long drive from DC, but it's worth it.

            If you go on a Sunday, consider stopping at the small Howard County farmers market on Rte 97.

            If you want lunch, I have heard that the gas station in Woodbine has top-notch sandwiches. I haven't timed my visits yet to try lunch there. If you call Larriland, I'm sure they can tell you the name. It's just off the road on the way from I-70 to the farm.

            This is some posts about Larriland:

            1. re: RJJR

              Me and my BF went her last weekend and it was great. Starting this weekend they will have pumpkins and a ton of fallesque things to do.

            2. There are apples in now at Homestead. I took the kids up there a couple days ago. We picked a lot of jonathans and galas, and they were selling honey crisps in the market stand. They have a lot of veggies, too. On weekends, they do the hay rides and sell food (but I don't know where to get you your donuts!). Near Homestead are some other nice stands... Lewis Orchards and Kingsbury on Peachtree not far off 28. I like this area better than Butlers, which I find more commercial, but YMMV. I also really like Larriland.

              3 Replies
                1. re: Elyssa

                  Your mileage may vary. Some people like Butlers. They get lots of busloads of kids during the week and so it's probably ingrained in a lot of people's minds as the place they went when they were kids. I like it okay, but the shop is less like a farm market and more like a little upscale country store with homey doodads and things they don't make there. Homestead just has a farm stand with veggies. You're not going to find cute $30 wreaths or whatever. I'm just saying... people like Butlers, and I go there every year for bunnyland and the pumpkin fest and we pick blueberries there, but it always feels more like a commercial thing than Homestead. You might like it, though!

                  1. re: wookyluvr

                    I'll look further into both. I'm sure I'll end up going to whichever has the better variety that week.

              1. The Washington Post Weekend section usually does a guide around this time of year. Here is one from a couple of years ago, but it still give you ideas.