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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

    http://www.homestead-farm.net/

    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. http://www.butlersorchard.com/pick.htm#

      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

          http://www.pickyourown.com/

          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: http://howchow.blogspot.com/search/la...

            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. http://www.pickyourown.com/map.html

              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.
                http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...

                1. Baugher's Farm in Westminster, MD has great apples, cider, pies, and lots of other fruit as well. There are also severla different farm market stands within 10-15 minutes of Baugher's.
                  Enjoy!

                  1. Has anyone been to Rock Hill Orchard in Mt. Airy, MD? I read about it in the Washington Post article (which is at least 3 years old) and the website looks nice. Anyone ever do pick-your-own there?

                    http://rockhillorchard.com/index.html

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Elyssa

                      My family goes there to pick pumpkins and apples. I like it as it's the closet thing to what they had back in Wisconsin. And they don't charge you money to pick your pumpkins or apples, just pay for what you pick.

                      Another bonus is that they let you bring your dog with you to the orchard. Just make sure to pick up any messes.

                      Ed. Forgot to mention that I liked coming here. Which you probably could guess.

                      1. re: botnot

                        The website looked really nice with a lot to offer. It's on my short list now. I just need to make sure they take credit cards. Some places only take cash which is a bit of a pain for me.

                        1. re: Elyssa

                          why is it difficult?

                          Most places at the farmers market only take cash or check.

                          1. re: Jeserf

                            Because I prefer to pay with credit cards. I'll be buying more here then at a farmer's market (where I pay both cash and credit sometimes). I'm buying more for multiple people as well. Credit cards=easier for me.

                            1. re: Elyssa

                              okie dokie

                              then homestead won't work.

                              an apple a day

                    2. If you go out 66W to Markham, there's Hartland Orchard which is a large orchard north of 66W. To the south, there's Stribling which also has a harvest house and they have baked goods, canned fruits, cider, etc. and apple cider donuts. On weekends, there's fast enough turn around on them that you can often get them warm. If you continue down the road Hartland is on, you'll hit Naked Mountain winery which not only has good wine but the prettiest tasting room, one wall all windows overlooking the mountains with beautiful foliage in the fall. They have special lunches there that pair with wine that sound good. I'm on their e-mail list but haven't made the lunches yet.

                      http://www.striblingorchard.com/Harve...

                      http://www.nakedmtnwinery.com/

                      Also, on the way out on 66 is a Corn maze in The Plains, Va. They have some pick your own but they have good barbecue/grill--organic, locally produced food. They also have a store with fruit butters, candy, pies, fudge, etc. most from their fields.

                      http://www.circleofseeds.com/index_co...

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: chowser

                        I have to go to Rocky Gap (Cumberland), MD next week for a few days for a work function. Are any of these orchards easy on/off from that route?

                        1. re: daves_32

                          They're all right off 66, if that's the way you're heading. The Plains is about midway between the beltway and 81. Markham is a little farther than that, maybe 10-15 minutes farther.

                        2. re: chowser

                          That sounds great (especially the apple cider donut part!). Thanks.

                          1. re: chowser

                            I'll second Stribling Orchard. And not just because they're distant relatives.

                            1. re: monkeyrotica

                              If you're in touch with them, tell them they need to make more apple cide donuts! We were there in the late morning and they'd already run out w/ a lot of disappointed customers. They have great pumpkin butter and local honey. I love their apple cider--fresh, but you can never get enough. It disappears too quickly at home. Pricey at $7 per gallon but worth it.

                          2. Just north of Baltimore is Baughers ...
                            http://www.baughers.com/farm.html
                            which we have used for years (we get our base cider from them to add to our English Bittersweets to make proper cider with) ... I highly recommend them.

                            1. as a very recent transplant from boston i was craving apple cider donuts. Today the wife and I made the trek down to charlotesville for some monticello and wine tastings. Our first stop was carter mountain orchard, right next to monticello and featuring hot and fresh apple cider donuts. Perfection. Yes, it's far from DC but was totally worth the 2 and a half hours for us to devour 6 in about 3 minutes.

                              1. You may also want to try Catoctin Mountain Orchards in Thurmont: http://www.catoctinmountainorchard.co...

                                1. Elyssa, where did you end up going?

                                  I'm planning a few weekend trips for corn mazes, pumpkin and apple picking, and normally head out 66 in Virginia toward the Plains Corn Maze and Stribling (mentioned below). Wondering if you tried any of the Maryland options (Homestead, Butler's, Rock Hill) -- any thoughts?

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: unaffiliated

                                    Sorry I didn't report back, things have been very busy.

                                    I ended up going to Larriland Farms in Maryland.It was a nice drive, about an hour from DC, but pretty relaxing, especially when you get into the more rural area.

                                    The farm itself is great. Very large, you can drive to the various orchards and areas so you don't have to worry about schlepping your big bags everywhere. They provide wheel barrows, bags etc. Each orchard also has a teenager with a cash register and they also allow you to pay with credit cards.

                                    When I was there (about 3 weeks ago) there were about 5 different apple varieties available. They also had some raspberries but they were too bitter for my taste. The apple selection was pretty good. I was early in the season in some orchards and knew that before or arriving. I went a little over board and ended up getting close to 50 apples (I live alone...that's A LOT of apples). I made kugels, crisps, and pies and still have some left. They are still in good shape. I was told that the apples will last 3-4 weeks in your fridge if you store it in plastic bags.

                                    The farm house is also nice. They offer veggies, honey, cider, fudge (!!!), and other fall favorites. Everyone working there is very friendly. One of the teens working the field told me I should come back in October. Every weekend they have a big celebration with cook outs and food. He said it gets very crowded but its worth it.

                                    They also have a pretty lake near the farm house which looked perfect for picnicing. I ended up eating my homemade sandwich on a patch of grass out in the field. Very relaxing and fun.

                                    1. re: Elyssa

                                      Heyser's Farms has farms in Silver spring and in Southern Pennsylvania as well as buying from other orchards. Right now they have nittany, jonathons, golden grimes (I think that is what they are called for tart apple fans) and more. New Hampshire north of Randolph and South of Bonifant.

                                      1. re: Elyssa

                                        I can confirm that weekends in October at Larriland are crazy crowded. I went Oct 19th and it was so crowded I just picked apples and left. It was too crowded for me to go to the farm house/barn area, but it did look very fun and festive. We picked Stayman, Fuji and Braeburn.

                                    2. I had apple cider donuts at an orchard in northern Delaware once, I can't remember the exact orchard, but I do remember it was a damn good treat, here's a list of Delaware orchards: http://delawareontheweb.com/entertain...

                                      This orchard says they have donuts: http://www.fiferorchards.com, but that's not the one I went too.

                                      1. Also something to think about is the National Apple Harvest Festival. It is the first 2 weekends in October . It is located just a little north of Gettysburg PA. It is not an orchard, but they have apples and everything imaginable with apples. Apple pancakes, apple sausage, apple cider, apple butter, etc., etc... check out their website for directions. Wife and I have been going for years. There is something for everyone. Crafts, Antique cars, Antique steam engines performing work, music, food...... they have it all.

                                        http://www.appleharvest.com/

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: RJJR

                                          RJJR is absolutely right. This is SPECTACULAR and absolutely worth trying out in 2009. My wife and I stumbled on it this year because we were in Gettysburg and exhausted downtown in about an hour. We were literally driving around and found a sign for the National Apple Harvest Festival. We expected some little festival because there wasn't even a sign in for it in Gettysburg, but it's enormous -- like "you have to ride on a school bus from satellite parking" enormous.

                                          The apple smoothies are worth the drive. Apples crushed and frozen into a Slurpee consistency right there. Spectacular for $1 a cup. Then an entire array of food, including pit beef, apple fritters, apple sausage and (of course) cider.

                                          The draw is stronger if you have kids or like crafts, especially country crafts. But we had fun even though we bought nothing but food. People were super friendly. The atmosphere is low key. For a high-scale weekend, consider pairing the festival next October with a weekend at the Sheppard Mansion in Hanover.

                                          -----
                                          Sheppard's Mansion
                                          117 Frederick St, Hanover, PA