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Apple Picking: A Harvest Harmony in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Updated: Jul 3

Apple picking is a cherished tradition that brings individuals and families to orchards during the harvest season. It involves personally selecting ripe apples directly from the trees, fostering a connection with nature and the agricultural process. This hands-on experience allow participants to enjoy the outdoors, savor the flavors of freshly picked apples, and create lasting memories.

Visiting an apple farm is a timeless experience, steeped in charm and tradition. It offers a nostalgic escape to a simpler time, where the hustle of daily life fades away amidst the orchard's serene beauty. The tradition of handpicking apples creates a sense of connection to the land and the seasons, fostering an appreciation for the craftsmanship involved in growing these crisp delights. Whether it's the rustling leaves, the scent of ripe apples, or the joy of sharing the harvest with loved ones, the charm of an apple farm transcends generations, making it a delightful and enduring tradition.

Arrival and Atmosphere

Arriving at our apple farm evokes a sense of anticipation and tranquility. The crisp scent of ripe apples fills the air, and the sight of neatly arranged rows of trees creates a picturesque landscape. The atmosphere is infused with a touch of nostalgia and the promise of wholesome, outdoor enjoyment. As you step onto the farm, there's a tangible connection to nature, and the immersive experience unfolds, inviting you to leave the ordinary behind and embrace the charm of the orchard setting.

Varieties of Apples 

We offer nine different varieties of apples to pick throughout the season. Here's a list of what's available in order of availability:

1) McIntosh is first (~ September 1st) and is known for its balance of sweetness and tartness. This apple is ideal for both fresh eating and various culinary uses. *We use these apples for most of the season for dehydrated apple chips and apple pies.

2) Golden Delicious is next (~September 20th) and is renowned for its sweet, honey-like flavor. This apple is great for snacking, salads, and making applesauce. *This apple is most of our staff's favorite.

3) Cortland is ready just five days later (~September 25th) and boasts a mildly sweet flavor and a crisp texture. This apple resists browning, which makes it ideal for salads and fresh preparations. *We only have a few trees of this variety and these apples usually sell out within hours.

4) Jonathan is next (~October 1st) and is known for its vibrant red color and tangy flavor. This apple is perfect for snacking or adding a zesty kick to salads. *Same as Cortland: we only have a few trees of this variety and these apples usually sell out within hours.

5) Empire comes off with Jonathan (~October 1st) and offers a crisp texture and a harmonious blend of sweet and tart flavors. This apple is versatile for snacking, baking, or making cider. *We used these for caramel apples this year, and they were fantastic.

6) Mutsu (Crispin) also accompanies Jonathan and Empire in the first week of October (~October 1st) and boasts a juicy and sweet taste with a hint of spice. This apple is excellent for fresh eating and baking.

7) Red Delicious comes off nine days later (~October 10th) and is recognizable for its iconic deep red color. This apple is known for its sweet taste, making it a classic choice for snacking.

8) Fuji comes off five or so days after Red Delicious (~October 15th) and offers a sweet and refreshing taste with a crisp texture. This apple is excellent for eating fresh or incorporating into desserts.

9) The famed and final apple, Arkansas Black (~November 1st), features a unique dark red to almost black skin. This apple offers a balanced sweet-tart taste, suitable for fresh consumption or cooking, and lasts for up to two months in cool, dry storage after picking. *We used these for apple dumplings and apple pies at the end of our 2023 season.

Each of these apple varieties brings its own unique characteristics, providing a diverse and delightful selection for apple picking enthusiasts.

Picking Process

The apple-picking process is a hands-on adventure that involves several steps:

1) Selecting the Right Apple:

    - Identify apples that are vibrant in color, free from bruises, and firm to the touch. 

    - Look for signs of ripeness, such as a rich color and a slight yield when gently pressed.

2) Twisting or Lifting Technique:

    - Position your hand beneath the apple and gently lift it upwards, twisting it slightly to release  it from the branch. 

    - Use care to avoid damaging the surrounding apples or the tree.

3) Using Both Hands:

    - For larger apples, it may be helpful to use both hands - one to support the fruit while the other twists and lifts.

4) Utilizing Provided Tools:

    - Some orchards provide small picking tools or bags to make the process easier.

    - If available, follow any guidelines provided by the orchard for a smooth picking experience.

5)  Storage in Provided Containers:

    - Place the picked apples in the containers provided by the orchard.

    - Handle the fruit with care to prevent bruising during the transport back home.

6) Enjoying the Experience:

    - Take your time strolling through the orchard, relishing the sights and sounds.

    - Engage with the process, appreciating the connection between nature and the food you're harvesting.

By following these steps, you can ensure a successful and enjoyable apple-picking experience, creating memories and bringing home a bounty of fresh, handpicked apples. 

Here are some tips for a successful apple-picking experience:

1) Timing is Key

    - Plan your visit during the apple harvest season for the best selection and flavors. Ours is between September 1st through November 1st. Our retail store that features locally baked goods, fresh brewed coffees, and an array of specialty handmade goods from local artisans opens in the spring. Please check website for relevant dates and times.

2) Check Orchard Guidelines

    - Familiarize yourself with any rules or guidelines provided by the orchard to ensure a smooth experience.

3) Dress Comfortably

    - Wear comfortable clothing and footwear suitable for walking through orchard rows. Long sleeves, hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen are suggested, as are boots, tennis shoes, and/or ankle-supporting footwear. 

4) Bring Containers

    - Bring containers or bags for collecting apples. We provide bags that hold up to five pounds, and baskets to carry. Baskets are available for purchase in the retail store. 


5) Inspect Apples Carefully

    - Look for apples that are firm, vibrant in color, and free from blemishes.

6) Twist, Don't Pull

    - When picking, use a twisting motion to release apples from the tree without damaging the branch.


7) Be Mindful of Surroundings

    - Avoid causing damage to other apples or the trees while picking.

8) Engage with Orchard Staff

    - Ask orchard staff for recommendations on the best varieties and any additional activities.

9) Embrace the Experience

    - Take your time, enjoy the scenery, and savor the overall experience of being in the orchard.

By following these tips, you can enhance your apple-picking adventure and make the most of this enjoyable tradition.

Family Friendly Activities

We also offer the delightful addition of hayrides through the orchard as an extra activity. These charming rides provide a scenic tour, allowing guests to relax on a bed of hay while enjoying the picturesque views of the snow capped Sierras amongst rows of apple-laden trees. It's a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in the beauty of the orchard, learn more about the farming process, and create lasting memories with family and friends. The gentle sway of the hayride complements the overall apple-picking experience, adding a touch of nostalgia and rustic charm to your day on the orchard. Runs through apple season.

Scenic Beauty and Photo Opportunities

The apple-picking experience in the Sierra Nevada mountains is surrounded by breathtaking scenery. As you wander through the orchard, the majestic snow covered peaks provide a stunning atmosphere. A few notable features are the great oak in the center of the property that beautifully showcases the changing colors throughout the year, offering a unique and captivating sight, the "Four-Seasons-in-one-day Maple" that displays colors for all seasons, for just a few days in October. 

Finally, capture the essence of your visit with the iconic Spanish hay barn, a rustic and charming structure that adds character to the landscape. This barn becomes a perfect backdrop for memorable pictures, encapsulating the peaceful essence of the orchard against the wild mountainous terrain. Pictures on phones for social media with friends and family while apple picking are allowed (please tag us @meadowlakesorchard). Stylized photoshoots with professional photographers are welcome at the rate of $50 per hour. 

Tasting and Sampling

Visiting an apple farm provides not only the chance to pick your own apples but also opportunities to indulge in the delightful flavors of fresh produce. We offer tasting opportunities right on-site. You can savor the crispness and sweetness of freshly picked apples, experiencing the unique taste profiles of different varieties.

Additionally, we showcase a variety of apple-related products from freshly pressed juice to homemade apple pies, jams, and an array of freshly baked treats. We invite you to explore these offerings to expand your palate and enjoy the diverse culinary creations derived from abundant mountain harvests. These on-site tastings create a sensory experience, immersing you in the rich flavors and aromas of the orchard's bounty.

Community and Local Support

Supporting local farmers and rural communities through activities like apple picking is crucial for several reasons. It fosters a sustainable and resilient local economy, ensuring that the benefits of agricultural production directly contribute to the well-being of the community. By choosing to visit local orchards, you help preserve farmland and maintain the agricultural heritage of the region. 

Moreover, supporting local farmers promotes environmental sustainability by reducing the carbon footprint associated with transporting produce over long distances. It also encourages the preservation of open spaces and contributes to the overall health of the community.

Ultimately, you choice to engage in local, farm-based experiences like apple picking plays a pivotal role in sustaining rural livelihoods, preserving local landscapes, and fostering a sense of community that extends far beyond the orchard gates.

Memorable Experiences

Apple picking adventures are often filled with memorable experiences and leave lasting memories. Here are a few who have shared:

"We loved watching our kids' eye's light up as they picked their first apple. This is truly a place to be shared with family." ~ Emily W.

"Our family has been enjoying the orchard for generations. There is nothing better than strolling through the rows of trees with the sun shining on your face, and the smell of ripe apples all around you. We're so fortunate to have this place in our backyards." Kelly E.

"Last year was our first year to discover the orchard. Our family loved going during apple season when we got to taste four different apples, fresh-squeezed juice, and apple dumplings. What a great find for Fresno!" ~ Samir K.

One might fondly recall the delightful surprise of discovering the perfect, crisp apple hidden amidst the leaves or the shared excitement when finding an unusual apple variety. Perhaps there's a moment of pausing to appreciate the serenity of the orchard or the satisfaction of tasting a freshly picked apple right on the spot.

These personal stories weave a tapestry of experiences, making each apple-picking adventure unique and cherished. Whether it's the simple pleasure of being surrounded by nature of the shared laughter over a heaping basket of apples, these moments create lasting memories that make the apple-picking tradition truly special.

See You This Season!

The apple-picking experience is a harmonious blend of nature's beauty, the thrill of selecting the plucking your own apples, and the joy of shared moments with loved ones. From the picturesque orchard setting against the Sierra Nevada mountains to the charming hayrides, iconic barns, and diverse apple varieties, every aspect contributes to a memorable adventure.

We encourage readers to embrace this timeless tradition, allowing themselves to be immersed in the sights, scents, and flavors of the orchard. Whether you're a nature enthusiast, a culinary explorer, or someone seeking a wholesome family activity, apple picking offers a rich and fulfilling experience. So, gather your friends or family, plan a trip up to see us, and create your own story amidst the rows of apple trees - a story filled with laughter, the warmth of the sun, and the satisfaction of bringing home a basket of freshly picked apples. It's an experience that transcends seasons, leaving you with cherished memories and a deeper appreciation for the simple joys of life. 

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