You always mean to go apple picking, but then somehow it’s suddenly Thanksgiving and you’ve missed your chance. Well, if you’re looking for a good spot this season, Masker Orchards, a farm in picturesque Warwick, New York (about 55 miles from Manhattan), has been doing the pick-it-yourself thing since 1972.
An Empire Apple after a rainstorm.
It’s free to enter and you can eat as many apples on the orchard as you like, no charge. Apples cost $24.95/half bushel (20lbs), a bargain compared to the local grocery, and the hills, dirt road and clean air really make you feel like you’ve escaped the city’s chaos.
Teenagers direct your drive up the hill and hand you plastic bags featuring orchard maps that help you navigate the farm’s aptly-named roads: Sauce Lane, Cider Lane, and Strudel Lane. Signs bungeed to tree trunks note varieties and indicate ripeness.
Signs on the tree trunks indicate what’s ready to be picked.
You drive around until you find your favorite kinds and start picking. It’s surprisingly rewarding to pick an apple, polish it and take a big, crunching bite. Masker grows 14 apple varieties that ripen at different times (schedule). A general store near the exit at the bottom of the hill sells apple butter, honeycomb, fruit preserves, and other sundries. Another barn sells apple-themed food through a window.
An Apple Blossom, one of the sweets available at Masker’s café.
There’s a super-sweet warm apple pie, and a lightly sugar-speckled apple donut, which would pair well with a mug of the apple-cider sold at the gate ($2.95/half-gallon jug). But the apple blossom is the real gem. Warm, small cubed apples peek out from the top of a blossom shaped pastry made with a salted, crumbly golden brown crust. If you don’t eat too many apples, you might want to go for seconds.
Besides apples, Masker has a selection of pumpkins, a petting zoo, a maze for kids and a general store.