Ripe for the Picking: Where to Pick Fruit All Year Round (Slideshow)
August 14, 2013
There are a lot more than apple orchards and pumpkin patches out there
Blueberries in Maine
In southern Maine, the highlight is highbush blueberries that bear fruit from April until late October. The blueberries drip from the tall branches and are easily harvested as a casual picker can fill 4 to 5 quarts in a half hour. Libby and Son has over forty acres of blueberries, and other U-pick crops. Also, nearby is a trailhead and pathways covering Sawyer Mountain with moose, deer, beaver and raccoons throughout the area; those grounds are maintained by the Francis Small Heritage Trust.
Strawberries in Virginia
Sixteen miles south of the bustling oceanfront beaches of Virginia Beach is the relaxing rural community of Pungo, known for its farmland, “The Witch of Pungo,” and, in particular its locally grown strawberries and annual strawberry festival held on Memorial Day Weekend that attracts over 120,000 visitors.
In 1706, Grace Sherwood was convicted of witchcraft after the test of “ducking,” that is, she floated rather than sank when tossed into Lynnhaven River with her hands tied to her feet. After a prison term of seven years, she lived until she was 80. Whatever curse the Witch of Pungo may have, it has had no impact on the taste of the locally grown strawberries
Needless to say there are many places to pick farm fresh strawberries in the area, including Brookdale Farm.
Apples in Upstate New York
Some suggest the U-pick movement began as 19th century New Yorkers ventured from the urban congestion to the country environs of New Jersey and Upstate New York for fresh air and fresh fruit. Minard Farms, a mere 75 miles from New York City, fits the bill. With over 100 acres of Orchards along the Hudson Valley Apple Trail, there are a variety of apples to pick from Empires to Jonamacs to Golden Delicious, plus a snack bar and picnic tables.
Peaches in South Carolina
Somehow, Georgia seems to get all the press when it comes to peaches, but at least some of those accolades should go to South Carolina, which actually produces more than any other southern state (otherwise only California grows more). Some of the best peaches that the Palmetto state has to offer can be found in the northwestern corner of the state, known as the Upcountry district. May to August is peach season, but the peak months are June and July.
At Fisher’s Orchard, there are over 20 varieties of peaches. Their farm stand also sells already picked peaches, plums and watermelons.
Grapes in Sonoma
For a more immersive and upscale U-pick experience there is the Sonoma County Grape Camp. Under the aegis of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, Grape camp is a rapturous boot camp for oenophiles where not only you get to pick, crush and learn to blend your own grapes, you’ll get to drink in a whole world of wine and dining.
Cherries in Washington State
Supposedly, George Washington proved his inability to tell a lie by ‘fessing up to chopping down a cherry tree. Coincidentally, his namesake state grows cherry trees, lots of cherry trees. The Yakima Valley in eastern Washington has over 12,000 acres of sweet cherry production including Bill’s Berry Farm, a small family farm. In season, there are cherry festivals, tractor rides, and a kids play area.
Pumpkin Picking in Illinois
For most of us, our farm experience starts with picking a pumpkin, which is technically a fruit. Wrapped in the pumpkin picking process is the whole package of corn mazes (maize mazes, for some), hay rides, ghosts and ghouls, and everything pumpkin from pies to pumpkin houses to pumpkin trebuchets. Pumpkin patches are ubiquitous in October, but why not add Illinois to your pumpkin pilgrimage, the state that leads the nation in pumpkin production. About 60 miles from Downtown Chicago is Kuipers Family Farm. Expect crowds, souvenirs, and snack shops, but it’s a great place to pick pumpkins.
Once called “the forbidden fruit,” the first grapefruit groves were planted in Texas in 1893. One hundred years later, the grapefruit was made the official state fruit.
Deep in the southernmost part of Texas is the Klement Grove & Country Store for those in search of in-season grapefruit. “The sweetest fruit is in until about the first of March,” says Will Klement, who has been hosting pickers for over 30 years. He even has a few of the elusive traditional white grapefruit trees available for those nostalgic for these rarely grown less-sweet varieties.
Pears in Oregon
The Hood River County Fruit Loop is 35-mile stretch of farm stands, vistas and U-pick farms about an hour’s drive north from Portland on the Washington State border in the Columbia River Gorge Area at the foot of towering Mt. Hood. As you enjoy the stops along the way, you’ll smell lavender, wine, and fresh fruit. Anjou, Bosc and Bartlett pears are grown in the region, and there is a pear celebration from September 20th to the 21st this year.
One stop along the way is the Mountain View Orchards, where red and green Bartlett pears grow with their own view of Mt. Hood.
Paw Paws in Ohio
Paw paws, a little-known mango-like fruit native to North America, can be found growing wild throughout the northeast and is celebrated by an annual festival in Albany, Ohio in September.
“I don’t recommend the inexperienced picker eating paw paws; it can be very tricky to know when it is ripe,” Ron Powell, president of the Ohio Paw Paw Growers Association, told us. “It can be an unpleasant bitter experience if you don’t use a ripening chart.” He also recommends that those who find wild paw paws not eat the skins, as “even the raccoons won’t touch them.”