It’s Fall y’all! In the Carolinas, that means it’s apple picking season. Though there are a smattering of “pick your own” apple orchards across the state, Hendersonville is the home of apple picking in these parts.
Located less than an hour’s drive from Asheville, or a little over 2 hours from Charlotte, Hendersonville has a lot of options for getting your autumn apple supply.
Even if you are not keen on getting out in the orchard, most farms have plenty of pre-picked apples to choose from at great prices. They even sell various apple products like fresh cider, pies, and apple cider donuts. Get a pack of donuts while they are hot and you won’t be disappointed.
Apple picking makes a great couples date, or a family day out.
In this post, we will answer your questions about apple picking. Plus, we’ll give you some recommendations on our favorite orchards to visit in Hendersonville, NC.
Just as it sounds, this is your opportunity to pick fresh apples straight off the trees while they are in season.
Most orchards that do “pick your own,” grow dwarf trees to allow an easy reach for picking the fruit.
Typically, the prices are better than the grocery store and you can’t beat the freshness of the apples. We also love that the orchards have varieties of apples not typically found in the grocery store, such as Shizuka, Mutsu, Jonagold, Stayman and Arkansas Black.
When is Apple Picking Season in North Carolina?
Apple picking in North Carolina runs from early August to late October, with the peak in September.
This is pretty much the timeline for most orchards in the US, though some states will go as late as mid-November.
Different apple varieties ripen at different times. If you have a favorite type of apple, time your visit with the ripening of that variety. For example, we really like Golden Delicious and Jonagold, so early to mid-September works well for us.
Each orchard has a slightly different ripening schedule. If getting a specific variety is important to you, check the orchard’s website you plan to visit. Many farms are kind enough to include their typical ripening schedule.
Here’s a general schedule for some of Hendersonville’s most popular apple varieties. Keep in mind, this may vary by orchard and by the year’s weather conditions.
|Honey Crisp||Late August|
|Golden Delicious||Early to Mid-September|
|Red Delicious||Early to Mid-September|
|Fuji||Early to Late September|
|Granny Smith||Early to Late October|
|Pink Lady||Mid to Late October|
Where to go Apple Picking in Hendersonville?
Several farms in Hendersonville offer “pick your own” apples. With train rides, apple cannons, jump pillows, corn mazes, and farm animals most orchards are set up for a full day of family fun.
You’ll also find a dozen or so roadside stands selling fresh produce from their farms. In addition to produce, these stands sell a variety of fresh goods from cider, apple bread, turnovers, donuts, slushies, fritters, and even local honey and jams.
Most orchards have similar “pick your own” prices for 2020. Expect roughly:
- Bushel – $32
- ½ Bushel – $18
- Peck – $12
- ½ Peck – $10
Here’s our favorite orchards in the area.
Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard
Every year, we find Stepp’s Hillcrest to be our favorite orchard in the area. It is such a beautifully maintained farm with a ton of variety in their apples. It’s also so spread out, so you never feel crowded.
They have a farm bakery and store selling all the usual goodies, a 5-acre corn maze and even a “pick your own” sunflowers area. In October, they open the “pick your own” pumpkin patch.
Oh, and we can’t forget the apple cannons!
Covid impacts: Stepps added an outdoor pay area for apple & flower picking. Unless you want something from the farm store, you don’t have to go inside. Going inside requires wearing a mask (state mandated). Plus, they added Porto-potties in addition to their indoor toilets.
You also must pre-pay this year. Purchase a box for the amount you wish to pick.
Grandad’s is a lovely farm with a real southern feel to it. It’s easy to find on the main road, with the large green tractor on the silo and the cow peeping through the barn loft.
If you want fresh apples at a good price without actually picking them yourself, Grandads’ is a good choice. They have a very good selection of loose pre-picked apples you can choose from to make up your bag.
Like others in the area, they have a bakery, 5-acre corn maze, a 5-acre pumpkin patch, and apparently, they also have an apple cannon, though we’ve never seen it.
Covid impacts: Though pre-paying for apple picking is outdoors, as usual, you are filtered through the store first. However, it is a large open aired barn type building where masks are required. Lots of hand sanitizer around.
A bit smaller than the other farms but still a good choice is Justus Orchard.
With a nice big farm store and bakery you can get almost any apple product you want. I’m a huge sucker for their fried apple pie, while Jeremy’s obsessed with their slushy and apple fritters. We look forward to it every year.
You can get your pumpkins, they have a very popular jump pillow, and even have a couple of apple cannons.
Covid impacts: Like Stepps, they are doing pre-paid boxes for picking this year. Purchase them outdoors before going into the orchard. Store requires masks, with plenty of spaces to eat outdoors.
Sky Top Orchard
Still in Henderson county, but a little further towards the mountains in Flat Rock, is Sky Top Orchard. Popular for good reason, Sky Top offers gorgeous views, and a variety of activities, especially for the kids. Plus, their cider donuts are amazing.
Though we loved the orchard, and it’s well worth visiting. In 2019, we found them a tad pricier than other orchards in the area so we did not make the trip back out in 2020.
Covid impacts: Sky Top is always pre-pay, but this year guests keep the baskets instead of transferring their apples into bags.
Mountain Fresh Orchard – Roadside Store
As you make your way into Hendersonville, just before you reach Grandad’s Apples, is a sweet little roadside farm store.
They tend to have a similar but slightly larger selection of various goodies than the apple picking farms. We thought they deserved an honorable mention in our list for their super yummy apple fritters and their selection of local honey.
What to Expect When Going Apple Picking?
During the busy season, most farms have someone directing traffic on where to park. Once you’re parked, find your way to the main barn or farmhouse to pick up your basket.
The baskets help you know roughly how much to pick for how many apples you want to purchase. A peck is roughly 10 pounds of apples, while a ½ bushel is about 21 pounds. To give you some context, about 4 small apples or 2 large apples make up a pound.
A few farms require pre-payment, while some ask you to pay once you return with your apples.
When you grab your basket, staff should provide you with a map of the farm. Maps typically mark-out where to find the varieties of apples in season.
If you’re not sure what apple varieties you’re after, most farms provide samples in their shops. Have a taste of what varieties are in season before heading into the orchard. Note: Very few are doing this in 2020.
In the orchard, you’ll find the varieties marked at the end of the tree rows. The end of the rows tend to get picked clean first as they are the easiest to access. We find, if you get away from the crowds, such as the middle of the rows or the fields furthest out, you’ll find the best apples.
Most ripe apples will come away from the tree easily. Just lift, twist about a half turn, then pluck.
Once you return with your full basket, you’ll bag them and pay for what you picked.
What is Apple Picking Etiquette?
Most etiquette is common sense, but to help everyone be on the same page, here’s the big ones to keep in mind.
- Be picky when picking. Make sure it’s the apple you want before plucking it from the tree. Look underneath the apple and on the backside. Once you pick it off the tree it is yours.
- Sample the fruit in the store not in the orchard. Most farms allow plenty of free samples so there is no reason to try the unwashed apples in the orchard.
- Stay off the trees. Most apples are well within reach so there’s no reason to damage these beautiful trees. Most orchards will give you a fruit picker to get higher apples. I couldn’t believe I saw a woman climb on a tree during our last trip. She knocked about half of the apples out of the tree trying to get one from the top. Such a waste, all those apples that fell to the ground and left to rot.
- Bring back your baskets before you leave.
What to Wear Apple Picking?
What to wear really comes down to the weather. Here are some things to consider when dressing for a day in the orchard.
Are you going in the morning?
Early mornings can be quite cool in Hendersonville, and mornings leave dew on the fields. Consider jeans with boots and a light layered top, such as a tank top under a flannel. This way you can take off your top layer as the day gets warmer.
Are you going on a hot day?
Short sleeves work just fine for apple picking. Though you may want to resist shorts. Some of the orchards have longer grasses which you may find uncomfortable. Consider a light pair of tactical pants.
Has it been raining?
We recently made this mistake and headed to the orchards in our walking shoes even though it rained earlier. Oh how I wish I had my boots.
No matter when you are going, always wear good footwear that can support you through a bit of walking in hilly terrain. Also be sure to wear something you don’t mind getting a little dirty.
How Do I Store My Picked Apples?
I learned some interesting things when figuring out how to store my 42 pounds of apples I came back with on our recent trip to the orchards.
Apples are best stored in the fridge; however, refrigerators tend to dry out fruit like apples. An easy way to combat this is to keep a few wet paper towels, or a damp tea towel, with them in the vegetable drawer. Or, you can lightly mist them with water each day.
You also must store apples separately from other fruits and vegetables. They emit a safe ethylene gas which can cause other produce to ripen much quicker. It’s no fun if your apples are fine but your broccoli goes bad the next day.
If you keep them cold and humidified they can last months.
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