When the calendar flips to fall, it means apple harvest season is ramping up in orchards across Michigan. The state has several fruit belt areas that produce more than 900 million pounds of apples each year, making it the state’s largest fruit crop.
Apples grown in Michigan are used for fresh eating, pressed for juice, processed for cooked foods, and packaged and frozen for later use. But maybe the most quintessential Michigan apple experience in the fall is visiting a U-pick orchard to fill your own bags and bushels full of these juicy, sweet fruits.
There are so many varieties of Michigan apples, each with their own flavor profile and harvest window. Some are best suited for being sliced into a pie or simmered down to a thick applesauce laced with sugar and cinnamon. Others are perfect for eating out of hand or packed into lunches. Among the earliest apple varieties ready in Michigan are the tart Paula Reds and the sweet Ginger Golds in late August.
Other types come into peak season each week until around the end of October or early November, when the Evercrisps and Cripps Pinks are ready to harvest, according to the picking timetable published by the Michigan Apple Committee. Heading out to a U-pick orchard is not only a fun fall adventure and a way to spend time outside, but it’s a way to bring lots of healthy fruit into your home for fresh eating, cooking and baking. According to the Michigan Ag Council, the top health benefits of eating fresh apples include:
- Excellent source of fiber
- Rich in antioxidants
- Naturally fat-free and cholesterol-free
- Good source of B-complex vitamins
With more than 800 family-owned orchards growing apples across Michigan, you probably won’t have to drive too far to find one near you. Here are some examples of apple U-pick spots across the state. Before you go, check the site’s website or social media page for availability, hours and other details.
- Crane Orchards in Fennville: Many varieties of apples are grown for U-pick customers.
- King Orchards in Kewadin: Typically open for U-pick apple customers from September through October.
- Spicer Orchards Spicer Orchards in Fenton: Ride a wagon into the orchards to pick your own apples.
- Blake’s Big Apple in Armada: Select one of Blake’s three U-pick locations. You can drive your car into the orchard areas, following the signs for U-pick and selecting an approved container.
- Erie Orchards and Cider Mill in Erie: More than 10 varieties of apples are available for U-pick customers.
- Long Family Orchard and Farm in Commerce: Apple U-pick typically starts in mid-September.
If you pick more apples than you can eat right away, they can be stored in the refrigerator. If you need to store them during the fall and heading into winter, pack them in a box between layers of newspaper or a thin blanket or sheet and store them in a cool place like a basement or insulated garage.