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Apple-picking season blooms on LI

Visitors head to Lewin Farm in Wading River

Visitors head to Lewin Farm in Wading River for apple picking. Credit: Nicole Horton

The berries off the bushes may mean the end of summer, but with fall comes the next great U-pick adventure: apples.

Farms across both the South and North forks have small but plentiful apple trees for picking, with some having as many as 30 varieties to choose from. Now's the time. While varieties ripen either early or later in the season, two of the biggest sellers -- Gala and Honeycrisp -- are ready now. Others will be ready next month.

Some of the pleasure that comes in picking your own apples is the simplicity. There's no need to climb ladders or step stools, since trees tend to grow low enough that even small children can pick from them. Orchards are planted in neat rows with walking paths. Growers open the sections where the trees have the ripest fruit.

Many of these farms also have corn mazes and tractor rides, plus farm stands and concessions selling apple cider, doughnuts and muffins.

"It's a really nice day with the family," says Shannon Harbes, whose family owns Harbes Family Farm and Orchard in Riverhead.



RIPE Early season


The honey of the apple world on Long Island, this variety has quickly become a top fave, farmers say. Sweet and crisp, just as the name says, it's a good apple for eating. Hank Kraszewski of Hank's Pumpkin Town in Water Mill says it's among the first picked of his 12 different varieties. And Honeycrisps are not always all red, he says. "There's usually a little green."


RIPE Early season


One of the top sellers as well, Gala is also a great eating apple -- sweet and juicy, and a good size for small hands. Early Gala apples are available now, ready for picking at most orchards.


RIPE Midseason


Along with its sister, Red Delicious, this apple has been around a long time and, farmers say, is always a good seller. Besides being a good eating apple, it is great base for making applesauce.


RIPE Late season

GOOD FOR Eating, baking

Crisp and tart, the Granny is a taste preferred by many. It's also a great baking apple, used in pies, apple sauces and cake recipes.

Although not usually ready until early October, "people sometimes pick them early, just because they want them," says Pam Lewin of Lewin Farms in Calverton.


RIPE Late season

GOOD FOR Cooking

Not an apple commonly grown here, but its unique deep burgundy-colored fruit (which can look black when polished) is great for cooking and for making hard cider.

"It's super hard," says Scott Gammon, whose family owns Woodside Orchards in Aquebogue, which sells Arkansas Blacks. "People use a cheese grater, and grate for salads."


Here are a few tips for first-time pickers, direct from growers:

1. Apples are usually sold in bags supplied by the farms. Some are sold by weight. Each farm has its own policy.

2. When picking the fruit, farmers say you should twist -- not pull -- the apple to release it from the tree.

3. It's not always possible to tell whether an apple is ripe by the color. It should be bruise-free and not soft. Farm staff will usually rope off the areas where the apples are not yet ripe.

4. Kids love to pick apples, and the trees at these farms are usually dwarfs that are close to the ground. But don't let kids play with the fruit -- or throw it.

5. Wear sunscreen. The sun is still strong, and picking happens in open rows between the trees.

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