September 27, 2020
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Take a break from living life in the fast lane and focus on the simple things. Get in touch with your inner gatherer and go apple picking in the Bay Area. You can meet farmers from local apple orchards, learn more about the farm-to-table process, handpick crispy apples, stroll along rows of apple trees, and picnic in the fresh air. Apple harvest season is here, so let the sweater weather inspire you.
U-Pick apple farms are revolutionizing the California lifestyle one pick at the time—plus, they make for a wonderful activity for the whole family. Drive off to an apple orchard, spend time with your loved ones, get a bit of exercise while picking apples, and bring them home to bake a homemade apple pie.
Apple Picking Season by Variety
There are approximately 7,500 different apple varieties found worldwide. The first apples to be harvested ripen in early summer, opening the apple-picking season in July. Midsummer apples are ready to be harvested between mid-August and early September, while fall apples stay on trees from mid-September until October. The most common varieties you’ll find growing on California apple farms are Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Cripps Pink.
While Gala apples are early bloomers, they only reach the perfect red-toned pattern and their juicy taste from mid-August to mid-September. The crisp, hard texture and the sweet taste of Fuji apples (originating in Japan) make them easy to tell apart from its “competitors.”
The perfect apple color is often achieved by placing the apple in a paper bag until a short time prior to the harvest in late September. It takes a Granny Smith apple about 170 days from bloom to harvest. Originally from Australia, this green beauty is ready to be picked starting in late October. The refreshing Cripps Pink apple is most famous for being a cultivar of the Pink Lady trademarked brand. The best time to go apple picking for this sweet-sharp favorite with honey undertones is mid-October and sometimes early winter.
The Best Apple Picking in the Bay Area
With dozens of varieties and different U-pick destinations, choosing the perfect apple-picking farm near San Francisco can be an ordeal. But we've got you covered, so all you have to do is roll up your sleeves and start apple picking at these amazing apple orchards in the Bay Area.
Apple-a-Day Ratzlaff Ranch
Pick apples to your heart’s content at Apple-A-Day Ratzlaff Ranch in Sonoma County's Sebastopol, located just over an hour away from San Francisco. The apple-picking season is usually in full swing from September to early December. Choose between the Gravenstein, Golden Delicious, and Rome Beauties for $2 per pound. Purchase the Taster’s Choice award-winning, fresh-pressed apple juice for $8 a gallon, too. With no added sugars or preservatives, this divine juice is the perfect way to quench your third.
The Gizdich Ranch
The Gizdich Ranch welcomes you to pick apples in the Bay Area starting in mid-September. Walk through the orchards from Thursday to Sunday and make lasting memories as you pick your own apples. Bring your own containers or purchase boxes directly at the ranch.
The fresh air will make your stomach rumble in no time but you need not worry: The picnic area behind the famous red barn shop invites you to stay and play in the rolling hills of Watsonville's apple country. Pack your lunch or visit the pie shop and deli for sandwiches, pies, and other delish desserts. Stop by the on-site Nita's Antiques and Gifts, too, and admire all of the unique collectibles.
Become a CSA member of the family-owned Gabriel Farm to support your local farmers and receive fresh produce directly to your doorstep. The exclusive membership allows you to visit, pick, and pay for the produce you choose yourself. The organic apple-picking farm in Sonoma County ensures the best apple- and pumpkin-picking experience of the season. The farm limits the number of visitors and focuses on authenticity—with seven apple varieties, numerous berries, and a great variety of pumpkins—so nothing stands in the way of making this trip memorable.
August will bless you with tender and tart Gravenstein and McIntosh varieties. Gilbert Golden Delicious, Gala, and Braeburn apples are on the menu when visiting in September. Wait until October to bake pies with the glossy red Rome apples. The all-time favorite and late blooming Fuji apples are ready to be picked in October and November.
Chileno Valley Ranch
Chileno Valley Ranch opens its doors for the annual U-pick apples in mid- to late August and welcomes visitors until there are no apples left to be picked. Choose from 16 varieties grown on the ranch. The picking season begins with Zestar apples, followed by Williams Pride, Molly’s Delicious, and Wolf River in late September. Honey Crisp apples are the first to be picked from the remaining late-season apples, which include Arkansas Black, Candy Crisp, Enterprise, GoldRush, Jonafree, Northern Spy, Orin, Pink Lady, Pinova, Mutsu, and Senshu (a Fuji-type).
Mike and Sally Gale (the current owners of this historic farm) invite you to bring a blanket or tent to enjoy the summer air or autumn breeze on their apple orchards. Make yourself comfortable between acres of apple trees and grazing animals after you're done picking your produce.
Swanton Pacific Ranch
Visit Swanton Pacific Ranch near Santa Cruz for the best apple picking in the Bay Area. The 3,200-acre ranch originally belonged to the late Al Smith, who donated it to the California Polytechnic State University in 1993. Smith ensured that the ranch would remain a working ranch used only for agriculture, recreational, and educational purposes. Today, students and graduates pursue research opportunities on the property.
Choose from 16 certified-organic apple varieties, including the uncommon yet extraordinary Gingergold, Holstein, Newton Pippin, and Suntan apples. Or, pick the popular Granny Smith, Fuji, and Royal Gala varieties. Purchase the certified-natural grass-fed beef produced on the ranch, and prepare a delicious beef brisket with savory sautéed apples for a lovely dinner once you get back home.
If you’re not only interested in farms where the main attraction is picking fresh apples, then head to Alemany Farm, which invites you to participate in educational workshops. Learn all about growing and maintaining organic produce, and see how to get involved in providing organic, healthy food to community members. You can even sign up for an internship at the 3.5-acre farm in southeast San Francisco and take home fresh produce—including hand-picked apples—and vital knowledge for free. Take a short break from the hustle and bustle of the city, and escape to this urban agriculture oasis.
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