Need a Pick-Me-Up? Try a Pick-Your-Own Weekend!
- Visit North Central
“An apple a day” has a long-standing reputation for keeping the doctor away — but it may also be the perfect prescription for beating today’s stay-at-home blues.
And there’s no better place to get a huge dose of this spirit-lifting produce than right here in North Central Massachusetts. Leominster native John Chapman — the legendary Johnny Appleseed — knew what he was doing when he headed west across a growing nation, encouraging settlers to plant apple orchards. Those shiny orbs provided healthy food and drink, and helped generations of families thrive through the years.
Today, apple orchards throughout Johnny’s backyard beckon visitors, offering great opportunities for socially-distanced but thoroughly fun pick-your-own outings. Toddlers, teens, parents, grandparents — there are no age limits for soaking up some sun and fresh air while gathering up bags or baskets of crisp, juicy, tasty apples. Of course, at these spacious orchards you have lots of room to spread out — and many have implemented new safety protocols to provide you with extra confidence as you select your favorite flavor treats.
Imagine, too, the anticipation of taking those luscious fruits home and turning them into applesauce, pies, cobblers … or just plain old healthy snacks. The hardest part of an apple-picking excursion, in fact, may be deciding which variety to pick, depending on how the apples are going to be enjoyed at the end of the day.
But there’s so much more to an orchard visit today than a stroll among the trees!
At many of the region’s orchards, you can enjoy live music, enjoy a barbecue lunch, take a wagon ride through the fields or visit farm animals. And don’t forget the farm shops and brew barns, where —of course — you’ll find cider, both traditional cider for the younger set, and locally-crafted hard cider and beer for adults.
Want more? How about selecting some perfect pumpkins to decorate your doorstep, or firm winter squashes for your dinner table? Or spending the ride home with the aroma of fresh-baked cider donuts, pies, or turnovers filling the car and whetting appetites?
So many apples, so little time!
As with the beautiful foliage of fall in New England, apple season can be fleeting once the first nip of frost in the air. Although apple harvest season actually starts in August, with the first Ginger Gold, Gravensteins and Paula Red, most visitors really begin thinking about apple-picking outings in September and October, taking home carloads of McIntosh, Gala, Jonathan, Macoun, Northern Spy, Red Delicious and Granny Smith apples.
Think that’s a good variety? It’s just a start! There are more than 200 varieties of New England apples — and you’ll find many of them here in North Central Massachusetts.
Keep in mind that due to coronavirus protocols, some orchards have implemented reservation systems, so it’s a good idea to call ahead.
Can’t decide where to begin? Here are a few options for you:
Carlson Orchards, Inc.
115 Oak Hill Road
Harvard, MA 01451
145 Redstone Hill Road
Sterling, MA 01564
Sholan Farms, Inc.
1125 Pleasant Street
Leominster, MA 01453
Hollis Hills Farm
340 Marshall Rd
Fitchburg, MA 01420
209 Chace Hill Rd.
Sterling, MA 01564
Red Apple Farm
455 Highland Avenue
Phillipston, MA 01331
No time to pick your own? Those orchards, along with farm stores like Bolton Orchards, 125 Still River Road in Bolton, (978-779-2733, www.boltonorchards.co) also offer enormous varieties of fruits and veggies that are pre-picked for you and ready to take home to enjoy!
We can’t guarantee, of course, that a daily apple will keep the doctor from your doorstep — but some healthy, locally-grown, tasty fruit will certainly make you smile on a crisp autumn day!
Story by: Pat Gale