At this time of year, when Connecticut’s leaves start to change colors, eventually rivaling those of a Turkish carpet, there are few pleasures keener than to drive along the back roads of our state to an apple orchard. To choose local fruit, often varieties that are otherwise hard to find, for oneself is a seasonal occasion worth seeking out, worth savoring, worth creating a special picnic for (think rustic breads, local cheeses, and local hard cider if the orchard allows it). If you’re lucky, all of this is set off by sweetly chilly temperatures and a sky of platinum blue---in which case, congratulations. You have officially reached peak autumn.
Our guide to some of Connecticut’s best pick-your-own-apple experiences is here. Readers are encouraged to add their own. Note that this past spring, in the short period during which apple trees are pollinated, weather conditions were very unfavorable; a lighter-than-usual crop has resulted, so bring your flexibility along. As with all such outings, a little thinking ahead goes a long way. Be sure to call ahead for availability, wear sturdy shoes, and choose a good time for your visit. Weekdays are better for a quiet group or one that can’t deal with crowds; weekends will thrill the extroverts.
Bethel---Blue Jay Orchards (www.bluejayorchards.com) Because of the aforementioned pollination challenges, PYO is only available on weekends this year. Among other varieties, Blue Jay grows Cortlands, a great choice for fresh eating.
Easton---Silverman’s Farm (www.silvermansfarm.com) Visitors to Silverman’s, a Fairfield County institution, are greeted by a slope of fruit trees rising dramatically from Route 59. A petting zoo and farm market complete the experience. Apple tree varieties include Macoun, my very favorite for raw eating.
Shelton---Beardsley’s Cider Mill (www.beardsleyscidermill.com) As the name implies, Beardsley’s produces not only apples, but also cider. PYO is available on weekends only. Lesser-known apples grown here include the delectable old variety Northern Spy, Winesap (another great pick for fresh eating), and Golden Russets.
Enfield---Easy Pickin’s Orchard (www.easypickinsorchards.com) This PYO spot grows over 20 varieties of apples as well as vegetables. Note that they accept cash or checks only.
North Granby---Lost Acres Orchard (www.lostacres.com) Known for offering splendid lunches on its “farm porch,” Lost Acres presses cider from its own apples.
South Glastonbury---Rose’s Berry Farm (www.rosesberryfarm.com) Sunday breakfast is available during the picking season. A great feature here is that Rose’s ships preserves and jams within the United States.
Southington---Karabin Farms (www.karabinfarms.com) Among other varieties, Karabin grows Snow Sweet and the old Northern Spy. Their offerings include farm-raised meats.
Southington---Rogers Orchards (www.rogersorchards.com) Rogers practices Integrated Pest Management (a method of reducing pesticide use) and is a certified Eco-Apple grower. They ship USDA Fancy grade apples within the continental United States.
Bethlehem---March Farm (www.marchfarm.com) PYO available seven days a week. A farm store, an animal yard, and a mini corn maze await visitors.
Middlefield---Lyman Orchards (www.lymanorchards.com) Celebrating its 275th year, Lyman Orchards is the 12th-oldest family-owned business in the country. Its 1,100 acres encompass a golf course and 350 acres of PYO orchards. The views of the surrounding countryside are so dramatic, would-be pickers may be distracted from the task at hand. As of this writing, Lyman’s Facebook page is reporting that apple varieties are being harvested earlier than is normally the case.
New Haven County
Branford---Rose Orchards (www.roseorchardsfarm.com) Family-owned, this farm offers a pumpkin patch, hay maze, corn maze, and apple picking.
Cheshire---Drazen Orchards (www.drazenorchards.com). This family-owned farm, which dates to the early 1800‘s, practices Integrated Pest Management (see the entry for Hartford County’s Rogers Orchards above).
Guilford---Bishop’s Orchards (www.bishopsorchards.com) This popular spot right off exit 57 on I-95 offers PYO apples seven days a week.
New London County
East Lyme---Scott’s Yankee Farmer (www.scottsyankeefarmer.net) PYO apples are offered seven days a week at this orchard, which also has a farm stand and a Halloween Zombie Corn Maze Adventure. They practice Integrated Pest Management.
Gales Ferry---Holmberg Orchards (www.holmbergorchards.com) This farm, which encompasses a winery and a farm market, offers PYO apples seven days a week.
Ledyard---Allyn’s Red Barn (www.allynsredbarn.com) Located next to Ledyard High School, this PYO spot has been owned by the same family for over 230 years. They also have a store featuring apples, cider, and pies.
Ellington---Johnny Appleseed’s Farm (www.johnnyappleseedsfarmct.com) A farm market as well as PYO crops are the attractions here. The farm also offers apple-orchard field trips for preschoolers; call ahead to arrange.
Eastford---Buell’s Orchard (www.buellsorchard.com) Family-owned since 1889, Buell’s features a Columbus Day weekend festival with BBQ and live music. Their store sells not only apples, but also jams and preserves, pickles, and local honey.
Pomfret Center---Lapsley Orchard (www.lapsleyorchard.com) Lapsley’s, which grows 24 apple varieties, offers free horse-drawn wagon rides on Sundays from 12 to 4. They also hold a festival on Columbus Day weekend.