The weather was perfect for September this past Saturday – cool, but not cold, when a friend of mine suggested taking the kids apple picking. I can hardly turn down a day surrounded by fresh fruit, so we quickly made plans to head to Fishkill Farms in Hopewell Junction, NY. It was early afternoon when we left and the drive up from the city was pleasant, with plenty of mountain views, in a week or so the leaves should really begin changing colors which I imagine would make the trip even more scenic.
When we arrived at Fishkill Farms the first thing we noticed was the smell of burgers, jerk chicken and BBQ ribs that quickly turned our attention to Chef Rohan’s Grill stand. It was so enticing we decided lunch should be a first stop, and subsequently treated ourselves to some of their delicious offerings. Fresh lettuce, raw onion and sliced tomatoes were available, so my burger was piled high!
While we waited for our food to be cooked fresh on their apple wood grill the kids picked some pumpkins from the market stand and we listened to a local band play live against a backdrop of apple orchards and hills. It was definitely something I’ve never experienced at an apple orchard before and the music really added to the festivity! Unfortunately I didn’t get an pictures of the band because I was trying to control the number of pumpkins we brought home. These kids are persuasive and it’s hard saying no to a ninja turtle…
After that we hopped back in the car and drove into the orchard (you do have the option of walking through if you prefer – we drove since it was a bit of a hike to get to the apples we really wanted). At the gate you’re given some bags and an orchard map. We spent about two hours working our way through the orchard. First we stopped for some peaches which are really at the end of their season. Fortunately there were still plenty on the trees and they smelled so good it wasn’t long before the kids were snacking on some! I’m really looking forward to making another batch of Peach Basil Jam with what we picked!
Next we went off in search of asian pears, stopping to pick a few different apple varieties along the way. I’ve never had asian pears, so I was a little skeptical, but they are delicious! I ate more than I’d like to admit on the drive home and I’d really like to make some sort of jam or pear butter out of the rest, but I have a feeling I’m probably going to cave and eat the rest before I get around to that.
After about an hour and a half of driving and walking around the orchards we’d collected a half bushel of apples, a few pounds of peaches and some asian pears. The kids had exhausted themselves running through the orchards and had pretty much eaten their own weight in apples and peaches, which the staff that we encountered told them was half the fun of picking your own apples! When we entered we had been greeted by the wife of the farm’s manager who told us a bit about the farm and mentioned that there were also vegetables available for picking. If there’s anything I love more than fruit it’s vegetables! Anxious to see what was available we paid for our fruit and made our way over to the pick your own vegetables area.
I could have spent all day in this one area. The selection was the best I had ever seen at an orchard! The very first thing I noticed was the ground cherries (or husk cherries). Two years ago I discovered ground cherries at a farmer’s market. They are a member of the nightshade family and grow on bushes low to the ground. Just before they ripen they fall off the bush and when harvesting you just pick them up off the ground, peel off the husk and eat them. The flavor is so unique I can’t even really describe it, but I find them to be sweet and delicious enough that I don’t have a recipe for ground cherries because I love to eat them raw. You;re gonna have take my word on how great the vegetable and herb selection was, because I was so busy running back and forth between the heirloom tomatoes and lavender that I never even pulled out my camera.
After collecting a pint of ground cherries I moved on to cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, sweet peppers, swiss chard and lavender. I would have loved to pick some eggplant, kale, fresh flowers and rosemary but at this point the kids were getting hungry again, so I paid for my vegetables and we walked back to the farm store.
Inside the farm store there is a huge variety of fruits and vegetables that have already been picked for you. There are also refrigerators full of fresh cheeses, free range chickens and meat. The shelves are stocked with jams, jellies, fresh fudge, cookies, crackers and other deliciously tempting goodies. Of course the main draw would be their fresh fruit pies and apple cider donuts. Ours were hot as we enjoyed them and they were definitely a treat to end the day with!
Overall we were really impressed with the orchard. The staff were friendly, the prices were reasonable and, although the orchard was busy, it never felt crowded. Having such a huge selection of herbs, vegetables and flowers was a huge plus for us, as was having food available at the grill. The only issue we ran into were the port-a-potties. For my monkey he’s just way to short to use one and that was the only bathroom option available. If you’re heading out with the kids you may want to plan a bathroom stop right before you get to the farm, and expect to need one after you leave as well. As for us, we are looking forward to going back in a couple of weeks to pick pumpkins and enjoy some more cider donuts!
If you’re interesting in heading to Fishkill Farms, be sure to check out their website that has lots of information about the farm and what is currently available for picking: