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The Right Way to Pick an Apple—and 8 Other Things to Know Before You Go Apple Picking

Leaves are starting to turn, the air is getting crisper, and it's finally apple picking season. We spoke to experts to get the best intel on how to upgrade your apple picking experience.

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Wear the right shoes

What do shoes have to do with apple picking, you’re wondering? First, you want to make sure you protect your footwear properly for the damp fall conditions. And, according to Peter Hull of Apple Dave’s Orchards, “Apple trees are out in a field with tall, six inch grass. Warm, dry shoes make for happy picking!” He adds that dressing in layers is a good idea, too, because a day that starts out chilly may end up sunny and warm.

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applesEkaterina Pokrovsky/shutterstock

Keep your skin covered

Wearing shorts to an apple orchard probably isn’t the best idea unless you’re interested in battling mosquito or potentially tick bites—and there are more and more tick-borne diseases out there—after apple collecting. All that tall grass is a safe haven for bugs, especially in New York and New England, two of the most popular apple picking regions.

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apple pickingY Photo Studio/shutterstock

Yes, there’s a right way to pick

It turns out the right way to pick an apple is to the left. As confusing as all that sounds, Peter says it’s to protect and preserve the tree’s health, so you can keep coming back for apples year after year. “Twist to the left, never pull off branches and leaves.” A good counter-clockwise twisting motion will help give your apple stems the cleanest break.

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applesDenis Pogostin/shutterstock

Bring your own tote bags

Sure, the orchard you’re going to may give you fun buckets, baskets, and other gear for your time picking apples, but after apple collections are done there is a good chance they’ll either be loaded up in cardboard boxes, plastic grocery bags, or other less sturdy carrying options. Not every orchard will allow you to use your own tote bag while you’re out picking, but at least having one after you pay and load up the car will help simplify getting your precious cargo from the trunk to your kitchen safely. What fun is making the best apple pie recipe or other easy apple desserts if all your apples are smushed?

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applesMariia Boiko/shutterstock

Store your apple harvest in a cool, dry place

“Apples stored in a cool, dry place can last for months,” explains Peter. That means you’ll be loaded with heart-healthy, fiber-rich fruit—and fiber is the secret to quick and easy calorie cutting—till the New Year if you play your cards right.

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applesTerrance Emerson/shutterstock

Know which varieties you’re picking

Different apples are good for different uses, people, and even age groups. Peter suggests Gala apples for apple-picking families with young children because, “Galas are a small sweet apple for great chomping by little teeth.” If you’re a little more mature and like a tart apple flavor, you might want to head to a Granny Smith or Braeburn orchard. Applesauce lovers—it’s a great way to lighten up all kinds of recipes—will go wild for Cortland apples, and apple pie recipe addicts should head straight for a field of Fuji apple trees thanks to their ability to stand up to heat in ovens and stove tops.

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Find the best local apples

Just because you’re a Red Delicious fan doesn’t mean that’s what grows best in your region. There’s good news, though—apples grow in almost every corner of America. In fact, any region that reaches a “chill zone” of 32 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit is good for apple growing, but other factors like soil can impact which types grow best in your region. Washington State is known for having great Red Delicious, Honeycrisp, and Fuji apples, while the areas north of New York City are celebrated for their production of Empire (like the state!), Cortland (like the city!), and Ginger Golds. Even southern states like Virginia are known for more than a few local apples.

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appleJules Kitano/shutterstock

Pick more than you think you need

Even if you’re not the biggest consumer of apples, hand-picked apples are a fun and expensive gift to surprise your friends and family with. There’s something extra special about telling someone you personally collected each and every apple they’re receiving, or eating in a delicious apple recipe. Plus, they store well, so there’s really nothing to lose except some refrigerator space.

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appleMike Taylor/shutterstock

Resist the urge to eat apples direct from the trees

Even if you get a little hungry while you’re picking, experts suggest resisting your urge to snack on your goodies unless you have the ability to wash your fruit first. Apples are a thin-skinned fruit that often require extra layers of pesticides and other chemicals designed to protect them from pesky bugs, birds, and even snack-loving deer. Here’s a quick guide to the foods with the most pesticides.

Bryce Gruber
As Home Editor, Bryce Gruber is an expert in gift ideas, shopping, and e-commerce at Reader's Digest. You've likely seen her work across a variety of women's lifestyle and parenting outlets and on TV shows. She lives and works in New York's Hudson Valley with her five small children.