It may not feel like apple-picking season, but many of the region’s growers kicked off their picking season over the Labor Day weekend, thanks to a big crop of early season varieties.
Overall, the apple season in our region and across the state should be a good one, as local orchards avoided spring and summer pitfalls such as a late frost that can kill blossoms and summer storms with hail.
“It looks like a great crop, good quality and volume,” said Dan Wilson, owner of Hicks Orchard in Granville, whose business opened for u-pick over the weekend. “We got pretty regular rain and the size is looking good.”
Macintosh were available for picking over Labor Day weekend, with Ginger Gold coming soon and Honeycrisp likely by mid- to late September.
To the south at McWhorter Orchard on Route 40 in Argyle, owner Mel McWhorter plans to open his orchard to the public for apple-picking on Friday, and he said the crop turned out well.
“We’ve got a nice-looking, big crop,” McWhorter said. “The late rain has helped them size up a bit, and if we can get some cool nights, they will add some color.”
At Saratoga Apple near Schuylerville, owner Nate Darrow said he had some concerns about how the crop would fare during the hot, dry days of July, because apples can stop growing when trees get stressed.
But rains came in late July and August to get the trees going again, and the fruit responded.
“We have an outstanding crop, what I would call a bumper crop,” he said.
The warm weather actually pushed the early McIntosh, Cortland and Ginger Gold varieties a bit so that they will be ready days earlier than usual, so u-pick began Saturday, he added. Some Honeycrisp may be available in the apple barn as early as this weekend, Darrow said, and Saratoga Apple is also still offering summer plum-picking.
Across the state, the New York Apple Association predicted this year’s crop will be better than last year, when poor spring weather hurt production, and on par with the five-year average. Over 1.3 billion pounds of apples are expected to be harvested from 41,000 acres of orchards.
It’s not just juicy fruit that brings visitors to orchards around upstate New York. A number of local orchards have added or improved other attractions. Hicks has unveiled a new corn maze that sprawls over 10 acres across the road from its apple barn and main parking lot, and it offers a new line of hard ciders.
Darrow said the hard cider tasting room at his business, now entering its second year, has expanded in popularity.