Pick your own apples near Queens

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Yes Virginia, there really was a Johnny Appleseed.

In the 1800s an itinerant minister from New England, John Chapman, wandered the country sowing apple seeds and earning the sobriquet “Johnny Appleseed.” As a result the beautiful blooms of the apple trees can be enjoyed across the country.

Since 1976 the apple has been the official New York State fruit and New York City, thanks to the late John Lindsay, is known worldwide as “The Big Apple.”And everyone knows that “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Thousands of families not only like to sink their teeth into the crunchy pulp of a big, red apple, but they like to get them as fresh and delicious as possible. From late summer through mid-fall they trek out of the canyons of New York to nearby farms catering to would-be migrant laborers who enjoy the fresh air and the family fun of picking apples directly from the tree.

For children it is not only a bonding experience with parents and siblings, but a fun day in the country and the ability to see where their food actually comes from. Some apple farms also have a variety of other produce-peaches, several varieties of berries, tomatoes-that are available for picking as well. There are farms that allow visitors, especially children, to get up to and close with animals such as milk cows and sheep.

Several of the farms are relatively close to New York City and make for a great ride and day in the sun, From Queens it is an easy journey to the George Washington Bridge and across into New Jersey. Take Rt. 4 Westbound to Rt. 17 North and up into New York State. It’s an easy ride and you really won’t hear much of “Are we there yet?” from the kids.

Check before you go to find out how they charge. Some, such as Masker Orchards in nearby Warwick, NY, provide paper bags in a variety of sizes and charge by the bag. Others do so by the pound. Most will also ask you to open the trunk so they can make sure you are giving them an honest count. If you want to snag an extra apple, eat it before checking out.  Most are free of pesticides, but clean them off anyhow.

Here’s a list of several apple picking farms close enough for a day’s outing:

Masker Orchards with 200 acres of apple trees in Warwick, NY, a bit more than a half hour from Manhattan. Masker’s is one of the more convenient to reach and is only a short distance off Rt. 17 North.  Easily reachable by car taking the Thomas E. Dewey Thruway to the Rt. 17 North junction or Rt. 287 to the Thruway and then to nearby Rt. 17. The orchard is literally row upon row of apple trees with wide spaces between them allowing visitors ample room to wander through the farm and pick their apples. Parking along the rows is convenient so that you are not carrying a heavy bag of apples.

Fishkill Farms in Hopewell Junction with 40 acres also offers picking of blackberries, strawberries and tomatoes.  It is about 90 minutes north of Manhattan.

DuBois Farms, a 54-acre farm also about 90 minutes north of Manhattan, off Thomas E. Dewey Thruway Exit 18, also has a corn maze and Tiny Town play area for the little ones to enjoy after they’ve had their fill of climbing trees.

Lawrence Farms in Newburgh sells its apples by the pound and you would be surprised at how quickly that is reached when you are pulling them off the trees. There is a bakery on site.

Wright’s Farm in Gardiner, NY, has about the most interesting web site and you should check it out before going. They also grow a variety of fresh fruits.