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Field Trip: Apple picking at Homestead Farm

The sun mostly shone today and it was a welcome change after yesterday's low cloud cover and rain. The pleasant weather jogged my memory about our trip to Homestead Farm to pick apples (and a few pumpkins). That October Monday was perfect!

We've been apple picking five out of the past seven years. The first two years we went with my brother and his family and our mother to Demarest Farms. Our grandmother accompanied us the first time we visited Demarest making the trip a four-generations outing! The second two years we went with Fiver's nursery school to Melick's Town Farm and Apple Orchard. In one of these years we doubled up, taking a trip on our own. We skipped apple picking two years in a row, so we were excited to visit Homestead!

Fruit picking is a great way to spend time as a family. You are outdoors, usually in good weather, with long vistas and space to run. If you are lucky to find an empty room you can on the grass for a spell. This was the first farm we've visited that has ladders in the rows. The ladder was a big hit! This setting is also a good place to observe nature. Do fruit size and color differ by varietal? Can you spot worms or other insects? You can continue the learning at home with seed counting and tasting activities.

There were five types of apples available to pick when we visited Homestead Farm but I can't recall the specific varieties.

At the end of our picking, we stopped briefly at the playground then added several pumpkins to our wheelbarrow. There were so many pre-picked pumpkins. We decided not to pick our own pumpkins since it was the opposite direction of the orchard.

We were shocked to learn that we had picked 30 POUNDS of apples. Lucky for us, there is a discount per pound if you pick over 20 pounds. We were even more surprised when two weeks later all the apples were gone. We baked a cake and a tart and made apple sauce and ate them unadulterated. Looking for recipes? Here are the ones we used: Mom's Apple Cake from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (recipe here); the graham cracker crust for the tart is also from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook; and I think our applesauce was inspired by Homemade Applesauce at The Pioneer Woman (recipe here; note: I did not puree the sauce).

I am keeping Homestead Farm in mind for other pick-your-own outings. A tip: pack a lunch! The farm shop sells candy, chips, and soda. The nearby winery, Rocklands Farms, offers a picnic lunch but it is meat-centric. Lunch could be as simple as cheese and/or a nut butter with apples you purchase. Another tip: wear hat or sunglasses. The glare is intense.

Editor's note: This post was expanded slightly on November 1, 2015.