One of the most exciting parts of fall is that harvest season is slowly coming to both an end and to fruition, with the last of the year's crops available to many. From gourds to root veggies and everything in between, one of the best parts of autumn isn't the pumpkin - it's the apples!

Often underrated, the apple doesn't get nearly the same amount of attention that its orange autumn buddy gets, but that is starting to change. With so many farms and orchards now opening their fields up to apple picking, it's not surprising to see that there's been an uptick in interest, both in apple recipes as well as apple cider and the like. There's nothing like exploring an orchard with a freshly-baked apple donut in hand and a refreshing glass of apple cider to wash it down with. The only way to make the day better is to know the ins and outs of apple picking, from picking the right orchard (and, by extension, the right type of apples) to knowing how to pick them.

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We're officially answering everyone's most popular apple picking questions and adding some helpful tips for the best autumn experience.

Finding The Perfect Orchard To Suit Your Apple Tastes

For those who live in rural areas, there's seemingly no end to the number of orchards that apple lovers can choose from. Those who are closer to cities might find it a bit more challenging and may need to venture outside the city limits in order to find an orchard, thus limiting their options. But for others, finding the right orchard can initially be overwhelming.

The first step to finding the perfect orchard for picking is to visit local orchard websites and social media. Oftentimes, there will be a list of available apple varieties that will be available for picking, along with the time frames and dates during which those apple types are available. Some orchards might experience over-picking when one type of apple is picked too much over another, therefore, some orchard rows will be kept off-limits until others have been picked more. This alone can help narrow down the decision and based on which region of the US a person is from, they might find that Gala, Honey Crisp, McIntosh, Cortland, or another popular apple type might be available at one orchard, but not at another.

The bag counts as well - some orchards offer multiple sized-bags for picking while others have a one-size-fits-all option. Once the bag is full, it's time to either purchase another bag or call it a day, so it's good to know how many apples you're looking as for as well, before committing to one orchard over another.

The Exciting Part: The Right, And Wrong, Way To Pick An Apple

Believe it or not, there is a right and wrong way to pick an apple. This is something that many smaller farms will explain, while larger farms might not be able to explain it to every single apple-picker. It's not true that an apple continues to ripen after it's been picked, so it's important to pay attention to the overall appearance of the apple and keep this rule of thumb in mind: For ready-to-eat apples, pick from the outside first, according to Taste of Home.

Apples are incredibly easy to pick if you know the proper method to detach their stems from the tree. With an upward motion, all that's needed for a ripe apple is a bit of a twist up and out. If an apple shows any sign of resistance, it's probably not ready to be picked and is under-ripe. In no way, shape, or form should an apple-picker ever shake the branch or pull downward to get an apple off, as this can lead to a wave of apples falling off trees, which cause them to rot if no one picks them - which is waste for the farm and can potentially attract unwanted pests, such as ants and wasps. This can also damage the branches of the tree and take smaller branches with it, resulting in an apple that hasn't be detached properly.

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It's important to place apples gently in bags or boxes as well since they can bruise easily. By following these super simple tips for picking apples, you'll end up with prize-winning fruit that will be practically flawless, both in flavor and appearance.

How To Store Apples For The Short And Long Term

It can be overwhelming to come home with a pound-bag of fresh apples but don't worry... there is a way to store them! Fresh apples will stay fresh for several days on the counter (granted the humidity is low and the kitchen isn't hot) but for any time frame longer than this, they should be stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Since apples are prone to producing their own gases, they should also be stored separately from other fruits and vegetables.

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An easier way to store apples is simply by cooking them down first. If you know how you want to use your apples, whether you need pureé, spiced apples, or applesauce, this can all be made beforehand and stored in the freezer. Sometimes, this is a great way to keep apples fresh through the winter, especially for those who have gone a bit apple-crazy during picking... Which is totally normal!

Next: Apple Season Is Upon Us And These Recipes Are So Much Better Than Pie