U nder pure blue skies in Guilford on a recent Saturday, a variety of apple pickers roamed around at Bishop’s Orchards.
There were the serious types, out to score the tastiest-looking specimens for munching later, and the hardiest apples to use in a tart. There were couples lost in the romance of it all, walking hand in hand. There were young children toddling from tree to tree, proudly picking any fruit within reach.
And there were, of course, a number of snackers, crunching happily away on apples that never made it into their waiting bags. The staff seemed to turn a blind eye to them, perhaps realizing that nothing tastes better than an apple fresh from the tree on a crisp fall day.
All were there to take advantage of Bishop’s Orchards’s pick-your-own option, a summer-and-fall program that allows customers to head into the heart of the farm and pluck their produce straight from the source.
Apples—which should be around through most of October—always come to mind at this time of year, but it’s also still the season for picking raspberries, which emerge in August and usually last until the middle of October. This year’s prices are $1.35 per pound of apples and $3.99 for the raspberries, generally lower than you’d pay buying the same, long-since-gathered fruit in your supermarket, a savings gleaned through customers doing the work themselves, and for trucking it home. But with all the smiles I witnessed during our trip, it’s safe to say no one felt like they were working.
Other months yield just as enticing bounties: strawberries in June and July, blueberries from July to August and peaches in August and September. Pear-picking season finished up alongside the peaches, but pumpkin season was just getting started.
Pumpkins: another sure sign of autumn. Bishop’s is a wonderland this time of year, with hay rides through the orchards and a corn maze—or maybe it’s a maize maze?—at 526 New England Road in Guilford. That’s an easy (and pretty) three-mile drive from their main market on the Boston Post Road, where you’ll find the homegrown fruits and vegetables the farm picked, as well as meat, dairy, baked goods, their own fruit wines and plenty of other gifts to give your pantry.
The New England Road spot is where Bishop’s hosts its weekend picking hours, while weekday picking normally occurs at a location on Long Hill Road, a half-mile from the main market. Easy-to-follow signs begin at the market and direct drivers to the right place. Once you arrive, make your way to the check-in table, where you can grab as many sturdy plastic bags as you wish, then set out to fill them up. Payment is taken on your way out, whether that’s five minutes or five hours after you arrive.
Back at the main market, you’ll find a pumpkin patch and adjacent outbuilding dedicated to decorating: smiling felt ghosts and witches, and bunches of Indian corn to grace your front door.
If you do plan to head towards the orchards, note that fruit is by nature subject to the whims of weather and other elemental forces. Bishop’s provides a handy hotline with a daily recording, listing hours of picking (typically 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), varieties available and other pertinent information: 203-458-7425. (The message always reminds pick-your-own customers that pets aren’t allowed, by the way.)
Perhaps most interesting to the true connoisseurs is hearing about the types of apples available on any given day. A recent recording listed Cortland, Macoun, Empire and both Golden and Red Delicious apples, with the promise of more varieties in coming weeks.
My family opted for the less planned apple picking experience, instead walking aimlessly this way and that. We filled our bags with what looked good. It was a satisfying method, the only problem being that we ended up with far more apples than any four people could reasonably eat whole.
Anyone know a good apple pie recipe?
Bishop’s Orchards Farm Market & Winery
1355 Boston Post Road, Guilford (map)
Pick-Your-Own hours: 10am-5pm daily (subject to change)
Written and photographed by Cara McDonough.