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Leslie Bridgers

After a decade reporting on the news of Portland's suburbs, Leslie is excited to let loose on MaineToday, where the scoops are more ice cream, less scandal -- much like her life. After hours, you can find her reluctantly covering right field for the company softball team, bowling a straight ball at Bayside or wandering down from Munjoy Hill in search of food and drink.

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Posted: September 9, 2016

Apple picking season is here. Get ready with our tips and list of picking places

We tell you where to go and what to bring and wear. How do you like those apples?

Written by: Leslie Bridgers
Dionisvera/Shutterstock.com

Dionisvera/Shutterstock.com

Save your family bonding for the dinner table. Forget about taking pictures on your phone.

It’s time to start taking apple-picking seriously.

Between last year’s hearty crop and this year’s lack of rain, there could be slimmer pickings on Maine’s apple trees this fall, and what you do find might be more suited to fit in a lunch box than fill your belly, said Margie Hansel, owner of Hansel’s Orchard in North Yarmouth and secretary of the Maine State Pomological Society.

The season’s already under way at some orchards; others will open in the next week or so. Considering the less-than-ideal supply, you’ll want to set out with a competitive edge.

Here’s what you need to know to prepare mentally and physically to take the orchards by storm.

DRESS FOR SUCCESS

We thought it would go without saying that high heels should be left at home, but Hansel’s Orchard has tripped up more than its share of stilettos. It doesn’t matter if it’s a first date; your Bumble match will be much more impressed with how sure-footed you are. Ladies aren’t the only ones making footwear faux pas. Flip-flops are another common misstep, said Hansel. She recommends wearing study shoes that are good for walking in grass. If it’s raining out or there’s a chance of a lingering morning dew, rubber boots are your best bet. On hotter days, opt for sneakers, but always be ready for the weather to change. An outer layer (preferrably plaid) can come in handy if the wind starts whipping. If the sun comes out, you can wrap it around your waist and relive the ’90s at the same time. Bug spray, sunscreen and a water bottle are also recommended.

GET EQUIPPED TO PICK

There are two kinds of apple-pickers in this world: those who use baskets and those who use bags. A bag might be easier to sling over your shoulder, but you can’t put it down, lest your fruit tumble through the grass. There’s less risk of bruising with a basket. Plus, it just looks more legit. Some orchards offer one or the other, while others have both. To take the question out of the equation, you can buy your own vessel at places like Ames Farm and Garden Center in North Yarmouth, which sells bushel baskets for $11.99. While you’re there, you can also pick up a picking pole ($23.95) that extends up to eight feet. That’ll help you reach the apples that have gotten more sun. “They’re better higher up,” Hansel said. She also likes to remind people to be aware of the back end of the pole as they carry it. (We think it could come in handy if someone makes a grab for an apple that’s already in your sights.)

OWN YOUR ORCHARD

Are you looking for an amusement park or a place to carefully select the ripest of produce for the purpose of nourishing yourself and your loved ones? Nothing against horse-drawn hayrides and cider doughnuts — they can turn a visit to the orchard into a day full of fun — but if your focus is on the fruit, pick an orchard with fewer amenities; there’s likely to be less of a crowd. If you don’t want any distractions, Hansel said, there’s usually a lull around lunchtime. Sure, that’s when she likes to eat her lunch, but she promises not to shut the door on you. And although Hansel has started taking credit cards (in past years, she’d send a bill to people who didn’t have cash on hand), not all orchards do, so either call ahead to ask or hit up an ATM beforehand. If you want to know how much to withdraw, apples typically run about $1 a pound with about two apples to a pound and 40 pounds to a bushel. (Hint: there’s a calculator on your phone.)

THERE’S AN APPLE FOR THAT

Although some people like to pick their bushel and be done with it, Hansel recommends going several times a season. That way, your apples are always at their freshest, and you get to sample a range of varieties, which ripen at different times. While Paula Reds and Ginger Golds have already hit their peak, McIntosh and Cortland apples are coming right up on it. Choosing which to pick depends on your taste, but also what you plan to do with them. Hansel said McIntosh apples break down when you bake them, while Cortlands keep their shape. She recommends a combination when making a pie, so it’s not too soggy or too dry. Cortlands, she said, are better in a curry, and McIntoshes make good applesauce, for which she also recommends buying dropped apples instead of the ones in the trees, because they’re usually cheaper and it doesn’t matter if they’re bruised. For straight-up snacking, Honeycrisps are all the rage, Hansel said, though they might be too sweet for some tastes. To make sure you’re buying what you like, she said, go ahead and take a bite.

APPLE PICKING GUIDE

Apple Acres Farm

363 Durgintown Road, Hiram, 625-4777. appleacresfarm.com

Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Paula Red, Cortland, Honeycrisp, Northern Spy, McIntosh, Macoun, Golden Delicious, Jonagold and Ginger Gold varieties; also has gourmet food and gift store, cafe, playground and cider press, as well as events, including story time, night hikes, a bluegrass festival, a barbecue and a yoga brunch.

Boothby’s Orchard

366 Boothby Road, Livermore, 754-3500. boothbysorchard.com

Open noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Paula Red, McIntosh, Cortland, Honeycrisp, Gala, Jonagold, Macoun, Northern Spy, Mutzu, Baldwin and Golden Delicious varieties; also has wagon rides to the orchard, a vineyard and a farm stand with wines, seasonal produce, warm cider, local cheeses and live music.

Brackett’s Orchards

224 Sokokis Ave., Limington, 730-9169. On Facebook and  brackettorchard.com

Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, starting September 10.

Paula Red, Cortland, Macoun, Golden Delicious, Ginger Gold, Honeycrisp and Northern Spy varieties; also has pumpkins and mums and, on weekends, train rides, doughnuts and cider.

Doles Orchard

187 Doles Ridge Road, Limington, 793-4409. dolesorchard.com and on Facebook

Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

About 30 varieties, including Paula Red, Sansa, Molly Delicious, Ginger Gold (check Facebook for what’s picking); also has pick-your-own raspberries throughout October and pears, as well as fruit trees, fruit preserves and baked goods for sale.

Douglas Hill Orchard

42 Orchard Road, Sebago, 787-2745. douglashillorchard.wixsite.com

Open sunrise to sunset daily, starting in mid-September. Macoun, Cortland, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious varieties; also has pumpkins, cider and a gift shop.

Five Fields Farm

720 South Bridgton Road, Bridgton, 647-2425. fivefieldsski.com

Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Cortland, McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Macoun, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Paula Red, Ginger Gold and Lady Apple varieties; also has pumpkins and, in the winter, cross-country skiing.

Gile’s Family Farm

139 Waterboro Road, Alfred, 324-2944. On Facebook

Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily

Ginger Gold, Zestar, Paula Red, McIntosh, Cortland, Honeycrisp, Macoun, Fuji, Spencer, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and more varieties; also has cider doughnuts on weekends.

Hansel’s Orchard

44 Sweetser Road, North Yarmouth, 829-6136. hanselsorchard.com

Open 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Columbus Day, starting Sept. 10.

McIntosh, Cortland, Macoun and Gretel varieties.

Kelly Orchards

82 Sanborn Road, Acton, 636-1601. kellyorchards.com

Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

More than a dozen varieties, including Gala, Macoun, Jonagold, Cortland, McIntosh and Northern Spy, as well as antique and heritage varieites; also has pumpkins and squash.

Michaela Gardner, 2, snacks and picks as she helps her parents gather apples at Lakeside Orchards in Manchester. Photo by Jim Evans/Staff Photographer

Michaela Gardner, 2, snacks and picks as she helps her parents gather apples at Lakeside Orchards in Manchester.
Photo by Jim Evans/Staff Photographer

Lakeside Orchards

318 Readfield Road (Route 17), Manchester, 622-2479. lakesideorchards.com

Open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily

McIntosh, Cortland, Macoun, Empire, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and more; also has bakery with cider doughnuts, vegetables for sale and tractor rides to the orchard on weekends.

Libby & Son U-Picks

86 Sawyer Mountain Road, Limerick, 793-4749. libbysonupicks.com

Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Sixteen varieties, including two kinds of crab apple, Paula Red, Zestar, Ginger Gold, McIntosh, Cortland, Gala, Honeycrisp, Wolf River, Macoun, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious; also has pick-your-own high-bush blueberries and raspberries, freshly pressed cider, doughnuts, kettle corn and caramel apples.

McDougal Orchards

201 Hanson’s Ridge Road, Springvale, 324-5054. mcdougalorchards.com

Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

More than 40 varieties, including Zestar, Dandee Red, Ginger Gold, McIntosh, Cortland, Blondee, Gala, Fuji, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith; also has wagon rides on weekends, farm animals, a fairy village, a doughnut shack and cider.

Meadow Brook Farm

727 Webbs Mills Road (Route 85), Raymond, 627-7009. On Facebook

Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Paula Red, McIntosh and more; also sells apple cider doughnuts and Swedish apple pies.

Orchard Hill Farm

36 Orchard Road, Cumberland, 829-3581.

Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

About a dozen varieties, including Gravenstein, McIntosch, Cortland and crab apple; also has hayrides, a gift shop and a bakery with doughnuts.

Pietree Orchard

803 Waterford Road, Sweden, 647-9419. pietreeorchards.com and on Facebook

Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, weather permitting.

McIntosh, Cortland and more; also has farm stand with pre-picked fruits and vegetables, doughnuts and brick-oven pizza.

Pulsifer Orchard

24 Pulsifer Orchard Drive, Cornish, 303-802-6964.

Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, starting Sept. 10.

Macoun, McIntosh, Cortland, Jonagold, Jonathan, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Dandee and Paula Red varieties; also sells plums, vegetables and gourds, will have fresh cider starting in late September.

Randall Orchards

1 Randall Road, Standish, 642-3500. On Facebook

Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

McIntosh and more; also fresh pressed apple cider, pick-your-own pumpkins, plus peaches and squash.

Ricker Hill Orchards

295 Buckfield Road (Route 117), Turner, 225-5552. rickerhill.com and on Facebook

Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Paula Red, Zestar and McIntosh varieties, more throughout the season; also has pick-your-own blueberries and grapes, a hay climb and slide, disc golf, hard cider and a country store with doughnuts and pies.

Rocky Ridge Orchard & Bakery

38 Rocky Ridge Lane (Route 201), Bowdoin, 666-5786. rockyridgeorchard.com

Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, starting Sept. 10.

Macintosh, Cortland, Honeycrisp, Red Delicious, Macoun, Redfree, crab apple and other varieties; also has homemade breads and pastries, deli sandwiches, cider, pumpkins, ice cream, maple syrup, honey, pickles, handmade soaps and hand cream.

Snell Family Farm

1000 River Road, Buxton, 929-5318. snellfamilyfarm.com

Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, starting Sept. 10.

McIntosh, Cortland, Ginger Gold, Macoun, Honeycrisp and Northern Spy varieties; also sells vegetables from the farm, baked goods, pickles and jam.

Spiller Farm

85 Spiller Farm Lane, Wells, 985-2575. spillerfarm.com

Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends and some week days (check the website), starting Sept. 9.

McIntosh, Cortland, Macoun, Empire, Spencer and Honeycrisp varieties; also has pick-your-own vegetables and hayrides on weekends.

Jennifer MacArthur of Oakland uses an apple pick to reach high in a tree in an orchard at the Apple Farm in Fairfield Center. Photo by David Leaming/Staff Photographer

Jennifer MacArthur of Oakland uses an apple pick to reach high in a tree in an orchard at the Apple Farm in Fairfield Center.
Photo by David Leaming/Staff Photographer

Terison Apple Orchard

8 Whitney Road, Cumberland, 829-3965. On Facebook

Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, starting Sept. 10.

McIntosh and Cortland; a low-spray orchard with pay on the honor system.

The Apple Farm

104 Back Road, Fairfield, 453-7656. lakesideorchards.com

Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

More than 30 varieties, including McIntosh, Cortland, Paula Red, Macoun, Honeycrisp, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Northern Spy; also has a barn store with homemade jams and jellies, local honey, maple syrup, pies, breads and vegetables.

Dorothy and Roger Atherton, of Windham, walk between rows of trees to pick a bushel of Cortland apples at Thompson's Orchards in New Gloucester. The orchard has been in business for 100 years and the town is honoring the business. Photo by Jack Milton/Staff Photographer

Dorothy and Roger Atherton, of Windham, walk between rows of trees to pick a bushel of Cortland apples at Thompson’s Orchards in New Gloucester. The orchard has been in business for 100 years and the town is honoring the business. Photo by Jack Milton/Staff Photographer

Thompson’s Orchard

276 Gloucester Hill Road, New Gloucester, 926-4738. thompsonsorchard.com

Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

McIntosh and Cortland; also has fresh cider and doughnuts, a country store and weekend entertainment, including horse-drawn trailer rides.

Wallingford’s Fruit House

1240 Perkins Ridge, Auburn, 754-5169. wallingfordsorchard.com

Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

McIntosh, Cortland, Ginger Gold, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Empire and Gala varieties; also has pick-your-own pumpkins, fresh doughnuts, pies, apple dumplings and activities for kids.

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