0 Love It
Save it

Farm fresh picks

Take a day trip to the countryside for apples, pumpkins and corn mazes.

1/4
2/4
3/4
4/4

 


The leaves start to turn, it gets a bit chilly, and pretty soon you feel the urge to do farm labor for free. It’s time to pick apples and pumpkins. We found five spots for you to try and sleuthed out some helpful how-to’s from Dan Shumski, who works for a farm in southwest Michigan, sells produce at Chicago farmers’ markets and writes the Fruit Slinger blog.


The leaves start to turn, it gets a bit chilly, and pretty soon you feel the urge to do farm labor for free. It’s time to pick apples and pumpkins. We found five spots for you to try and sleuthed out some helpful how-to’s from Dan Shumski, who works for a farm in southwest Michigan, sells produce at Chicago farmers’ markets and writes the Fruit Slinger blog.

For apples, prepare for a trek: You’re going to have to make friends with Kane, McHenry or DeKalb counties. If you want to go all out, the Royal Oak Farm(15901 Hebron Road, Harvard, 815-648-4141), about an hour and 40 minutes northwest, has 12,000 apple trees on 120 acres, a ton of kids’ areas (a petting zoo, a carousel, a train), pumpkins, a restaurant, a bakery and gift shop. Apples cost $14 a peck (a peck is about ten pounds of apples, in case you were wondering just how much Peter Piper picked). Goods include cider, cider doughnuts and even cider slushies. The farm is closed on Sundays, and on Saturdays admission is $3 per car.

All Season Farm(14510 Rt 176, Woodstock, 815-338-5637), just over an hour away, also offers a host of attractions beyond its 7,000 apple trees—a petting zoo, mini golf, horse-drawn wagon rides and an “apple cannon” that lets you fire apples hundreds of feet through the air.

“We’re not trying to be Great America, but we try to have fun for the kids,” says employee Cathleen Harder. A peck of apples is $19, and some of the attractions include a small fee. Pumpkins, grown elsewhere, cost $4–$8. Food offerings include the ubiquitous doughnuts and pies as well as lunch items like hot dogs and tuna wraps.

Wade Kuipers, owner of Kuipers Family Farm(1N318 Watson Road, Maple Park, 815-827-5200), reports a “tremendous crop” of apples this year, which, coupled with a few rainy Saturdays, means the picking’s good. If you don’t know your Empire apples from your Rome Beauty, a sample cart lets you take a taste test first. The farm, a little more than an hour west of the city, charges $7.50 per person, which includes a hayride and quarter-peck bag of apples. A bakery, plus a separate pumpkin farm ($10.75 on weekends) with a heap of activities, keeps the kids entertained.

Jonamac Orchard(19412 Shabbona Rd, Malta, 815-825-2158) is about an hour and 20 minutes west and offers pumpkins to pick and pre-picked apples. Lose yourself in the petting zoo, ten-acre corn maze and an apple launcher.

For a more mellow experience, trek an hour and 10 minutes northwest to the Prairie Sky Orchard(4914 N Union Rd, Union; 815-923-4834), which has five varieties of apples as well as pre-picked pumpkins. There’s no admission fee, but a minimum purchase of one peck per one to four people is required. Apples cost $1.35 a pound. On weekends, try the cider doughnuts and cider. The orchard also offers you-bake pies (frozen pies that you put in the oven for an hour), gourds, squash and gourmet foods like salsa and jam. Pumpkins go for 40 cents a pound.

TIPS FROM DAN SHUMSKI, THE APPLE EXPERT!

1

If you want to find the most ready-to-pluck, ripe fruit, look toward the tree’s perimeter: Apples on the outer branches ripen before those toward the inside of the tree.


2

Honeycrisp apples will cost you more than more common varieties. “People just go nuts for [honeycrisps]. For some people, we could probably charge twice as much and they’d still buy them.”


3

Tart, firm apples such as Mutsu and northern spy work well for baking. But that doesn’t mean they’re not good for eating plain, too.


4

Before you hit the road, visit orangepippin.com to learn about the many varieties of apples. Dan calls the site “the Yelp of apples.”


More Around Town articles

Comments

0 comments