And the apples? Picking season is looking great in the orchards of Mass.

Fancy something different? Lookout Farm in South Natick is New England’s largest grower of Asian pears. (Photo courtesy of Lookout Farm)

If you were worried about the effects of the hot, dry summer on this year’s apple harvest, experts and orchard operators have good news: the harvests are anything but thin.

“The fruit is amazing,” Laura Neville of Lookout Farm (lookoutfarm.com) told South Natick. “It’s strong, juicy and just what you want.”

That, she said, comes from hard work and focus during a tough year.

“We have retention ponds on the farm and we’ve drained them,” she said. “In 12 years, I have never seen it so dry. We had to turn to city water.

But by staying one step ahead of watering, she says, they have been able to sustain and expect a great harvest this season.

Lookout Farm is one of the oldest continuously operating farms in the country.

The hot summer has kicked things up a bit: the picking happens about a week in advance, which means the McIntosh apples are arriving now. By the weekend after Labor Day, more types will be ready, from the popular honey crisp and upcoming gala, to the classic Red Delicious “lunch box” coming later in the season.

Lookout Farm is also the largest grower of Asian pears in New England, and they are also having success with this crop.

A visit to Lookout Farm can be a simple stop to pick all the fruit you need or a full day of family fun.

Their open-air restaurant, The Lookout, serves “sun-powered” house beers (they use 100% solar energy) and ciders, and their chef is a master barbecuer: their open pit, and their smokehouse serve ribs, chicken and more.

On Thursday evenings there is live music every week, and often more live music on Fridays and Saturdays. There are walking trails and big special events like the Flutie 5K for Autism coming September 16th.

You’ll also find a great market to buy fruit, baked goods, and cool local items.

What's a day of <a class=apple picking without an apple cider donut? This scrumptious treat comes from Lookout Farm in South Natick. (Photo courtesy of Lookout Farm)” width=”2507″ data-sizes=”auto” data-src=”https://i0.wp.com/www.bostonherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/trav3.jpeg?fit=620%2C9999px&ssl=1″ data-srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/www.bostonherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/trav3.jpeg?fit=620%2C9999px&ssl=1 620w,https://i0.wp.com/www.bostonherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/trav3.jpeg?fit=780%2C9999px&ssl=1 780w,https://i0.wp.com/www.bostonherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/trav3.jpeg?fit=810%2C9999px&ssl=1 810w,https://i0.wp.com/www.bostonherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/trav3.jpeg?fit=1280%2C9999px&ssl=1 1280w,https://i0.wp.com/www.bostonherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/trav3.jpeg?fit=1860%2C9999px&ssl=1 1860w”/>
What’s a day of apple picking without an apple cider donut? This scrumptious treat comes from Lookout Farm in South Natick. (Photo courtesy of Lookout Farm)

At Carlson Orchards (carlsonorchards.com) in Harvard, co-owner Frank Carlson likes what he sees ripening there.

Their peaches and nectarines, he said, have been of high quality despite the heat and dryness of the year, thanks to their drip irrigation well suited to such challenges. They only have one to two weeks left before being selected. Apples come next.

“We’re looking forward to the apple harvests,” he said, which should be ready for many pickings the weekend after Labor Day, starting with McIntosh and going through many varieties at the arrival of autumn.

Carlson Orchards can also fill a day with fun. Once the orchards are up and running at full steam (probably in a week or so), you’ll be entitled to free wagon rides to orchard picking locations and back.

They serve the prerequisite cider donuts and a cider room is open Thursday through Sunday each week. There you can enjoy hard ciders or hang out for a good meal. They offer craft cider cocktails, non-alcoholic beverage choices, great flatbread pizzas, and more.

Carlson said they pride themselves on “not being a zoo”, limiting the numbers. For a more leisurely picking experience, he suggests visiting on Mondays or Tuesdays. For a livelier vibe, he suggests other days, especially when the tap room is open.

The fruits of his labor picked at Bartlett's <a class=Apple Orchard in Richmond. (Photo by Ogden Gigli, courtesy of Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism)” width=”2048″ data-sizes=”auto” data-src=”https://i0.wp.com/www.bostonherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/trav1.jpg?fit=620%2C9999px&ssl=1″ data-srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/www.bostonherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/trav1.jpg?fit=620%2C9999px&ssl=1 620w,https://i0.wp.com/www.bostonherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/trav1.jpg?fit=780%2C9999px&ssl=1 780w,https://i0.wp.com/www.bostonherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/trav1.jpg?fit=810%2C9999px&ssl=1 810w,https://i0.wp.com/www.bostonherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/trav1.jpg?fit=1280%2C9999px&ssl=1 1280w,https://i0.wp.com/www.bostonherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/trav1.jpg?fit=1860%2C9999px&ssl=1 1860w”/>
The fruits of his labor picked at Bartlett’s Apple Orchard in Richmond. (Photo by Ogden Gigli, courtesy of Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism)

Massachusetts offers a multitude of choices for apple picking experiences beyond these two main destinations.

There’s the CN Smith Farm in Bridgewater (cnsmithfarminc.com), where you’ll find tons of apples, their “Donut Barn” where you’ll find fresh apple cider donuts, ice cream and sundaes, coffee cold and for a real New England Treat – (move on, Vermont’s Creamee?) Cider Slush.

On Fridays they sell amazing muffins which alone are worth the trip.

Red Apple Farm in Phillipston (redapplefarm.com) is also a classic favourite, with their famous cider donuts (you can pick them up at the Boston Public Market in a pinch), incredible views of Wachusett Mountain, and their hall Brew Barn & Cidery tasting room with a lovely patio to savor it all in a farmhouse setting. Don’t forget to check out their growlers: you can take cider home to continue the wonderful taste of fall.

There are more too. Find details about the many choices at mass.gov/guides/pick-your-own-farms or visitma.com.

Comments are closed.