It’s officially fall which means we’re getting into prime apple season! Over the weekend my family and I took a trip to North Carolina and went apple picking. North Carolina is home to several apple orchards and u-pick farms. The one we visited was Sky Top Orchard, located in Flat Rock, NC about 30-40 minutes outside of Asheville. In fact, one family that we ran into said that Sky Top was the best orchard in the area and that they visited every fall. It’s aptly named as to reach the orchard, visitors must drive up what seems like half a mountain. The road was a bit steep and winding but leveled out as we reached the top. The place was absolutely jam-packed when we arrived about mid-afternoon. Despite seeing so many cars, we didn’t have any issues getting baskets and surprisingly, the orchard itself didn’t seem overly crowded. There were couples and families wandering around looking for specific varieties and picking apples but not as many as the packed parking area would suggest. Of course, they might have all been waiting in line for hot apple donuts as there was quite a line for those that we passed on the way in but I’ll get to that in a bit.
Sky Top Orchard grows over 20 different varieties of apples. Now, not all of these varieties have the same season so the orchard keeps a schedule posted near the baskets of what varieties are available to pick that day and which ones can be picked up at the stands but not in the fields. The employee that we spoke with when picking up our baskets, suggested that we take a picture of the ripening schedule on our phone so that while out in the orchard we can refer back to it as needed. He also handed us a map of the orchard that was marked with where each variety of apple was located which was helpful. We were interested in Cortland, Stayman Winesap, and Ida Red though we also ended up picking a few Cameos. We wanted to try some varieties that we’d never had or that were not the usual ones seen in a grocery store. The Cortlands we had to get at the fruit stand afterwards as they were no longer available in the field but we were able to pick the others off the trees.
In addition to being able to pick apples, Sky Top also offers hay rides, a children’s play area, wooden cut-outs and a “How Tall are you This Fall?” board as well as snacks, pies, and drinks. That line I mentioned earlier for the apple donuts? Totally worth it. They’re amazing when hot and fresh and still good once cooled (a donut is a donut after all). We bought a dozen donuts and Dad stood in line for them while Mom and I sat with our 23 lbs. of apples. Despite the long line, it actually moved fairly quickly. They also had perhaps the best apple cider I think I’ve ever had. I was all for buying a gallon of the stuff to take home with us but since we wouldn’t be going home until late the following day, we decided against it.
If you’re in the NC area, I definitely recommend checking out Sky Top Orchard and if you’re in an area that has u-pick farms, go apple picking! It’s a great way to spend a day or an afternoon.
Because we came home with nearly 23 lbs. of apples, I’m going to be experimenting with various apple-based recipes the next few weeks. Success or fail, I’ll be sharing these recipes with you guys in a mini-series I’m calling the Apple Series. Stay tuned!