Pick Your Own Apples in the North Bay!
August 6, 2013Posted by pamela |
Late summer marks the start of apple season, and plenty of the tasty and popular fruits can be found in the North Bay, especially in the area around Sebastopol in western Sonoma County. Sebastopol is the de facto apple capital of the Bay Area, and it's justifiably famous for its Gravenstein apples, a variety that you won't find grown commerically anywhere else.
While it's fun to eat and cook with apples, it's even more fun (and educational) to head out into an orchard and pick them yourselves!
If you're not lucky enough to have an apple tree growing in your backyard, then head up to one of the local apple farms that offers a u-pick experience. It's a fun family outing, and prices and quality are usually bettter than you'll find in the supermarket. There's nothing quite like an afternoon on the farm, too.
This year, apple season kicks off in early August with local favorite Gravensteins, and continues through the late summer and fall with varieties like Golden Delicious (September and October), Granny Smith (October and November), and Fuji (October through December). Like any other crop, apples are dependent on a variety of factors, so make sure you check with farms before you decide to visit to make sure there's something available to pick.
Twin Hill Ranch in Sebastopol has been a favorite place for school and family outings for over 60 years. They offer u-pick for apples Thursday through Monday from 9 am to 4 pm. Check in at the ranch's store to learn what's ripe, and then head out into the orchards to pick your fruit. You'll find several varieties including Gravenstein, Pink Lady, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith. Twin Hill Ranch is not certified organic but their apples are grown using organic methods.
U-pick season runs from August throughout the fall, until the apples are all gone. The cost for u-pick apples here is $2 per pound; you can pay with cash or credit card. Bring your own bags to carry your apples, like your cloth Trader Joe's shopping bags. The country store at Twin Hill Ranch also offers goodies like apple bread (our favorite), fresh apple juice, pies, cookies, jams, and jellies. There's also a picnic area with a spacious lawn, so bring your lunch and hang out on the farm for a while.
Twin Hill will be closed on August 31, September 21 and 29, and October 19 for special events. Check their online calendar before you go to make sure they're open that day.
Chileno Valley Ranch grows organic apples—all of which are blind taste test winners—and provides them to local markets like Toby's Feed Barn in Point Reyes Station and the Organic Farmstead at the Marin Art and Garden Center in Ross. You can visit the ranch for u-pick from Labor Day weekend through the month of October. Varieties include Orin, Pinova, Molly's Delicious, and Jonathan's Pride.
U-pick takes place on Sundays only from 10 am to 4 pm, and apples cost $2 per pound. Make sure you call ahead before you go: (707) 765-6664. They also raise grass-fed beef on the ranch.
Chileno Valley Ranch is located at 5105 Chileno Valley Road west of Petaluma. More information: www.chilenobnb.com or (707) 765-6664. Read our article about our visit to Chileno Valley Ranch.
Gabriel Farm is a family-run, certified organic farm in Graton, just north of Sebastopol. They grow a variety of apples including Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Gala, Rome Beauty, Fuji, and McIntosh. U-pick here is an activity for their CSA members only; you can join at the farm by purchasing a membership. A share consists of a case (6 half-gallon bottles) of their tasty Asian pear juice ($35). U-pick takes place on weekends from 10 am to 3 pm or weekdays by appointment.
Gabriel Farm's u-pick season starts in late August and usually runs through October. U-pick apples cost $2 per pound in addition to the cost of the CSA membership. You can still visit their farm store, where they offer apples, Asian pears, lavender, and other products, without joining their CSA.
Apple-A-Day Ratzlaff Ranch
Apple-A-Day Ratzlaff Ranch west of Sebastopol offers Gravenstein, Golden Delicious, and Rome apples. U-pick is offered from August through October; call first to make sure there's somebody at the ranch to meet you when you think you'd like to stop by: (707) 823-0538.
They're open daily from 8 am to 5 pm; closed Saturdays. They also process and sell fresh apple juice, which we hear is delicious. More information: (707) 823-0538.
Apple-A-Day Ratzlaff Ranch is located at 13128 Occidental Road in Sebastopol.
Pleasant Hill Farm
Certified organic Pleasant Hill Farm in Sebastopol offers a u-pick experience for groups by appointment. This beautiful farm has five acres of organic apple trees, mostly Fujis, with some Royal Galas, Red Delicious, and Granny Smith, too.
U-pick season here starts in late August or early September, and it's an ideal place for school groups or groups of family and friends who want to try their hands at apple picking. Two large picnic tables, made from cypress and redwood trees, make this an appealing place for groups to relax and have a picnic after apple picking. There's even a tree swing to play on!
Call Victoria at (415) 306-1413 for information on prices and seasonality, or to make an appointment. She also runs a vacation rental on the property in a restored turn-of-the century barn and tank house. Pleasant Hill Farm is located on Pleasant Hill Road in Sebastopol, near Twin Hill Ranch.