Saturday, September 26, 2009

Apple Picking Good

"This weekend," I told the girls, "we're going to go pick apples."

We talked about how apples grow on trees and how even if you don't care for apples (Ellie) you might still like apple cider or apple pie. Yippee! But as we prepared for our little trip we ran into a snag.

Where are all the local apple orchards? People talk about picking apples, but where do they go?!

The obvious answer is Eckerts. We picked pumpkins at an Eckerts once. It's always easier to go back somewhere familiar than to try out someplace new. But I wasn't excited about returning to Eckerts this year.

For one thing, the three locations are 40, 60, and 80 minutes from our house. Big trip for a few minutes of apple picking. Even more importantly, Eckerts charges admission. In addition to the cost of the apples, there is an $8 admission fee PER PERSON for the farm. That fee makes the apples very expensive.

Visitors do get something for their admission fee to Apple Fest. "Wagon rides, music, live entertainment, great festival foods, children’s activities and much more make this an apple pickin’ good time for everyone! Whether riding a pony or feeding a goat, your young ‘uns will enjoy getting acquainted with common farm animals. Children’s carnival and/or activities at all three farms. Funnel cakes, roasted sweet corn, caramel apples and more to tempt your taste buds."
Some activities, like rides and food, incur additional costs. But the $8 admission fee does get visitors into a big country carnival.

If carnivals are your thing and your apple-picking trip is to be an all-day outing, Eckerts might be just the thing. But we just wanted to go to a farm and pick some apples, hopefully showing the kids a little bit about where their food comes from, having fun, and not spending much more than we would have at Schnucks.

I was stuck until I found Pick Your Own (Missouri).

That fabulous site led me to: Thierbach Orchards & Market.

Thierbach Orchards & Market is also about 45 minutes from our house, but it's a lovely drive west on I 44. There's stuff to do at the farm (a small store, mazes, big slide, bouncy houses, petting zoo with chickens to watch and goats to pet) but it's not a full-on carnival. And there's no admission fee! ($3 charge if you want to bounce or go in the big mazes.) In fact, we showed up after a rainstorm and had the place to ourselves. The deflated bouncy apparatuses posed no serious temptation, either. Perfect.

Thierbach Orchards & Market feels like a working farm that welcomes guests. And that's exactly what we wanted!

Another nearby orchard I've heard is similarly low-key is Centennial Farms in Augusta.

Do you pick your own? What and where?


RobMonroe said...

We have talked around it, but not gotten to it. Talked with Paul about your apple-picking yesterday and now I want a bushel. Apple sauce, apple kugen (sp?) and apple crisp... mmm.

Sarahlynn said...

As you might have secretly become aware, I am in sudden need of speeding up my weight loss process. So: significant increase in exercise and NO sweet apple goodies for me. Alas.

flatflo said...

The Flatau Tree Farm in Prairietown, IL! My mom has peaches (earlier in the year), pears and apples. We know they are organic, as the bugs and spots and gnarled shape can attest. I haven't picked any myself this year, but I'm on my second bagful. All they cost was a hug and a kiss!
--Sorry, not generally open to the public--

Sarahlynn said...

I forgot about your parents' farm! Now I'm thinking ahead to Christmas tree season. We like to cut our own, and Prairietown doesn't seem as far away as it used to.

Though the in-car entertainment system (DVD player) might be four kinds of evil, it makes trips much more fun!

Sarah said...

The eckerts by my house in Belleville, which is probably 40ish minutes from yours (it takes me 45 from my house to my parents in Fenton) does not charge to get in. I know the Millstadt location does.

But either way, there's a ton of things to make/bake with all those apples!! :) I made Alton Brown's apple pie recipe a few weeks ago and it was awesome!

Carmie said...

Thanks for this post! I'm new to STL and have been wanting to go apple picking. Seriously, just apple need for a carnival!! :)

Sarahlynn said...

Sarah, it's taken me this long to find and fall in love with Alton Brown!

Carmie, I hope you've found a good place. :)