How to Host an Apple-Picking Party
Apple picking is right up there next to pumpkin spice lattes and chunky sweaters on the list of things that are quintessentially autumnal. Sure, you can buy apples in a grocery store, but it's so much more picturesque (and fun) to pack a picnic and pick them yourself at an orchard. This year, take it one step further and throw an apple-picking party for your closest friends. Not only is it a perfect seasonal activity, but it's also COVID-safe since it's entirely outdoors.
To help you plan, we tapped Allison Carter, celebration expert at Allison Carter Celebrates, for her apple party pro tips. But before we get to the party planning, we reached out to Ryan Burk, head cider maker at Angry Orchard, for his best apple picking techniques. "You want to pull the apple off while still retaining the stem," says Burk. "Some people find the best way to do this is to twist, and others prefer to do a quick pull. As long as you can keep the stem on the apple, it will stay fresh longer." And when it comes to finding the ripest apples, work your way outside in. "Typically the apples on the outside ripen quicker than the apples closest to the tree," explains Burk.
Now that you know the perfect way to pick an apple, it's party time.
Call the orchard ahead of time.
Find out if the orchard is organic or low-spray, which means that their apples are grown with very little pesticides. If you know you want an orchard with food and drink available for purchase, make sure to ask if they offer that, too. Many orchards have apple cider doughnuts, for example, which are always a crowd-pleaser. And if you're having an adult apple-picking party with wine, call first. Some orchards even have private wine-tasting rooms.
Throw the party during peak picking season.
"Prime apple picking season is dependent on the variety," explains Burk. "Apple picking is at its peak all the way through September to November." Plan your party depending on what type of apples are grown at the orchard. "Some fruit is meant to be picked early, like Roxbury Russet, and some is meant to be picked later, like Gold Rush apples," says Burk. And throw the party earlier in the day when the orchard isn't as crowded, so your party will feel more private.
Get creative with the invitations.
"Since everyone coming to your party will be local, have some fun with invitations," suggests Carter. Instead of an e-vite, leave a little treat with the party details on the doorsteps of your guests. "Deliver small bottles of apple cider tied with a ribbon with the invitation information on the front."
Pack picking essentials.
"A waterproof picnic blanket is key," explains Carter. You don't want guests getting soggy while they sit on the grass! "And make sure you have wood boards to lay your food and drinks on, and bring disposable gold utensils ($45.99 for 150, amazon.com) and plates for easy cleanup." You don't want to spray insect repellant near the fruit "so bring a bug fan," suggests Carter. "A battery-powered fan ($24.99, bedbathandbeyond.com) will keep the apple orchard-loving bees away from your meal." And last but not least, always pack SPF for any outdoor activity.
Have a picnic lunch.
Provide a picnic lunch for your guests, and when deciding on the menu choose items that complement apples and will fit in with the orchard theme. "You can serve individually-wrapped sandwiches in kraft paper tied with twine," says Carter. "I love brie, apple, and prosciutto sandwiches. And a big fresh salad with apples, cheddar, and roasted pumpkin seeds is a great make-ahead option."
Play an orchard game.
If guests are bringing kids, consider playing an orchard game. Bobbing for apples is a classic, but it's not COVID-safe, so skip that. Instead, Carter suggests a scavenger hunt. "It's a great way to get guests of all ages engaged, up on their feet and exploring the orchard. And if you have very little ones, set something aside for them to do like apple-themed coloring sheets."
Send guests home with a party favor.
"Guests are heading home with bags of apples, so give them each a cider kit or caramel apple toppings," says Carter. "For the cider kit, fill mason jars with a satchel of spices wrapped with a plaid bow. For the caramel apple toppings, fill a small wooden bushel basket ($14.99 for 10, amazon.com) with caramel sauce, chocolate chips, nuts, etc., and tie with a ribbon."